Three members of a state board in charge of enforcing State Police rules have resigned, two of them on Thursday, because they made campaign contributions in violation of the board’s rules.
William “Bill” Goldring and Franklin M. Kyle III stepped down from the Louisiana State Police Commission on Thursday, three weeks after their colleague Freddie Pitcher resigned in the wake of an investigation into the commissioners’ political donations.
The members each gave thousands of dollars to various politicians — one man’s contributions totaled some $100,000 — during their commission terms, in violation of the law, according to an independent investigative report submitted Tuesday to Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Each man, one of whom is a former judge, had sworn to uphold the law but said they didn’t fully comprehend how laws banning political payments applied to them. Each was appointed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The shake-up comes amid a parallel investigation of claims that State Police troopers’ personal money was being funneled to politicians through an outside organization without the knowledge or consent of rank-and-file troopers.
The seven-member commission — the body that considers troopers’ complaints and administers State Police rules, similar to the police and fire civil service board — was tasked with investigating the trooper money issue, but the group couldn’t do a probe if its own members had broken the same rules, said Cathy Derbonne, the commission’s executive director.
Commissioners are bound by the same laws and rules as troopers, who are classified state employees, including a ban on political donations.
“The findings of fact outlined above clearly show evidence of multiple violations of the applicable law by Mr. Kyle and Mr. Goldring,” wrote T. Taylor Townsend, a lawyer and former state representative hired by the commission, in his April 12 report, which was given to Edwards. The review also outlined Pitcher’s payments, which totaled $5,850, but didn’t focus on him since he’d resigned before the report was completed.
Goldring, a New Orleans-based liquor magnate and philanthropist, gave personally and through his companies at least $100,000 to political candidates and political committees since he joined the board in 2010 — an average of $16,666 per year — according to the report, which includes records showing state and federal campaign contribution data.
Sazerac Co., a liquor company in which Goldring owns a 90 percent stake, gave $5,800 to individual candidates during his time on the commission, the report shows. Goldring, personally and through his businesses and other membership organizations, contributed $84,000 to political committees and $12,500 to joint fundraising efforts, the report says.
Goldring said at the commission meeting Thursday morning that he was not sure whether he would resign. He acknowledged only one personal political payment, for $200, but said it was made by his ex-wife, who’d had access to a checking account bearing his name.
He also said he’d been told in 2013 by Jindal’s executive counsel, Thomas Enright, that his spouse and his corporations were free to make campaign contributions.
Later Thursday, Goldring resigned.
“I am now informed that the prevailing legal view suggests that campaign contributions from entities of which I own over 50 percent are not permissible. I respectfully have no issues with the current legal opinion and, therefore, I have resigned from the commission,” he said in a statement.
Goldring said he’d never received an orientation when he joined the commission and didn’t fully understand its rules. “I’m not saying ignorance of the law is an excuse, but you can’t be held responsible when every other state board doesn’t have these rules,” he said.
Pitcher, the former judge who’s now a Southern University Law School professor, said last month the relevant rule “did slip by” him.
Richard Carbo, a spokesman for Edwards, said his office is considering whether to return Pitcher’s $350 contribution to the governor.
Kyle, in an email to Pitcher released to The Advocate, said he was never fully briefed on the rules, but when he joined he’d been “given an extensive rule book in which to abide by. It is a cumbersome document, but admittedly one that was provided.”
Kyle, who joined the board in September 2010 and had been the commission’s chairman, gave at least $18,125 to candidates during his membership, according to the report and its attachments. The review also noted Kyle’s wife began donating in 2013, around the time Kyle admitted he became aware of the rules, and recommended a further investigation of the original source of Kyle’s wife’s contributions.
The Advocate previously reported Melissa N. Kyle, who showed no record of making political donations before 2013, gave at least $21,000 since the start of 2013, according to the Ethics Administration.
Franklin Kyle, a contractor from Mandeville, did not return a request for comment Thursday.
Last month, around the time Pitcher resigned, Franklin Kyle told The Advocate, “I’m not stepping down, and I do not see anybody pressuring me to step down, either. … You need to check your facts.”
Kyle said to “look at when the campaign contributions were made,” perhaps alluding to the fact he’s served two terms on the commission, with a gap from Dec. 5, 2012, to July 19, 2013.
However, the report notes that Kyle “never resigned and was never removed from the commission” during the gap because his potential replacement declined to officially join the commission.
The commission’s website Thursday showed three positions are vacant.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.