Archive for June, 2012
DONALD J. ALLEN
Mayor Leslie Thompson
128 Allen Ave
Jonesboro, LA 71251
RE: 2012-2013 Town Budget
Dear Mayor Thompson,
At the June 12th town council meeting I asked David J. Dill for a copy of the upcoming 2012-2013 budget, he in turn gave me a copy of Ordinance #706, the 2011-2012 Budget Ordinance. The next day I went back to City Hall and asked for a copy of the 2012-2013 Budget and received a copy of the 2012-2013 Budget Ordinance #709.
On Friday, June 22, I again visited City Hall and asked for a copy of the proposed 2012-2013 Budget and was asked if I wanted a copy of the 2012-2013 Budget Ordinance #709, I replied no I wanted a copy of the proposed 2012-2013 Budget with all the financial information associated with a budget, David Dill was paged to respond to my request.
Assistant David Dill did not know what I was talking about and suggested I ask Melba. Upon knocking on Melba’s door, Councilman Flowers came out of her office and indicated she was on a conference call and asked if he could help. Explaining to he and David what I wanted, David and Councilman Flowers said they had not seen that document and then referred me to Melba who was still on a conference call. I requested they have her call me when she finished the call, to which they agreed. I guess that call is ongoing as I have not heard from her.
Please see the following information:
According to LA Revised Statute 39:1305, 1306, 1307 and 1308 (a copy of each is attached) the duties, scope and presentation of the annual budget for the town is specified. I have highlighted several items for you to review. You complied with only one part of the budget process, and that is described under Revised Statute 39:1305, Section ‘D’, which addresses the appropriation ordinance, this you have done through Ordinance #709.
Revised Statute 39:1305
Section “A” calls for a “comprehensive budget” of which we have not seen. No budget has been prepared, so no budget has been offered.
Section “B” calls for “the chief executive” to prepare the budget, apparently this has not been done.
Section “C(2)(a)” calls for specific information to be included in the budget document. The budget has not been done so this of course has not been done.
Revised Statute 39:1306
Section “A” calls for submission and made available for public inspection 15 days prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. There is no budget so there has been no public inspection.
Revised Statute 39:1 307
Section “A” shall afford the public opportunity to participate prior to adoption of the budget. There is no budget so there has been no public participation.
Section “B” calls for at least ten days notice prior to public hearing. There is no budget so the notice presented by city hall is moot.
Revised Statute 39:1308
Section “A(l)” states where inspection of the budget will be made available. As indicated, attempts were made to inspect the budget but it was unavailable since it was not prepared per required statute.
The meeting of June 25 at 11:30 a.m. was a mockery of the bud get process and this legislation by any standard. Opening a public meeting and then leaving the room is as unprofessional a move as has ever been perpetrated on the public. After a 30 minute departure you re-enter the room and immediately re-write the Budget Ordinance without public participation. This act is equal to “dictatorship” of the town and its finances.
Revised Statute 39:1310 deals with amending the budget, even if it is less than 30 seconds old, and the procedures involved but since RS 39:1305, 1306, 1307 and 1308 have been ignored why should RS 39:1310 and 1311 be any different.
It is terribly disturbing that some of the Councilman were ready and eager to vote for your changes without question. I wonder if they had prior knowledge of what was taking place.
The public has dire concerns about the way the town is being administered. The public is devastated over the dismantling of the police department. Never in the history of Jonesboro has there been so much uneasiness from the public in the ability of the town to serve its inhabitants and businesses.
I do hope you take the law seriously. Every elected official is expected to perform their duties according to law. Statutes were written to direct the preparation, inspection and implementation of a budget and they are not hollow words but have substance. They are written to protect you the elected official but also to protect the public.
This letter is written to ask that the statutes are followed and that the public is informed and made a part of the process of running the Town of Jonesboro. I herewith request that a “2012-201 3 Proposed Budget” be presented and advertised and a time for legitimate public comment held.
I look forward to you stepping up and doing what is right.
Taxpayer, Business Owner and Concerned Citizen,
D. J. Allen
Cc/ Honorable James D. “Buddy” Caldwell, Attorney General
Cc/ Honorable John N. Kennedy, State Treasurer
Cc/ Honorable Jenifer Schaye, General Counsel (Legislative Auditor’s Office)
Cc/ Honorable Jonathan Stewart, District Attorney
Cc/ Honorable Robert “Bob” Kostelka, State Senator
Cc/ Honorable Jim Fannin, State Representative
A suit was filed today in Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson parishes) District Court in Jonesboro by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office (AG) requesting that the court appoint a Fiscal Administrator for the town.
See here the document.
In the suit, the AG wrote:
The deficiencies noted above have impaired the operation of the Town such that it is difficult to conclude whether the Town has sufficient revenues to pay current expenditures.
The Town has been given ample opportunity to extricate itself from this financial crisis but has failed to do so.
There is reason to believe that in the event a fiscal administrator is not appointed to assist the Town, that the citizens of the Town and State will be deprived of essential services all to the detriment of their health, safety and welfare and to the continued operations of the Town in general.
The suit is a result of action taken last March by the state’s Fiscal Review Committee, made up of State Treasurer John Kennedy, Assistant Attorney General Rick McGimsey, and Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.
The authority to take the action can be found here:
A.(1) The legislative auditor, the attorney general, and the state treasurer, or their designees, shall meet, as often as deemed necessary, to review the financial stability of the political subdivisions of this state.
(2)(a) If it is determined by the unanimous decision of the legislative auditor, the attorney general, and the state treasurer at a public meeting to consider such matters that a political subdivision is reasonably certain to not have sufficient revenue to pay current expenditures, excluding civil judgments, or to fail to make a debt service payment, the attorney general shall file a rule to appoint a fiscal administrator for the political subdivision as provided for in this Chapter.
(3) Upon the making of such decision, the attorney general shall, on motion in the district court of the domicile of the political subdivision, take a rule on the political subdivision to show cause in not less than ten nor more than twenty days why a fiscal administrator should not be appointed for the political subdivision as provided for in this Chapter. The rule may be tried out of term and in chambers, and shall always be tried by preference.
The administrator’s duties are spelled out here:
A.(1) A fiscal administrator shall perform such investigation of the financial affairs of the political subdivision as he deems necessary. He shall have access to all papers, books, records, documents, films, tapes, and other forms of recordation of the political subdivision or, as they relate to such political subdivision, of the state.
(2) With regard to the reasonable certainty of failure to make a debt service payment, investigation may include written interrogatories directed to the persons or entities who assisted the political subdivision in issuing and marketing the bonds, the bond trustee, if any, representatives of the bond holders, and any other person or entity with an interest in insuring that the political subdivision makes timely payment of debt service payments.
B.(1) After his investigation, the fiscal administrator shall file a written report with the court, the governing authority of the political subdivision, the state treasurer, the attorney general, and the legislative auditor.
A hearing has been set for 10:00 AM, July 5 before Division B Judge Jimmy Teat.
Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) will cover the hearing.
A meeting of the Legislative Audit Advisory Council (LLAC) has been scheduled for Wednesday, July 11, 10:00 AM, House Committee Room 1, Louisiana State Capitol.
See here the notice.
The council is a joint committee of the Louisiana Legislature, and is composed of five senators and five representatives. It is charged with oversight of the legislative auditor and resolving audit findings contained in audits issued by the legislative auditor and private accounting firms performing governmental audits in-lieu of the legislative auditor.
Committee chair Rep. Hunter Greene had not returned phone calls requesting comment as of this morning.
The recent debacle over Louisiana’s tax credits for vehicles that run on alternative fuels reminds me of a memorable scene from Casablanca. In the classic 1942 film, Capt. Louis Renault, the ethically malleable chief of the local gendarmes, loudly blows his police whistle and announces to an overflow crowd at Rick’s Cafe that he is closing the popular nightclub and casino.
When Rick, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, demands to know why, Renault piously proclaims, “I’m shocked — shocked! — to find that gambling is going on in here!”
That scene perfectly sums up the hypocrisy on parade in Baton Rouge these days as relates to Act 469 of 2009. The act grants income tax credits up to $3,000 for those who buy vehicles that burn “alternative fuels.” The act defines such fuels broadly, including “compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, biofuel, biodiesel, methanol, ethanol and electricity.”
House Appropriations Chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, quickly took advantage and filed amended tax returns. Fannin, in fact, claimed two vehicles.
Then came news, via the Monroe News-Star, that the fiscal impact of the act had suddenly shot up from the $1 million projected in 2009 to $100 million this year — thanks to Bridges’ retroactive ruling.
At that point, Fannin and other lawmakers proclaimed themselves shocked — shocked! — to find that Bridges had expanded the application of the law so widely, notwithstanding its plain language. Fannin, doing his best impression of Capt. Renault, solemnly told the News-Star, “It could wreck us. … I just found out about it before the (legislative) session ended (June 4).”
See the rest of the piece here.
Shocked … Shocked!
by Clancy DuBos | June 26, 2012
The move yesterday by the Town of Jonesboro’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson and three members of the board of aldermen to abolish the town’s police department was unexpected.
The public and at least some of the board had not seen the mayor’s proposed budget amendments prior to the council meeting where they were adopted, as they were distributed to the board after the meeting began.
In fact, a public hearing had just been held minutes earlier to review a proposed fiscal year 2012-2013 budget that had been introduced back on 5/17/12, and that had been published in the official journal.
District B’s Renee Stringer noted at the beginning of the meeting that she had not received her meeting packet at all, a problem that she has complained about numerous times. District A’s Sam Lamkin complained of the same problem at the 6/12/12 meeting.
The issue of significantly amending a budget with no public input is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit Essmeier v Jonesboro now on appeal at the circuit court level. Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson parishes) District Division B Judge Jimmy Teat ruled last August that in a similar situation, the mayor and board violated the state’s Local Government Budget Act.
See here the documents:
Some of the significant expenditure differences between the introduced budget and the amended budget were:
Police: $435 thousand to $95 thousand.
Animal Control: Zero to $52 thousand.
Adminstrative & General: $528 thousand to $684 thousand.
Recreation: $43 thousand to $95 thousand.
The Administrative & General budget category (410) was as of the fiscal year 2006-2007 about $414 thousand
The salary office line-item (410.250) has nearly tripled over that same time, from $87 thousand as of 6/30/07, to $236 thousand in the just-adopted 2012-13 budget.
Also, the downtown beautification line-item (410.440) was increased in the amended/adopted budget to $50 thousand from $30 thousand in the proposed budget.
On the subject of the police department, Thompson said the department would be “reduced” rather than “eliminated,” and that the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) would fill in.
Said Thompson, “I don’t want for you to believe or to think that because there’s a reduction of police personnel, that somehow that’s going to jeopardize – cause for there to be law enforcement credibility to be at stake.”
Long-time Police Chief Wesley Horton wasn’t buying it. Horton said the move was in retaliation for his refusals to hire and fire as the mayor wanted, and his repeated attempts to interfere in police operations.
Said Horton, “He (the mayor) has no authority over me, and he cannot stand it.”
District B’s Renee Stringer asked Horton how he would manage as the lone person responsible for enforcing the town’s code of ordinances. Replied Horton, “I’ll do the best I can.”
At one point during the discussion, District A’s Sam Lamkin suggested a Rodney King “can’t we all get along” meeting between the mayor and the chief.
Asked Lamkin, “Is there any way, mayor, you and Chief Horton, can get together and work this out to where we can still have a police department?”
When time came to vote on the ordinance #709, it took quite a bit of coaching from town attorney Doug Stokes to style the motion before he was satisfied that it was done legally.
Several other of the town’s budgets were amended and adopted, none of which had been published in the town’s official journal, nor had been reviewed in public hearings.