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Eulis Simien, Chief Harold Pierite, Sr and Jared J. Caruso-Riecke

Three members on the board that enforces State Police rules are under an internal investigation over possible illegal political donations, allegations that come just a few years after three other members were ousted under similar circumstances. 

The three commissioners, including the chairman of the seven-member board, are accused of collectively contributing more than  $5,000 to political campaigns during their terms, either personally or through their businesses. State law and board rules prohibit commissioners, along with all state troopers who are classified as state employees, from participating and engaging in political activity, directly or indirectly.

Those constraints, however, have become a reoccurring issue for the board. In 2016, three former commissioners resigned amid an investigation that they had participated in political activity during their terms, namely thousands of dollars in political donations. 

The commission, which acts as the civil service board for State Police, has seen significant turnover in recent years as it's been steeped in controversy, most recently amid accusations that former Commissioner Calvin Braxton had fixed tickets and intimidated a trooper.

State Police Commission Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr., and commissioners Jared J. Caruso-Riecke and Chief Harold Pierite, Sr., were accused at the board's monthly meeting on Thursday of making donations that violate the same rules the board is tasked with investigating and reviewing for troopers.

Simien and Caruso-Riecke immediately denied any wrongdoing at the meeting. In an interview on Friday, Pierite said his campaign contributions don't violate commission rules or state law.

Former State Police trooper Leon "Bucky" Millet raised concerns about the campaign contributions made by the three commissioners at the board's meeting Thursday.

He asked that they resign or, if they failed to do so, that the governor hold a public hearing on the matter. All three of those accused  by Millet were appointees of Gov. John Bel Edwards, whose office did not return request for comment Friday. 

While Simien and Caruso-Riecke have not personally made campaign contributions during their terms, contributions were made by their companies, according to Louisiana Ethics Administration records.

Simien and Simien LLC, which Simien listed on his financial disclosure form as holding a 50 percent interest in, donated $4,917 for the food and drink for an Edwards fundraiser in 2017. The company also donated $250 to East Baton Rouge Council Member Erika Green in 2017, records show.

Caruso-Riecke's company Riecke & Associates, for which Caruso-Riecke is listed as the agent in Louisiana Secretary of State's records, donated $500 in 2017 for catering services for an event for State Rep. Mark Wright, a Republican from St. Tammany Parish.

“I will happily, happily respond to this commission to this false allegation against me," Caruso-Riecke said after he heard the allegations.

Simien asked that each of the members implicated, including himself, do the same. 

Pierite's donations are in his name and show donations totaling $120 to the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Political Action Committee in 2017, according to Louisiana Ethics Administration records.

"It's nothing I'm doing wrong," Pierite said in an interview Friday. "I've been doing it for years. It's to a PAC, not a candidate."

While he admitted the PAC does political work, he said it is not against the rules of the commission. All three commissioners said they do not plan to resign. 

Simien tasked the commission's Executive Director Jason Hannaman to conduct an investigation into the allegations and report back with the findings. Hannaman, a civilian administrator for the board, said Thursday he hoped to complete the report by next month's meeting. 

In 2016, the commission's former executive director hired an outside attorney to investigate prior claims of political donations by commissioners. 

Millet also filed a complaint with the board over an $800 check that the Louisiana Ethics Administration reported came from Louisiana Troopers Charities to the Acadiana Strong Political Action Committee. However, the check is listed on the Ethics Administration's website as void. 

"I couldn't believe that would have happened," said Floyd Falcon, the attorney for the Louisiana Troopers Association. "We have trooper charities, we give money away, (but) not to politicians."

He said they are looking into the check, but haven't been able to find its origin as of Friday. The commission plans to address that allegation at February's meeting. 

Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.