Dysfunctional State Police Commission sued by former director

City Clerk Clay Stafford with his intended successor, Cathy Derbonne

Plaintiff, Cathy Derbonne, was supposed to succeed Clay Stafford as Gonzales’ City Clerk

January 10, 2017 by Tom Aswell (Louisiana Voice)

The ongoing soap opera of the Louisiana State Police Commission (LSPC), which in no way resembles its membership makeup of a little more than a year ago, continues unabated.

In a relatively short time, the commission has undergone a complete membership turnover, has seen two commission chairmen resign under pressure, a member resigning in protest over what he called a lack of integrity on the part of fellow commissioners, the resignations or removals of other members, and the forced resignation of its executive director.

Now that former executive director, Cathy Derbonne, is back with a vengeance—and with an attorney known in Baton Rouge for taking on the establishment in a take-no-prisoners frontal assault.

Derbonne and her attorney, Jill Craft, have filed suit against the Louisiana State Police Commission, claiming that then-Commission Chairman T.J. Doss, commission member Jared Caruso-Riecke, Louisiana State Police upper command (including then-Superintendent Mike Edmonson) conspired to force her from the job she had held for eight years.

DERBONNE PETITION

She claims in her lawsuit that the reprisals started after she initiated an investigation into reports that members of the commission and the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) had violated regulations against political activity by making monetary contributions to several political campaigns, including that of Bobby Jindal and John Bel Edwards.

She alleges in her petition that Doss was sharply critical of her at the LSTA convention held in Lafayette in June 2016. She claims that Doss said the furor over the political contributions were her fault and that she “had lost her mind.”

She says a year later, on July 14, 2016, Doss was detailed from his job in Troop G in Shreveport to Baton Rouge headquarters “with the purpose of closely monitoring and observing (Derbonne’s) daily routine,” and the following day he appeared unannounced in her office to ask when was the last time she had been evaluated “which petitioner (Derbonne) understood was a threat.”

When she brought an unlawful pay increases of as much as 32 percent for Edmonson and four of his top deputies to the attention of the Legislative Fiscal Office in September 2016, many of her administrative duties were taken from her by the commission through the efforts of Doss.

She said on Jan. 7 of this year she received an anonymous letter warning her that Doss, by then elevated to commission Chairman, was leading a “secret charge” for her removal. Five days later, at the Jan. 12 commission meeting, she was told that the commission had the necessary votes to remove her. They pressured her to resign, saying they would humiliate her in public.

She did resign but says in her lawsuit that she was harassed and “constructively discharged” in reprisal for her engaging in activities protected under state statute.

She is requesting a trial by jury.

Only two members, Jared-Riecke and Eulis Simien, Jr., remains from the commission membership that convened on Jan. 12. The commission’s primary function is to consider appeals of disciplinary action against state troopers. But like the administration of former Superintendent Edmonson, it has been rocked with one controversy after another which has made it nearly impossible for it to formulate any cohesive action other than damage control and finding new creative ways to embarrass the Edwards administration.

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