State Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office declined to confirm whether it is conducting an investigation of Sterlington Police Chief Barry Bonner’s use of an illegal ticket quota among the town’s police officers.
The AG’s office received a complaint about Bonner’s ticket quota system in November 2017, according to documents obtained by The Ouachita Citizen through a public records request.
According to the complaint fielded by the AG, the deputy director at the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation recommended the complainant — who was identified only as a “concerned citizen” — redirect some of the complaints to the state Legislative Auditor’s Office, especially those unrelated to the ticket quota. The Louisiana Bureau of Investigation, or LBI, is the investigations division at the AG’s office.
John Bosco, LBI’s deputy director, was unable to make contact with the unidentified complainant, according to the AG’s report.
According to the documents obtained by The Ouachita Citizen, the AG’s public outreach coordinator, Misti Cordell, received the concerned citizen’s complaint on Dec. 12, 2017 and forwarded it to LBI. The file number was 37-19589.
The complaint to the AG contained copies of Bonner’s memos directing officers to meet quotas, Bonner’s text messages to former Sterlington Police officer Mike Hodges warning Hodges’ that his job was at stake if he did not meet a ticket quota, and other documented communications.
The AG’s report on the complaint concluded with the determination: “No further action to be taken.”
When asked whether an investigation of Bonner’s ticket quota had been closed or was ongoing, Landry’s press secretary, Ruth Wisher, said, “I can’t comment on that.”
“I can’t comment on the status of any investigation,” Wisher said.
Bonner’s use of an illegal ticket quota drew scrutiny from other corners, too. In December 2017, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew told The Ouachita Citizen his office was looking into Bonner’s use of an illegal ticket quota. The matter could be brought before a grand jury, Tew said.
In a February 2017 news report published by The Ouachita Citizen, Bonner admitted to implementing an illegal ticket quota. Former Sterlington police officers have said Bonner required them to meet the ticket quota as a condition of their employment.
In Louisiana, state law forbids police departments from instructing, suggesting or implying that law enforcement officers are required or expected to issue a specified number of traffic citations. Bonner’s ticket quota system resulted in a finding in an audit of the town of Sterlington’s finances during the 2017 fiscal year.
In May, the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office confirmed that sheriff’s detectives were investigating a complaint against Bonner.
In late June, Tew said a criminal complaint had been made that Bonner perjured himself during the trial for Tracy Govan, who was convicted for killing Sterlington police officer David Elahi in July 2016.
Tew’s office recused himself from that prosecuting that case.
During the trial, Bonner took the witness stand and denied that he pressured Sterlington police officers to issue a certain number of traffic citations, or to maintain a ticket quota.
Bonner previously told this newspaper he believed Hodges was responsible for submitting the perjury complaint with the Sheriff’s Office. According to Bonner, Hodges and others were trying to drum up opposition to him in the police chief election set for Nov. 6. During qualifying last month, Bonner drew two challengers.
When asked about Bonner’s claims, Hodges said, “I don’t live in the town. I’m not running for chief. I’m not interested in who runs for chief.”
Referring to past news reports on Bonner’s memos directing officers to issues a certain number of traffic citations during each shift or his text messages to officers, Hodges said, “I’m not making anything up.”
“It’s all there in black and white,” he said.