St. Tammany DA Update – 8/1/14

08/01/2014

Salary used to compute Walter Reed’s retirement higher than what he listed in ethics forms

Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News

St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed could pocket $15,000 more in annual retirement benefits because his office reported a higher income to the state retirement system than what Reed claimed in sworn financial disclosure forms in recent years, records show.

Reed’s reported income in forms filed with the state Ethics Board was between $12,000 and $37,000 less per year than what his office reported to the state district attorneys’ retirement system between 2011 and 2013, the records show.

The higher salary figures sent to the retirement system were the numbers used to calculate benefits for Reed, who has announced he will not be seeking reelection when his current term ends in January.

Reed is the subject of a federal criminal investigation into his campaign spending and a deal he had with St. Tammany Parish Hospital that paid him $30,000 a year as a legal retainer.

“It doesn’t add up,” Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said of the discrepancy in the records. “It makes you wonder if these documents are in fact accurate.”

St. Tammany hospital has not released some records on deal with DA

St. Tammany Parish Hospital has not released certain records requested last week by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News regarding the $30,000-a-year arrangement the hospital had with the parish’s district attorney’s office.

The delay has exceeded the period allowed under the state’s open records law to produce the documents or to set a timeline to do so. The hospital hasn’t cited a legal exception allowing it not to release the records.

Under the open records law, the news organizations asked for board minutes and resolutions setting legal fees for the district attorney’s office and other hospital attorneys between 2009 and 2013.

The hospital on Monday released the board minutes, which do not list the payments set or list the attorneys involved.

As of Friday morning, the hospital has not provided copies of the resolutions detailing the approval and has not responded to an additional request for that information. The hospital’s deadline to provide the records was Wednesday.

St Tammany DA Update – 7/31/14

07/31/2014

DA Walter Reed used public money to pad his own retirement, records show

Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News

St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed used public money to pay for a supplemental retirement plan for himself and a few of his selected employees that netted Reed $37,586 in retirement contributions in 2011 alone, according to records provided to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News.

Under the special plan, which lasted from 2006 to 2012, the district attorney’s office contributed 20 percent of Reed’s salary every year – or about $3,100 a month in 2011, the most recent full year of the program. That was in addition to 9 percent annually that the office contributed for the state retirement plan to which Reed and all other employees were eligible, the records show.

That means Reed authorized a plan that for nearly six years raised the public’s contributions to his retirement to almost a third of his salary. Only 10 of the almost 100 employees in the office, were selected for the supplemental retirement plan, the records show.

Through a spokesman, Reed said the additional retirement plan, called AXA retirement, ended in April 2012 due to budgetary concerns.

Spokesman Morgan Stewart said the plan was established “for the purpose of attracting and retaining quality and talented employees,” especially attorneys.

“Walter’s efforts were to retain necessary and key employees for the stable operation of this office,” Stewart said.

OPPJ Reviews Audit

07/30/2014

Monday night, the Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) reviewed their audit for 2013, and were told that overall, it was a good report.

Asked if there was “anything we’re doing wrong?”, Huffman & Soignier’s Francis Huffmain said “No one’s doing everything perfect.” He went on to say that there was nothing found that materially affected the organization.

Like the Jackson Parish Police Jury’s (JPPJ) audit, the OPPJ report cited the lack of reporting on the parish’s “component units.” However, in an interview with LPNO, Huffman said that this was nothing to be alarmed about, and that the financials of the jury itself were completely in order and rated an “unmodified opinion.” While the component unit agencies are related to jury operations, those entities are independent as far as financial reporting goes, and must undergo their own independent audits, Huffman said.

That condition also prevails at the JPPJ – that agency’s financials also rated an “unmodified opinion.” Our story earlier this week did not make that distinction.

In other business, the jury heard from the Stubbs Vinson Neighborhood Group regarding the building of an adolescent addiction center home in the area, which is east of Swartz.

The jury’s legal adviser had told the group that as the parish has no zoning authority, there was nothing that could be done from that standpoint. Parish Engineer Kevin Crosby said that the proposed construction met all the requirements for area drainage, sewer systems, and traffic flow.

Bossier/Webster DA Update – 7/30/14

07/30/2014

Whit Graves questions Bossier-Webster DA’s honesty, transparency

Written by Adam Duvernay

A Benton-based attorney announcing his candidacy Tuesday morning for Bossier-Webster district attorney came out swinging at the incumbent.

Whitley Graves, who made his bid official at Ralph & Kacoo’s in Bossier City, took District Attorney Schuyler Marvin to task for alleged opaqueness in reporting facts to the public and ignoring crime victims and their families. For those and other reasons, the district attorney should be replaced, Graves said.

Marvin said Graves’ accusations are unfounded.

Audit Dings Jackson Parish Police Jury

07/28/2014

The Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) received an “adverse opinion” audit this morning, because several “component units” of the agency did not have their financials reported with the jury financials.

The financial statements do not include financial data of the Police Jury’s legally separate component units. Accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAP) require the financial data for those component units to be reported with the financial data of the Police Jury’s primary government unless the Police Jury also issues financial statements for the financial reporting entity that include the financial data for its component units. The Police Jury has not issued such reporting entity financial statements. The amount by which this departure would affect the assets, liabilities, net position, revenues and expenses of the aggregate discretely presented component units has not been determined.

Data from the component units is necessary in order for the jury to conform with GAAP, as exclusion of the data could cause the reporting entity’s financial statements to be misleading or incomplete. Among those component units are the hospital district, the recreation district, several fire districts, and the ambulance district.

See here the complete audit.

Among the findings, a library employee’s leave balance was negative 74.75 hours. A maximum of 40 hours from the leave bank could be applied to offset the negative; however it was noted that no hours were applied. That matter will be presented to the jury with a recommendation that the employee be required to repay the 74.75 hours and that an internal investigation be performed to determine how an employee could be paid for work with a negative leave balance, management wrote.

Edited 7/29/14 – 1:00 PM

Jackson Parish Library Director Crystal Gates sent in this correction today:

I want to be sure that you have the correct information regarding the draft audit of the Jury and Library. The auditor has been made aware of this information, and I expect the final audit will reflect the correct information.

The library did not receive a finding. Our leave error was addressed only in a management letter and has since been rectified.

The management response included in the draft copy was not from the Library. I submitted our response after the exit conference.

For the record, our policy reads: “Employees terminating employment, either voluntarily or involuntarily, may donate accrued leave up to a maximum of forty (40) hours.”

After the exit conference, I found where the error occurred (used leave was carried forward rather than being subtracted). The error was corrected via donated leave and a reduction in the employee’s current leave balance. An updated spreadsheet is now in use.

If you have any further questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

City of Grambling’s Financial Survival Questioned

07/28/2014

A just released audit says that the financial situation of the City of Grambling is such that there is “doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”

From the audit:

The City has suffered recurring loses from operations and has a fund balance deficiency in the general fund that raises substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern. The general fund has a defict fund balance at the end of the fiscal year of $827,662.

See here the complete audit.

Mayor Edward R. Jones wrote in response to the finding that the city’s leaders were working toward a solution.

In an effort to continue in the alleviation of this deficit on Friday, June 20,2014 the Grambling City Council voted to reduce the workday for all employees from eight to seven hours. This council action will be at a cost savings of approximately $169,000 a year to the City. Other cost saving measures, such as, energy and fuel costs, supplies, and gradual reduction of the workforce through attrition will be implemented.

In addition, It is anticipated that by the end of 2014, the construction of a hotel and retail development will begin near Interstate 20 on a nine acre tract that is owned by the City. At the closing of the USDA Loan and at the signing of the lease agreement by the Economic Development Corporation, the City will be reimbursed for the market value of the property and any associated legal costs incurred relating to the project. In addition, the city has also signed a lease agreement to sell an AT&T tower lease.

Both the Mayor and the Council consider the deficit in our General Fund as a very serious matter, and we are
committed to decreasing and eventually dissolving it.

The audit also noted that the general fund’s chart of accounts is not designed in a manner that allow expenditures to be readily identified.

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Monday

07/27/2014

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet Monday, July 28, 5:30 PM, Ouachita Parish Court House, second floor.

Here is the agenda.

St Tammany DA Update – 7/26/14

07/26/2014

St. Tammany Hospital hired DA’s office, not Walter Reed personally, records show

Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News

St. Tammany Parish Hospital’s board authorized a $30,000 annual retainer with the district attorney’s office as an agreement with the public office, and not with District Attorney Walter Reed personally as he has maintained, board records show.

The hospital released the records late Friday, saying it had not provided the documents earlier “because we do not want to impede an ongoing investigation.” The statement was the first public indication that authorities investigating the embattled Reed are also probing the hospital payments.

Reed declared the $30,000 annual retainer as personal income in sworn financial disclosure forms filed with the state since 2008, the first year the disclosures were required. That means the district attorney has claimed receiving $180,000 in personal income from the hospital between 2008 and 2013.

After NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News highlighted the payments in May, Reed said the money was paid to him by the hospital for legal services he provided as a private attorney.

But Patti Ellish, the hospital’s CEO, has maintained that the hospital’s arrangement was with the District Attorney’s Office – not with Reed personally.

See here the documents.

St Tammany DA Update – 7/24/14

07/24/2014

Former St. Tammany hospital clerk says her job was upgraded for DA Walter Reed’s brother

Story by
Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News

St. Tammany Parish Hospital had reduced longtime employee Faye Dennis to part-time status before she left on medical leave in 2011. But when the hospital replaced her with District Attorney Walter Reed’s brother, Richard Reed was given the same job in a full-time capacity and at a 44 percent higher pay rate than Dennis, according to emails and recent news reports.

Richard Reed worked for at least a decade at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, most recently as a clerk in the mailroom. He resigned in June.

The hospital released a statement Wednesday (July 23) that said Reed was temporarily assigned to the mailroom for 20 hours while Dennis was on medical leave, and that he also worked other jobs in materials management for 20 hours.

However, email conversations among hospital administrators obtained by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News showed that Reed was working full time in the mailroom.

New Gas Processing Plant Under Construction in West Lincoln Parish

07/23/2014

PennTex Midstream Partners, LLC is constructing a 200 million cubic foot/ day natural gas processing facility on a 48 acre site on Elliot Road northwest of Simsboro.

Construction was announced last March and is expected to be complete in March, 2015. The facility will process gas to remove liquids and deliver the residue gas to the intrastate and interstate pipeline systems. It will consist of a cryogenic processing plant and the associated natural gas residue and natural gas liquids pipelines.

Chris Staffel, spokesperson for the company, said the facility will employ 7 to 10 permanent employees. Company representatives will be in the area in the next few days to interview for the positions.

About 200 temporary jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project.

Entergy Louisiana, LLC has signed a 10 year contract with PennTex to supply 25 megawatts of electric power for the facility.

PennTex Midstream Partners, LLC is a Houston-based midstream service provider that partners with customers to offer treating, gathering, processing, residue gas transmission, and liquids take away solutions. Integration with existing infrastructure can also be included.

Over the past few years, the western part of Lincoln Parish has seen significant drilling and production of natural gas. As it flows from the well, the gas often contains natural gas condensate, which must be stripped out before the gas can be safely transported and sold.

See here a chart of how midstream gas processing fits into the mix.


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