Zurik: Bill due for LACE work? Not so fast, St. John tells LSP

Zurik: Bill due for LACE work? Not so fast, St. John tells LSP

LAPLACE, LA (WVUE) - St. John Parish owes State Police $30,000 for LACE detail work in September. But the parish district attorney says she won't pay the entire bill.

"The videotape that you showed me, as well as the information you presented to me in your files, is something that absolutely has to be addressed," says DA Bridgette Dinvaut.

On September 8, Trooper Byron Sims worked a LACE shift in St. John. LACE is short for Local Agency Compensated Enforcement - local parishes hire state troopers to patrol and write tickets on parish highways and the parish keeps the ticket money, but it reimburses State Police for overtime and mileage.

Sims claimed he worked a 12-hour LACE shift in St. John Parish on Sept. 8, from 6:00 am to 1800 hours, or 6:00 pm. But our undercover camera spotted Sims arriving home at 1:00 pm, and his car stayed there. Sims billed St. John Parish taxpayers for the remaining five hours of his shift.

"They are paid on the hour and we expect a return in our investment," Dinvaut insists. "That's what the taxpayers expect as well."

St. John pays Sims $78.65 for each hour of LACE work. But the parish says it's not paying.

Document obtained from St. John Parish officials, listing LACE details there in September.

LACE has been indefinitely suspended, but the parish has an outstanding invoice from September. Three of the troopers under criminal investigation worked LACE details in St. John that month: Sims, Eric Curlee and Daryl Thomas. State Police billed St. John $7,300 for Curlee's September work, $5,600 for Sims, $1,500 for Thomas.

Dinvaut says she's not paying their part of the bill, and plans to withhold nearly $15,000 from state police.

"I expect those troopers to be enforcing the law," she tells us.

Our undercover surveillance also discovered several instances of potential payroll fraud in LACE for St. Charles Parish.

"To know that we are reimbursing State Police for man-hours on the road, and to see that apparently, a few instances that I saw, that they weren't out there when that were being paid to be out there is rather disappointing," says Joel Chaisson, district attorney in St. Charles Parish.

State Police have launched a criminal investigation. Both DA's say they expect it to be a thorough and fair probe.

"I am confident that State Police commanders will look into this situation and address it accordingly," Chaisson says.

"I am very, very confident in their ability to address this situation," says Dinvaut.

DA's across the state say they use LACE for public safety. "It's been a very successful program to slow people down," Chaisson tells us.

But until authorities enact reforms, Louisiana's highways will have less of a police presence. And troopers who follow the law will earn less money, because of the actions of the highest-paid state troopers in Louisiana.

The St. John DA says they're awaiting an invoice for October work. If any of the troopers under criminal investigation are on that invoice, they'll withhold those payments, too.

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