BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A veteran LSU police officer says a secretly recorded meeting at LSU reveals a university administrator pressured him into retiring and appeared to suggest the officer could bypass official university policies in claiming his accumulated comp time.
The officer was Sherman Dickerson, a 30-year veteran who held the senior rank of captain before he retired following a meeting in 2013 with the head of LSU's human resources department, A.G. Monaco. Also at the meeting was Dickerson's immediate supervisor at the time, Maj. Bart Thompson, who is now LSU's police chief.
Dickerson said he did not know what the meeting was about but secretly recorded it anyway. A source, who was not Dickerson, provided a copy of the audio. Dickerson did not object to our use of the audio in our report.
"I had no idea what it was about until I arrived there and they start telling me that they thought it was better if I go ahead and retire," he said in an interview last week. "I was forced to submit a letter of retirement, yes."
So what was the issue? The weekend before the meeting, Dickerson had been in charge of a security detail for a concert at the LSU parade grounds. An officer working the detail under his supervision brought her two children, ages 11 and 14, along with her in her own private car so that her children could attend the concert.
In the meeting, Monaco - the HR director - told Dickerson that he should not have allowed the officer to bring her kids to the concert because it put the university at risk of a lawsuit had the kids gotten hurt.
While, at that time, the school did not have any official policy against children being brought to work assignments, Monaco said it was just "common sense."
"We pay people to work here," Monaco is heard scolding the officer on the recording. "And if they're going to babysit their children, we're not going to put them on payroll. I was paying that woman time and a half. She was under your command. Either she wasn't watching her kids, which is a problem, or she wasn't doing her job."
Monaco told Dickerson he could either retire or go through the official channels of "due process" to fight for his job. Monaco, however, told Dickerson he would lose if he chose due process.
"If he believes that there was nothing wrong with this situation and he wants to fight it, he can fight it," Monaco is heard saying to Dickerson's supervisor. "I will tell you this, Bart, I'm gonna win."
At that point, Dickerson's then-supervisor Bart Thompson interjected in an apparent attempt to soften any perceived coercion: "But, I want him to realize that's his position, that's his decision."
Dickerson, who had remained mostly silent and soft-spoken during the meeting, asked why he was being singled out for something he said other officers had done with impunity in the past.
"I've been here right at 30 years," the captain said. "There's never been a policy. Other people have done it. I'm not going to call any names. It has been done."
The captain's attempt to defend himself seemed to infuriate Monaco: "Captain Dickerson, I'm not getting a warm feeling here that we can cut a deal. Let me explain what's going to happen if this - let me explain - you're going to lose your job."
Monaco insisted the captain had only two choices: retire or be embarrassed through an internal affairs investigation that would likely result in termination, Dickerson said.
"Either we investigate this thing and it goes through an entire process, and I can tell you it's serious," Monaco is heard on the recording. "We ain't *ickin' around on this one."
His other option, as Monaco is heard saying at the end of the meeting - "We justjust bury this."
On the recording, the HR director says Thompson would handle the other officer's disciplinary measures at the department level without HR's involvement. That way, there would be no "deep record" of the incident, Monaco is heard saying.
"Frankly, what position would I have been in if on the Friday before this occurred, you had said, 'I'm retiring on this date?'" Monaco is heard telling Dickerson. "I would have been in a position where I would have said, 'Okay, this is bad, but let's not embarrass the man on the way out.' Let's assume that's what occurred. You expressed the desire to retire before the event. I don't wish to embarrass you."
In his interview last week, Dickerson said he felt he had no choice but to accept the offer of early retirement. He admitted he had been considering retirement but said he was not yet ready at that time.
Even though Monaco had already told the officer he could seek due process proceedings but would most certainly lose, he reminded the captain that was still an option.
"Captain Dickerson, I don't want to seem unfair in this, so you think about this," Monaco is heard saying.
Dickerson retired Jan. 1, 2014.
Earlier this month, the former captain initially declined an interview request but later changed his mind after speaking to his wife.
After listening to the recording last week, LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said in a written statement that he saw nothing wrong with the way Monaco handled the situation:
"Dr. Monaco, as associate vice president of human resources for LSU, conducted himself appropriately and treated Captain Dickerson with all due respect in this situation," Ballard said.
"As the tape makes clear, Capt. Dickerson's options were explained to him, including his 'due process' rights. Capt. Dickerson came into the meeting intending to pursue the retirement option. Dr. Monaco expressed to Capt. Dickerson that he wasn't being forced to retire and had options he could take. Dr. Monaco expressed appreciation for Dickerson's years of service to LSU and said that the university didn't want to embarrass him on his way out," Ballard said.
The officer who brought her children to the concert has the last name Richardson.
"Dickerson was the captain in charge in this situation. The individual higher in the chain of command takes on more responsibility when things are done inappropriately. Richardson should not have brought her children with her and each time she interacted with children, she in effect abandoned her post, but Dickerson granted her permission to misbehave and thus he absolved Richardson of the bulk of the offense by his failure to do his job correctly," Ballard said.
"This was not an off-duty assignment. Richardson was on duty as an LSU Police officer at a university-sponsored event. No police officer can bring a civilian along during their shift regardless of relation or age, much less his or her children. It is unsafe and a dereliction of duty," Ballard added.
At our request, LSU provided us with copies of any written disciplinary action taken against Dickerson during his career. The university provided documentation of two such instances. In 2002, he was written up after an inmate, in custody for alleged battery, escaped custody under Dickerson's watch. While Dickerson denied wrongdoing, he signed a required disciplinary form that included language that any further disciplinary infractions might result in termination. Dickerson was also disciplined in 2012 for allegedly not breaking up a heated argument between two officers who were under his command.
Monaco declined our request for an on-camera interview.