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State Police Commission probes whether three of its members made improper political campaign donations

Governor John Bel Edwards appointed two of the men to replace two others who resigned under investigation for making improper campaign contributions
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The Louisiana State Police Commission is looking into allegations two commissioners made prohibited campaign contributions during their time on the board, the same behavior that cost their predecessors positions the commission.

A formal complaint lodged by a retired Louisiana State Trooper began the inquiry Thursday. It accuses Commission Chairman Eulis Simien, Jr.,  Covington businessman Jared Caruso Riecke and Tunica-Biloxi Police Chief Harold Pierite Jr., of making improper donations. 

One of the questionable contributions is an in-kind donation listed on campaign finance reports filed by the Edwards campaign. The report says law firm Simien & Simien paid for $4,917 in catering for a fundraiser held for the governor March 10, 2017.

Personal financial disclosures filed with the La. Board of Ethics indicate Simien owns half the firm, and sources say the other half belongs to Simien’s brother.

Records also indicate Simien & Simien donated $250 to the campaign of Baton Rouge City Council candidate Erika Green in 2017.

 “I did not participate in any political contributions or fundraisers. Nor did I personally authorize those expenditures,” said Simien.

The Louisiana Constitution prohibits members of the Louisiana State Police Commission from engaging in political activity, which includes direct or indirect campaign contributions.

In 2016, three members of the commission, Freddie Pitcher Jr., William Goldring and Franklin Kyle III, resigned after LSPC Attorney T. Taylor Townsend found in an investigation they had been making political contributions during their time on the commission. Townsend’s investigative report indicates the majority of Goldring’s contributions were made through his businesses.

Riecke’s business, Riecke and Associates, is listed as an in-kind contributor on a 2017 campaign finance report filed by La. Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington.

The report indicates Riecke’s company provided $500 in catering for a fundraiser/meet-and-greet July 1, 2017.

“No way was I involved in that. The filing was in error,” Riecke said. The once politically-active businessman said he stopped all political activity when Edwards appointed him to the Commission in June 2016.

“I do nothing with politics since I got on the commission two years ago,” he said, adding his business name was added to the report in error.

Rep. Wright said Riecke and Associates did not donate the food, but Dennis Riecke, Jared’s brother, a long-time friend of Wright’s, was involved in the event.

“Dennis sponsored it,” Wright said. He said he planned to file an amendment with the Board of Ethics to make the correction Friday.

While Simien was a frequent contributor to political campaigns prior to his appointment, giving thousands to Governor Edwards alone, campaign finance reports indicate his donations as an individual stopped in mid-2016.

Campaign finance reports indicate Pierite made $20 monthly donations to the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Political Action Committee. Pierite is a board member of the tribe and has served as its police chief for 20 years. He was appointed to the LSPC in March 2017.

He could not be reached for comment.

At the regularly-scheduled LSPC meeting Thursday, commissioners voted to have the Executive Director, Jason Hanneman, investigate. He said he will look into the matter and report on his findings.

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