Penalty reduced for troopers who billed for Vegas road trip
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana state troopers who improperly billed thousands of dollars of overtime and expenses, including a 2016 trip to Las Vegas, have had their punishments significantly reduced.
The State Police Commission on Thursday deemed the discipline against three troopers to be too harsh, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported . It voted to restore the ranks of Derrell Williams and Rodney Hyatt. It also reversed salary reductions that were handed down from State Police Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves.
Williams and Hyatt were ordered to serve suspensions as a less severe form of punishment. Williams, who had been the head of the agency’s internal affairs division at the time of the trip, received a 40-hour suspension. Hyatt will be sidelined for 500 hours.
Williams’ salary had previously been ordered to fall by $15,000 to $109,100. Hyatt’s pay was dropped by $9,500 to $90,300.
A letter of reprimand issued to Thurman D. Miller was also overturned by the commission. A fourth trooper on the trip, Alexandr Nezgodinsky, received a letter of counseling, which may not be appealed under the commission’s rules.
A state police investigation determined the troopers improperly charged the public for thousands of dollars in overtime while taking an indirect route to the conference that included overnight stays at a casino resort and the Grand Canyon.
But the commission largely sided with the troopers, who claimed they had been scapegoated for a scandal that embarrassed the state police and prompted the retirement of Mike Edmonson, the agency’s longest-serving superintendent.
The troopers insisted that Edmonson signed off on the side trip and even encouraged the troopers to take a scenic route to the 2016 International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in San Diego. Text messages and phone records showed he remained in contact with them as they traversed the country in a state police SUV.
In the troopers’ appeal they noted that they reimbursed the state for expenses related to the trip. Williams didn’t claim overtime.
The commission’s decision marked a setback for State Police Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves. He had testified last month about the lasting damage the trip had on the reputation of state police in Louisiana and urged the commission to uphold the decision.
“We disagree with the outcome but are certainly respectful of the State Police Commission’s appeal process and decision,” Reeves said Thursday. He added that he’ll meet with his senior staff and DPS Legal Affairs to determine how to move forward.
Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com