In Las Vegas, the city of slot machines and roulette wheels, visitors often depend on good luck to win the day. At least two pilgrims to Vegas, Louisiana state troopers Thurman D. Miller and Alexandr Nezgodinsky, can claim that the Lady Luck was them as they trotted off to the gambling mecca on the taxpayers’ dime.
Miller and Nezgodinsky were among several troopers who took a side trip to Vegas as they drove to a law enforcement convention in San Diego last year, charging the state thousands of dollars in overtime, as well as billing taxpayers for meals and lodging, during the detour.
Fortune often favors the bold, as the aftermath of this public scandal makes clear. Longtime State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson lost his job when the scandal came to light, retiring after Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered an audit of the agency’s travel spending.
Two Louisiana State Police troopers avoided suspension and received only minor discipline fo…
But Miller and Nezgodinsky have apparently fared much better, getting off with a slap on the wrist for sticking taxpayers with the bill — and lots of extra pay — for what was essentially a vacation trip. The two got letters of reprimand and counseling — yes, counseling — for their part in the scam, but they didn’t lose their jobs.
Miller, who as an officer of the law is supposed to be discouraging wrongdoing, not committing it, claimed to have logged 88 straight hours of work, including 56 hours of overtime, during the trip last October. “These hours included time that you engaged in activities such as sleeping and sightseeing,” an officer noted in Miller’s letter of reprimand. Miller wrote the state a $1,000 check to cover the improper overtime, as well as meal charges from the side trip. That happened, of course, only after the Vegas boondoggle became public.
An investigation of the trip is ongoing, and possible disciplinary action against other troopers is pending. But strangely, none of the text messages troopers sent during the trip are still around. The public has been left to draw its own conclusions about whether their deletion, which is essentially the destruction of a public document, was part of a cover-up.
Agency records still around suggest that whooping it up at public expense is something of a State Police tradition. An Advocate review of other travel documents showed that troopers also improperly charged the state for dozens of hours of overtime while attending a professional convention in 2014.
Col. Kevin Reeves, who replaced Edmonson, was supposed to clean up such abuses. The light discipline for Miller and Nezgodinsky doesn’t suggest the agency’s new broom is making much of a sweep.
Miller and Nezgodinsky can count themselves lucky for keeping their badges. But the taxpayers who depend on public integrity of law enforcement officers have rolled a pair of snake eyes.