The Garbage Report

   

On January 22, 2024, Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber released an investigative report to Wade Trahan, Attorney for the City of Youngsville. In that report, the Sheriff, through Assistant Legal Counsel J.N. Prather, Jr., indicates that the investigation was conducted in response to a request made on July 26, 2023. Prather is a former prosecutor previously employed by the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. That just happens to be the same day we jointly, along with the Professional Association of Law Enforcement Officers, filed a complaint with the Youngsville Municipal Police Civil Service Board. When we recently asked for the initial report of the complaint/request made by the City of Youngsville on July 26, 2023, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff indicated he had no records responsive.

There is no initial report documenting the complaint/request by the City of Youngsville to Sheriff Garber to investigate Chief Rickey Boudreaux. However, we know an investigation was started while a legal battle between Boudreaux and the City of Youngsville was being waged over whether an investigation by the City could even be conducted. The Youngsville Council enacted a resolution on March 30, 2023, authorizing and directing the Mayor to “secure an independent investigation of the Youngsville Police Chief.”

Not so independent

We were quick to point out the issues with the resolution language which directed the Mayor to “invoke and secure an independent internal investigation.” Although amended to exclude the word “internal” the resolution didn’t delineate who would handle the investigation. The likely candidates were the Louisiana State Police or the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Later, we would confirm a statement made by Ricky Boudreaux that every single member of the City Council at the time had requested and received favors from him. These included soliciting the cancellation of traffic citations. But the Council members weren’t alone. After several of our public records requests were stonewalled (for months) messages between Boudreaux and a Clerk at the Youngsville Police Department surfaced. They eventually revealed requests from State Legislators, Sheriffs (Mark GarberMike Couvillion, and K.P Gibson), Mayors and former Mayors, Councilmen, financial auditors for the City, and other public officials. At least 2,913 traffic citations had been identified as potentially being illegally canceled. That’s just one item that never made it into the “Garber Report.” Does anyone else wonder why?

Plan A: Cover-up Internally

Our suspicions initially were that an “internal” investigation was exactly what was intended. An investigation for the sole purpose of damage control. After all, if your boyfriend and colleagues were all involved in potentially illegal activities that were occurring in your City and in which you actually participated, being able to direct the activities of the investigators is where you want to be. Responses to our public records requests didn’t produce any records of messages that the Mayor had directly solicited the cancellation of traffic citations. However, we are aware he told certain individuals he wouldn’t allow them to pay traffic citations while trying to take the citation from them without payment.

But when the intent of the Mayor and Council was called into question, it was necessary to pivot and pivot quickly. The move was to hire an outside law firm, Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, LLP, that deals with human resources. Make sense, right? We suspect criminal wrongdoing so instead of allowing the investigation to be handled by unbiased law enforcement professionals (or someone with expertise in that area) it was punted to a law firm. Some saw this as a good thing. They feared that if the matters were brought to the Louisiana State Police, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, or the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, AGAIN in many instances, it would result in the same outcome – NOTHING!

That plan also failed at some point. The Council allocated $10,000 for the investigation. (Remember, they spent five times that amount last December on Christmas decorations alone. Priorities!) Then at some point, just like with the Boudreaux suit, it seems someone pulled the plug. One councilman commented in defense of their actions that continuing down that road could ultimately cost the City millions of dollars. So, a new plan had to be hatched.

The Garber Plan

On August 10, 2023, Chief Rickey Boudreaux announced his intention to resign on August 21, 2023. Within days a petition was circulated among the members of the Youngsville Police Department. The overwhelming majority of officers supported Deputy Chief Gabe Thompson as Interim Chief of Police. The Mayor and Council didn’t want that to occur.

In a text message between then-Councilman Ken Stansbury and Councilman Matt Romero which occurred on or about August 20, 2023; Stansbury writes:

“Texting Lindy (Bolgiano) and he tells me this

The longer we wait the longer you are going to put Gabe into that position to run things.

I think going with Garbers option is the best option for us.

This doesn’t have to be the same process as a council member appointment, nor do I think it should be.

I said what I said because at this point everyone is doing what they want.

Simone and Logan are calling meetings with candidates all on their own forcing this process and I don’t really appreciate it. I don’t have the time to sit down with all these people asking questions about what they would or wouldn’t do.

The election will be in April and they can face the public to earn the vote. I think it’s best to get the monkey off our back as quickly as possible”

What is just as interesting is that in response to our request, only communication from the phone of Matt Romero was produced. No records were provided of the communication between Ken Stansbury and Lindy Bolgiano or the communication of Stansbury to Romero. Louisiana law makes it a crime to conceal or destroy public record!

Let’s Speculate

At the August 24, 2023, Council meeting an upset group of spectators voiced their support for Thompson. Others accused the Council and Mayor of interrogating Thompson and disapproved of any ‘take over’ of the department by Sheriff Mark Garber. While one member of the Council whined about not having enough time to meet with candidates for Chief of Police there was also talk and coordination about ensuring Thompson would not be the next Chief of Police. The ‘Garber plan’ had already been hatched. So, what exactly was the Garber plan?

As it turns out several Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Deputies were being considered for the position of Interim Chief by the Council. Garber recommended some, others were chastised for not getting Garber’s blessing before requesting to be considered. But in the end, Cody Louviere, a Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Deputy was appointed Chief of Police. Was this part of the Garber plan? Some say yes. Others say no. We will probably never know the extent of back door deals and negotiations that occurred. But what is clear is that many things were done to ensure Thompson didn’t take the reins. Instead, a suitable candidate approved by Garber would be appointed.

This is where the investigative report released by Garber is quite telling. Perhaps part of the plan was “praise us, criticize them, go look here, but don’t dare look there.” But don’t take our word for it, read the report yourself HERE!

What was investigated?

The report narrowly focused on five areas of alleged misconduct or “alleged incidents” as they are referred to in the report:

  1. Property/Evidence;
  2. Juvenile Citations;
  3. Fuel Usage;
  4. Evalyn Harrison; and
  5. Methamphetamine located in the Youngsville Police Department.

The investigation was carried out by the “criminal investigation division,” making it relatively clear the goal was to uncover or investigate alleged criminal misconduct ONLY. The report also indicates that “all Youngsville officers (including reserves) were contacted to provide statements.” However, only two of approximately forty officers were willing to come forward. Why is that?

In their “investigation” of evidence issues, the Garber report cites a “severe lack of internal (operation) controls.” The report points directly at Chief Boudreaux, Assistant Chief Nick Latiolais, Deputy Chief Gabe Thompson, and Sergeant Larry Holland. The Garber report goes on: “Due to the inappropriate evidence controls, Youngsville Police Department should immediately report any possible “Brady” issues to the District Attorney’s Office.

Wait! If Brady issues exist why isn’t the Lafayette Sheriff reporting them to the District Attorney’s Office? Don’t they have a legal obligation to do so? Also, Sheriff Mark Garber is an attorney, the report is signed J.N. Prather, Jr., an attorney, and it is sent to Wade Trahan, an attorney. It seems like they, too, would have an ethical obligation to report Brady information.

More troubling

Probably one of the most disturbing portions of the Garber report focuses on the handling of Juvenile citations. The report indicates that of 1,035 citations audited, 234 were never submitted to the District Attorney and of those, 141 are missing! This is an area that the general public would never have had visibility into due to the secretive nature of juvenile proceedings. That secrecy was specifically mentioned as problematic during the Louisiana Violent Crime Task Force meetings.

The Garber report goes on to cite several criminal and legal references including malfeasance in office and the illegal cancelation of traffic citations. But the Garber report never once addresses the 2,900+ adult citations that are suspected of being illegally canceled?! Text messages and canceled citations show that Garber and members of his office directly requested and/or benefited from canceled citations. So why wasn’t this looked into?

The Garber report then pivots to fuel usage discrepancies. The report concludes that “accountability was lacking or absent at various stages from submittal of the fuel charges from 2017 – 2023… to authorization for payment and payment of same by the City of Youngsville.” Well, ultimately it was the Mayor and his staff that paid Boudreaux’s ‘suspicious’ fuel usage expenses for six years! Boudreaux didn’t have the access to make payment. This raises another question. Why didn’t the City’s financial auditor catch this over the six-year period it was occurring? Could the same auditor who requested and had traffic citations canceled simply have missed this for all six years? Interesting!

Who are you kidding?

Then we get to Evalyn HarrisonRecords provided by the City of Youngvsille show that Ms. Harrison was employed by the City of Youngsville to provide landscape service between November 2021 and July 2022. Ms. Harrison was a dedicated employee and was even provided with a place to live on the premises of the Youngsville Police Department. The Garber report accurately points out that the City was made aware of Ms. Harrison living on City property, over a year before any request for an investigation. City Officials did not think it was worthy of investigation at the time it occurred. Not only was Ms. Harrison paid by the City of Youngsville, NOT Boudreaux, but she even completed an employee withholding certificate to have taxes deducted from the wages. City officials knew and were willing to overlook it for over six months. Why?

Then the LPSO failed to mention that, much like the city, they also knew about the connection between Ms. Harrison and Boudreaux well before 2023. How? Could it have been the jail-recorded phone calls they intercepted between the two while Ms. Harrison was incarcerated? Why isn’t that in the Garber report?

Oh, about that Methamphetamine

Lastly, the Garber report addresses the Methamphetamine found at the Youngsville Police Department. This was common knowledge at the time the incident occurred. The Sheriff even completed an initial report for this complaint, even if delayed by months. Why is this even included in the Garber report? It isn’t like other separate criminal investigations of YPD staff conducted by LPSO were included in the report. After all, they conducted a criminal investigation into that other incident that just cost over $200,000. There was also other alleged criminal conduct reported to them about evidence issues and ticket fixing.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about the report can be found in closing remarks. “The City of Youngsville administrators along with Mayor Ken Ritter acted promptly upon receipt of information alleging possible misconduct by then Chief Boudreaux.” The key word is “promptly”. Ignoring allegations for periods of years until it all blows up following the Kayla Reaux incident is far from “prompt”.

The report goes on “…all members of the Command Staff as well as supervisors, hold some responsibility for not making efforts to correct the confusion that the agency operated in.” Continuing, “The entire Command Staff contributed to the inherent problems by continuing deplorable practices and procedures.” According to the Garber report it is all the fault of the staff of the Youngsville Police Department. There is absolutely no blame attributed to the officials of the City of Youngsville (Mayor and Council), the administrative staff, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, or the District Attorney, who were all previously informed of many of these allegations but did nothing.

What was absent from the report?

Well, we already covered a few things. There is no mention of the Reaux incident in the report. Nothing to see here folks. The spark that ignited a fire in the hearts and minds of many Youngsville citizens was not even worth looking into or mentioning. There was no mention of the Eric Segura investigation conducted by the Lafayette Parish Sheriff, even though it involved one of his own deputies. That incident was allegedly turned over to the 15th Judicial District Attorney for criminal prosecution. No mention of the adult ticket fixing scheme which numbered thousands of potentially illegally canceled traffic citations including Garber and many of his staff.

There was no investigation conducted or mention of Boudreaux’s witness intimidation of former Youngsville Police Department officer Tim Mikhael, which was also public knowledge. There was also no mention or investigation into Boudreaux’s malicious prosecution threats against Shayna Bolgiano, wife of Councilman Lindy Bolgiano, or the underpinning criminal investigation into the activities of Bolgiano. It should also be noted that the City of Youngsville / Police Department obstructed responses to requests for the Bolgiano investigation for over six months!

Wrapping it up

In closing, it is clear what this report is – political cover! Of those individuals mentioned in the report several of them and/or their spouses spoke out at the Youngsville Council Meeting ahead of an interim Chief being appointed. Lexi Thompson, wife of Gabe Thompson, Cher Holland, wife of Larry Holland, and George Armbruster, husband of Lydia Armbruster, all voiced their frustrations with the City administration and/or Chief selection process. It just so happens those same Youngsville Police Department employees were singled out in the Garber report.

The motive appears to be pointing a finger at the existing staff of the Youngsville Police Department. At the same time, the report covers for or ignores the wrongdoing of City officials and others in the politically connected class. Many of the protected knew or were directly involved in creating the culture of corruption that continues to exist in the City of Youngsville. So it should be no surprise that City officials approve of the report and the establishment-controlled narrative it furthers.

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