OPPJ Unable to Muster Quorum, Meeting Cancelled

07/21/2014

With one juror out of town, and two other jurors with spouses undergoing surgery, the six-person Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) was unable to gather a quorum for tonight’s meeting, Scotty Roberson (District A) told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO).

The meeting will be rescheduled within the next week or so, he said.

Monroe City Council Tuesday

07/21/2014

The Monroe City Council will meet Tuesday, July 22, 6:00 PM, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway.

Here is the agenda and information packet.

I-20 Frontage Road Completion Nine Months Away

07/21/2014

The Interstate 20 Service Road between Sparks Nissan and Milhaven Road won’t be complete for another nine months, engineer Ron Haisty last week told a Thursday afternoon meeting of the Interstate 20 Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors.

Said Haisty, “I was told by one of the engineers at DOTD Tuesday that it was supposed to advertise (for construction) yesterday on Wednesday.” Asked how long construction would be, he added, “With all the railroad and everything, I would say nine months.

There is about thirty feet of roadway left to build, but it involves turn lanes at Millhaven Road and signal installation.

The board also voted to declare the remainder of the road “substantially complete.” There was considerable discussion about the issue of cracking of the concrete curbs, but it was noted that the construction was done in accordance with the plans and specifications, and that the plans had been approved by the city engineer.

The board deferred action on a request for $600 thousand from Delta Community College. Delta wants the money as a match to go with state capital outlay funds to be used for construction.

One of the requirements of the matching funds is that the money be raised from private sources, so it is unclear how I-20 would qualify, as the source of those funds is sales taxes.

See here the enabling legislation, ACT 360.

Each project set forth below shall require a no less than twelve percent private match. No project shall be financed until all private funds are available for that project.

Ouchita Parish Police Jury Monday

07/20/2014

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet Monday, July 21, 5:30 PM, Ouachita Parish Court House, second floor.

See here the agenda.

Immigrants to be Housed @ Shreveport’s Hirsch Coliseum?

07/18/2014

Hirsch Coliseum considered for housing young immigrants

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Shreveport is being considered as one of many host cities to help house tens of thousands of unaccompanied young children from Central America flooding over America’s borders.

KSLA News 12 has learned the International Association of Fairs and Expos contacted Shreveport’s iconic Hirsch Coliseum at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds to see if it could be used as temporary housing.

“Even if we could serve in that capacity right now, let’s say it happened tomorrow, we’d only be able to serve for the month of August and maybe halfway into September,” said Chris Giordano, general manager of the Louisiana State Fair.

“I was told that someone from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would be contacting me. Well, it’s a month and a half later and they have not contacted me,” he said. “So, I’m assuming that our facility was not needed.”

Giordano says while he’s been waiting for a phone call from Homeland Security, on the federal level, he called IAFE back. The association hasn’t heard back from Homeland Security either

Monroe Home Prices Decline Because of Crime, Realtor Assn Prez Says

07/17/2014

The average selling prices for homes on the north side of Monroe and adjacent communities have declined about $6 thousand over the past year, Northeast Louisiana Association of Realtors President Deanne Norman told a crowd of about 50 interested citizens and public officials this morning in Monroe. Over the same time period, home prices in the West Monroe area increased by about the same amount, she said. The perception that crime is a serious problem on the east side of the Ouachita River is a contributing factor, she said.

Said Norman, “The perception is ‘where is it safe?’” when clients ask about purchasing a home in the area. Norman said even on Louisville Avenue while shopping in the daytime, one must be on guard against potential threats. “We keep our doors locked (in our office) after a certain time,” she said. “Perception is reality,” she added.

The event was organized by Monroe City Council Chair Ray Armstrong (District 1) in an effort to combat what many see as a property crime wave in Monroe.

Echoing Norman was Rev. Roosevelt Wright, Jr. a prominent South Monroe Pastor and newspaper publisher.

Wright noted that while the Northside was plagued with property crimes, on the Southside the problem was shootings.

Said Wright, “We have to live where somebody’s getting shot. Every week since January, nearly every week there’s been a murder, a shooting, that’s going on on the Southside of Monroe. We’re not talking about somebody breaking into somebody’s house, we’re talking about somebody getting shot, somebody getting killed.”

Wright said he thought a lot of the violent mentality among youths was a result of popular video games that appeal to that age group.

Also, a dearth of youth activities in South Monroe resulted in people turning to gangs as a perverse form of recreation.

Armstrong said he would be pursuing grant money to establish a permanent group to study the issue and make recommendations.

Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell also spoke and reported on the issue. Russell said about 85% of the crime in the area was drug related.

Armstrong was the only council member at the event.

St Tammany, DeSoto DA Update – 7/17/14

07/17/2014

DA Walter Reed used public money to pay for his medical co-pays and deductibles

Story by:
Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – Fox 8 / Fox8live.com

St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed used public money to cover medical co-payments and prescriptions for himself and a half dozen other selected employees in his office over a three-year period, records provided to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News show.

The documents produced through a public records request show Reed and six other District Attorney’s Office employees – one of whom is now retired – received a combined $27,485 in medical reimbursements between 2011 and 2013. Records before 2011 were not available.

Of the seven employees who received reimbursements, Reed’s repayments were the highest at $11,864.

Public dollars were used to reimburse Reed for more than 200 prescriptions in the three-year period, the records show. That included more than $500 for Cialis, a prescription drug generally used to treat erectile dysfunction and symptoms of an enlarged prostate, according to the manufacturer’s website.

Belinda Parker-Brown, president of the civic group Louisiana United International and a critic of Reed, said the district attorney using public money to reimburse himself for personal medications “represents a clear pattern of an elected official going rogue.”

Records show other employees in Reed’s office received between $337 and $5,415 in medical reimbursements in the three years included in the records released. The six other employees that received benefits included Reed’s first assistant, his office manager, a division director, an administrative officer and an administrative assistant.

Post-DA future for Reed includes healthy pension

By Sara Pagones
spagones@theadvocate.com

Walter Reed’s decision not to run for re-election this fall means he’ll no longer be the highest-paid district attorney in Louisiana, but with three decades in office, his pension could bring him as much money in retirement as he has received as an officeholder.

How much Reed earns as district attorney for St. Tammany and Washington parishes isn’t completely clear. Last fall, in response to a public-records request by The New Orleans Advocate, the District Attorney’s Office provided a spreadsheet that listed his salary at $198,614. However, a disclosure form that Reed filed with the Louisiana Ethics Administration earlier in the year said he received $214,000 from public sources in 2012.

But whatever his salary is, the 68-year-old will continue getting a similar amount as a retiree.

Employees in the District Attorneys’ Retirement System get 3.5 percent of their pay for every year served, said Pete Adams, director of the system. Pensions are based on the average of the employee’s 60 highest months of pay.

A number of variables are involved in determining the pension amount, including whether the employee has designated a spouse as a beneficiary, Adams said. The exact amount isn’t figured out until employees file paperwork to start receiving their pensions. But with 30 years of service, Reed could well receive 100 percent of his current salary, Adams said.

Meanwhile, controversy has enveloped another Louisiana District Attorney, this one in DeSoto Parish.

Controversy erupts with DeSoto DA

By Vickie Wellborn

MANSFIELD — Undisclosed allegations of misconduct made against District Attorney Richard Johnson are behind the abrupt resignation of the attorney who served as his second-in-command.

Gary Evans stepped down from his appointed position as first assistant district attorney via a letter dated July 9. He made his departure effective Tuesday to allow time to complete pending work for various public agencies.

Evans declined Wednesday to go into detail about the allegations, saying, “I prefer you ask Mr. Johnson what those allegations are. I mean him no harm.”

Evans, who gave a copy of his letter to The Times today , said his decision to leave resulted from a private meeting between him and Johnson days earlier. “At that time I informed you of the very serious allegations of misconduct made against you. I passed the information on to you as quickly as I learned of same. You committed yourself to prayer to help make your mind up as to your course of action. I have not heard from you as to your decision. As I told you, I cannot continue to serve as your first assistant,” he wrote.

But whatever troubles are brewing – or not – for Johnson, a first-term district attorney who plans to seek reelection this fall, he has more difficulties looming when it comes to his personal finances. For the second time since his election in 2008, Johnson has been sued by the Internal Revenue Service for failure to file income taxes.

The IRS on March 18 filed a federal tax lien against Johnson totaling $103,137. The document on file with the DeSoto Parish Clerk of Court’s office lists specific amounts of unpaid taxes for years 2004 through 2011. Fines and penalties were assessed on different dates in 2010 and 2012. The highest unpaid balance was $29,389 for tax year 2009 that was assessed on Aug. 27, 2012.

A lien is the step the IRS takes when a taxpayer does not respond to a demand for payment. The lien is placed on all property, including Johnson’s home in the 300 block of Ginger Street in Mansfield and any additional property he may own, which according to his ethics disclosure form includes 13 acres somewhere in DeSoto Parish.

I-20 Board Meeting Thursday

07/16/2014

The Interstate 20 Economic Development Corporation Board will meet Thursday, July 17, 4:00 PM, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway, Mayor’s conference room, second floor.

Here is the agenda.

Lincoln Fire District Chief Hiring Procedures Discussed

07/16/2014

Last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Fire District No. 1 focused on the procedures and timetables for the hire of a permanent chief for the district.

A September test date for the Fire Chief was discussed, as well as a class description for the position of Chief. Board Chair Richard Aillet said the description was almost complete, with several items left to finalize.

The board also approved guidelines for volunteer live-in arrangements at the stations.

During the Budget and Finance Committee Meeting, the 2013 audit was reviewed. There were no findings.

Discussion of the 2014 budget showed that spending was about $50 thousand above projections, due to some unplanned overtime and spending on maintenance that had been deferred. Revenues were slightly above projections, and it was thought that by year-end, the budget would be close to balance.

St Tammany DA Update – 7/15/14

07/15/2014

Embattled DA Walter Reed won’t seek re-election in November

By Heather Nolan, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Longtime north shore District Attorney Walter Reed, who is under federal investigation, told staff members Tuesday he will not seek re-election in November.

Reed has held the district’s attorney’s seat for the the 22nd Judicial District since 1984, when he beat incumbent DA Marion Farmer. Reed had not had an opponent for the office since beating former U.S. Attorney John Volz in 1996. But in recent months Reed has been dogged by news reports chronicling his campaign spending and his legal representation of St. Tammany Parish Hospital.

As the opening of the qualifying period draws near, three candidates have announced they will run for the District Attorney’s office that covers St. Tammany and Washington parishes: Slidell attorney Alan Black, Covington attorney Roy Burns Jr. and Brian Trainor, currently the chief deputy of the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office. And with each new candidate tossing his hat into the ring, speculation grew about Reed’s plans.

Reed statement on election plans


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