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Archive for the ‘Jonesboro’ Category
By Sara Pagones and Katie Moore
At first glance, Harry Pastuszek doesn’t appear to be one of the highest-paid lawyers on 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed’s staff. Information provided by the office says that in 2012 he earned $68,422, with a portion of it covered by the state.
But Pastuszek’s association with Reed’s office is far more lucrative than that figure indicates. Like many of the assistant district attorneys on Reed’s staff, Pastuszek provides legal counsel for another governmental body, in his case the St. Tammany Parish School Board.
And in Pastuszek’s case, the money goes not to the District Attorney’s Office but to his private law firm — more than $500,000 last year alone.
Pastuszek doesn’t appear to have any other duties in Reed’s office other than representing the School Board.
He bills the School Board $150 an hour for his legal services and $70 an hour for administrative, secretarial and paralegal time.
That’s resulted in huge payoffs: $440,666 in 2011, $475,194 in 2012 and a whopping $545,399 in 2013. So far this year, Pastuszek’s firm — which takes on a variety of other legal matters as well — has been paid $320,700 by the School Board.
But even though Pastuszek’s link to the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office is tenuous, he was one of a select group Reed singled out for enhanced retirement benefits in an unusual program that was paid for entirely with public money. He was one of 11 employees, including Reed himself, who got the extra perk.
By Vickie Wellborn
ARCADIA – Former Arcadia clerk Theresa Burris altered a check made payable to a town vendor and diverted it into a banking account shared with her husband, a criminal investigator with the Louisiana Inspector General’s office said in an arrest warrant.
Burris, 54, was arrested Tuesday on one count each of malfeasance in office and theft. She was booked into the Bienville Parish Jail and released on a $20,000 bond. She resigned following her arrest.
The inspector general’s office was working with District Attorney Jonathan Stewart in the prosecution of another matter when the alleged misappropriation was discovered.
Four candidates have filed for mayor: James Bradford, Mike Holder, Alvin Jones, and Renee Stringer. Holder ran for mayor eight years ago, while Stringer is the incumbent District B Alderwoman. Jones had been the District C Alderman from 1994 to 2002.
There are two candidates for Chief of Police: James Harris and Maxie Monroe. Harris currently works for the department, and Monroe is the Ward Five Jackson Parish Police Juror. Monroe had previously worked in the department.
Incumbent chief Wesley Horton, first elected in 1994, did not run for re-election.
The Alderman-at-Large seat has four candidates: Nia Evans, Janet Martin, Theresa Moore, and Johnny Runyon. Incumbent LaStevic Cottonham did not run for re-election.
District A has three candidates: Heather Graham, Randy Layfield, and Craig Williams. Layfied had served in that slot for three terms from 1998 to 2010. Incumbent Sam Lamkin did not file.
District B (incumbent Renee Stringer) saw three filers: Douglas Cary, Robbie Siadek, and Stacy Strickland.
District C’s race has two contestants: Charla Mason-Melton, the incumbent, and Pete Stringer. In 2010, Mason-Melton defeated Stringer who had held the seat since 2002.
In District D, incumbent Devin Flowers is challenged by John Bradley and John Williams.
Qualifying begins today for several area political offices. Among the offices to be decided on November 4:
City of Ruston Mayor
City of Ruston Board of Aldermen
Town of Jonesboro Mayor
Town of Jonesboro Board of Aldermen
Town of Jonesboro Chief of Police
Lincoln Parish School Board
Jackson Parish School Board
Ouachita Parish School Board
Monroe City School Board
District Attorneys – Statewide
District Judges – Statewide
Here is a link to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website that updates as new candidates qualify.
By Heather Nolan, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Richard Reed, the brother of St. Tammany District Attorney Walter Reed, has been booked with sexual battery after Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz said he reviewed surveillance video from the Chimes restaurant that showed Reed made sexual advances toward “an incapacitated female that rose to the level of a criminal act.”
The arrest stems from an incident in which Richard Reed, 65, of Covington, was pulled over with an allegedly intoxicated woman in his car.
Lentz said at a press conference Tuesday (Aug. 19) that he reviewed the video last week which showed the woman resisting Reed’s advancements “violently by punching and kicking Mr. Reed in an attempt to get away.”
“The actions of Richard Reed that night can be best described as disturbing,” Lentz said. “Mr. Reed is observed on the video groping the lady’s breasts, along with placing his hand in the area of her genitalia on more than one occasion.”
Lentz would not publicly release the video, saying it was part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Reed was arrested Monday, Lentz said.
Walter Reed issued a statement saying he would recuse himself and his office from the case.
Lentz said last week that officers were called to The Chimes in Covington on Aug. 10 after an allegedly intoxicated woman at the bar became belligerent and started throwing punches. Lentz said police now believe her behavior stemmed from Reed’s advances.
Once officers arrived, Lentz said someone in the parking lot told them they saw the woman leave in a Honda Accord, that officers later determined was driven by Reed. Lentz said police still are unsure how the woman ended up in Reed’s car.
“We have no one that has said she went screaming, kicking or yelling into his car,” he said.
After tracking down the Accord, Covington police said Reed flashed a “wallet badge” from the District Attorney’s Office, trying to give the impression that he had credentials with the office.
Officers ignored the badge.
By Faimon A. Roberts III
Richard Reed, the brother of embattled St. Tammany and Washington Parishes District Attorney Walter Reed, repeatedly groped an intoxicated woman’s breasts and genitals inside a Covington restaurant, Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz alleged Tuesday in announcing Reed’s arrest on a count of sexual battery.
Reed, 65, surrendered without incident Monday night after a nearly weeklong investigation into a bizarre episode Aug. 10 in which he attempted to drive the intoxicated woman home, and then sought to shoo away police by flashing an honorary badge issued by the DA’s Office.
Police had been called to The Chimes restaurant in Covington that night because the woman allegedly had gotten belligerent at the bar, but Reed took her to his car before police arrived. His car was spotted at a nearby red light and was pulled over. Police ignored Reed’s badge and insisted on speaking to the woman, who was slumped over in Reed’s back seat, Lentz said.
After taking the woman to the police station to make sure she wasn’t in danger of alcohol poisoning, police cited her for public intoxication and sent her home with friends, Lentz said. The charge against the woman was dropped after city prosecutor Rene Frederick reviewed the incident.
By James Varney, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Perhaps power isn’t inherently corrupt. It may be that holding it for too long guarantees some level of corruption.
That may be one of the factors at play as St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed’s three-decade career unravels. As the revelations mount that he played fast and loose with money and a sibling gets arrested, it seems clear Reed has been at the helm too long.
Why not resign? Is Reed another example of a politician who digs in his heels against all allegations and, impervious to shame or remorse, soldiers on because he needs the money or can’t live outside the spotlight?
St. Tammany Parish has had its share of such characters recently. Convicted former coroner Peter Galvan springs to mind. Here was a man who, in the face of overwhelming evidence, had the gall to sue the parish thereby costing taxpayers even more in legal fees.
In Reed’s case, he’s always had a knack for not answering questions. His announcement that he won’t seek re-election but will cling to the job and the paycheck until then is reflective of a man too comfortable with the levers of power.
The Jackson Parish Recreation Department’s audit for the year 2013 revealed a couple of issues – internal controls, and budgeting.
Condition – During our audit, we noted that for the years ending 2006 to 2013 concessions generated
an average annual loss of ($6,785).
Effect – The District may be losing revenues in the area of concession due to inadequate internal
Recommendation – The District should monitor inventory purchases, inventory safe keeping, and
concession sales to ensure that all funds have been accounted for.
Condition – Actual expenditures exceeded budgeted expenditures by more than the 5% variance
allowed. The 2013 budget was adopted March 18, 2013.
Cause – The Jackson Parish Recreation District does not have procedures to ensure that the budget is
approved and amended in compliance with state revised statutes.
Recommendation – It is recommended that the District institute procedures to ensure the budget is
adopted in a timely manner and amended whenever actual revenues are less than budgeted revenues
by more than 5% and/or actual expenditures are more than budgeted expenditures by more than the
See here the complete audit.
Natchitoches’ Johnson Thomas & Cunningham, CPA performed the audit.
The race for Division A Judge (Claiborne Parish) of the Second Judicial District (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes) has gotten hot. In response to several weeks of newspaper advertising by challenger Ben Bleich, incumbent Jenifer Clason this week ran full page ads responding to Bleich’s claims.
In his political ad about the first degree murder trial of Carl Sims, Judge Clason’s opponent made statements which he knows or should know are not true. Here are the facts:
FACT: Carl Sims was convicted of first degree murder, not second degree murder as he stated in his ad, a fact he should have known from the appeal decision which affirmed Sims’ conviction of first degree murder and his sentence, State v. Sims, 745 So. 2d 151 (La. App. 2 Cir. 1999).
FACT: The sequestered jurors, picked in Webster Parish and brought to Claiborne Parish, finished their deliberations at 10:00 PM on Saturday, September 26, 1999, after 13 straight days of trial and 18 hours of deliberations for the guilt (14 hours) and penalty (4 hours) phases of the trial, facts which are in the record of the Sims’ first degree murder trial.
FACT: After thanking and releasing the jury at the jury box, the judge was returning to the bench when Sims grabbed her hand and pulled her to him. Frightened because she thought he might be trying to kill her, she extricated herself quickly and returned to the bench, facts which are available from the people who were there.
FACT: Candidates for judicial office are prohibited from making false statements about their opponents in their campaigns for office.
Read the document by clicking this link.
Do you want an experienced judge or the candidate who can’t get his facts straight?
He wants to be the judge for Claiborne Parish. He bought lakeside property in the parish on August 24, 2012. He has lived here two years but parish residents know very little about him. Here is what his sister said about him in a sworn affidavit submitted to the Ruston City Court in his lawsuit for injuries he received on March 17, 2004 during a bar fight in Ruston, LA:
“In her affidavit, Allyson stated that her brother, Benjamin Bleich, had a history of provoking fights, and being arrested for fighting in bars, and was intoxicated on the night of the fight.”
IF YOU BELIEVE CHARACTER COUNTS RE-ELECT JUDGE CLASON
Bleich responded with this:
Here are Bleich’s earlier newspaper ads:
Voters in all three parishes of the district can vote in the election.
Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News
District Attorney Walter Reed, who’s under investigation by federal authorities, has used more than $12,200 in campaign funds to pay his criminal defense attorney’s law firm for what Reed called an “attorney for the campaign fund,” according to Reed’s latest campaign finance report.
Reed’s campaign also paid for a public opinion poll just weeks before he announced he would not be seeking re-election, and for Reed to hire a spokesman as the once-powerful district attorney faced growing questions about his campaign spending and the use of public money in his office, the records show.
In a report filed August 6 with the state Ethics Administration, Reed listed a $12,277 payment to the Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann and Papale Law Firm in Metairie for legal fees. Rick Simmons, a partner in that firm, “has been retained as counsel for the Walter Reed Campaign Fund,” said Reed’s spokesman, Morgan Stewart, in a statement Wednesday. The statement also said Reed consulted past Ethics Board opinions before authorizing the payment to Simmons’ firm, and that the expense was “related to Walter Reed’s ‘holding of public office.'”
“There is nothing unusual or unorthodox about campaign committees retaining the services of an attorney,” Stewart’s statement said.
Sources have confirmed Reed also has hired Simmons as his criminal defense attorney.
Stewart cited three opinions from the Ethics Board that said politicians can use campaign funds to pay for legal fees related to the campaign finance law, and to defend themselves from a Judiciary Commission complaint.
SARA PAGONES and KATIE MOORE
Walter Reed, the embattled district attorney for St. Tammany and Washington parishes, is tapping his sizable campaign war chest to pay for legal representation as a federal grand jury probe into his office heats up.
State ethics laws bar politicians from spending campaign money on personal uses. But lawyer Rick Simmons said the $12,278 that Reed has paid him so far is strictly for issues related to his campaign fund.
Simmons, of the New Orleans law firm Hailey McNamara Hall, said he is also representing Reed on issues related to ethics, but campaign money is not being used for that work.
Morgan Stewart, a public-relations consultant recently hired by Reed, said there is nothing unusual about a campaign committee retaining an attorney’s services.
“Campaigns nationwide, be they for the City Council or president of the United States, use attorneys for many concerns, specifically campaign financing and other campaign regulatory issues. Attorneys are called upon to give legal advice and render services regarding a number of situations,” Stewart said in an email.
Reed’s campaign records do not show any payments to lawyers during the past five years, save for the recent payment to Simmons.
Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News
St. Tammany District Attorney Walter Reed’s office sought and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra funding from the Parish Council in recent years, just as Reed was using public dollars to pay for cushy benefits for himself and select employees in his office.
Revelations about the special benefits, and the expectation of yet another request for extra money by Reed’s office this year, prompted Parish President Pat Brister to call for a legislative auditor’s review that can shed light on what exactly Reed’s office is doing with that parish money, Brister said in an interview.
In her first extensive public comments about the scandal that has engulfed the once-powerful district attorney, Brister said,”Certainly it’s a concern, and those are the questions that I’m being asked. What are we doing to look at their budget and look to make sure that we are sending them is being used in the correct manner,” Brister said. “It’s a concern of mine and of citizens who are calling about it.”
Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News
District Attorney Walter Reed’s office has admitted it overpaid the embattled chief prosecutor for St. Tammany and Washington parishes by $23,800 in 2012. But the office’s corrected number, released this week, still doesn’t match what Reed reported as income in his sworn financial disclosure form.
In documents given to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News, Reed’s office first said he made $221,473 in 2012. That’s what was sent to District Attorneys Retirement System, to compute his pension when he leaves office, even though Reed separately disclosed only $184,000 to the state Ethics Administration.
After the news organizations questioned the discrepancy, the retirement system this week released a copy of a May 15, 2013, letter from Reed’s office to the retirement system. In it, Reed’s office admitted it overpaid his salary and retirement benefits in 2012, and said the correct number is $197,674. The change was not reflected in the retirement system’s computer system at the time the letter was received, retirement system Director E. Pete Adams said.
Even the corrected figure, however, is more than 7 percent higher than what Reed reported to the Ethics Administration.
Reed’s spokesman, Morgan Stewart, said the discrepancies might be tied to data entry issues.
“The district attorney retirement system data is on a fiscal year,” he said. “Because the above error in reporting for calendar year 2012, two fiscal years of the district attorney retirement system were affected by the reporting of this erroneous additional amount.”
By Faimon A. Roberts III
Richard Reed, the brother of St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed, flashed an honorary badge issued by the DA’s Office at a Covington police officer who pulled him over as Reed tried to drive an inebriated woman away from a Covington restaurant on Sunday night, police confirmed.
Despite Richard Reed’s claim that he had the situation under control, the officer insisted on speaking to the woman, 30-year-old Natalie Dicharry, who was slumped over in Reed’s back seat, according to Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz.
Police were seeking Dicharry because managers of The Chimes Restaurant said she had become belligerent while at the bar.
When an officer arrived at The Chimes, he was informed that Dicharry had left in Richard Reed’s car, which the officer spotted at a nearby red light. The officer pulled Reed over in a shopping center parking lot, Lentz said. Reed “exited the vehicle and handed the officer a wallet badge from the District Attorney’s Office,” Lentz said.
Reed said he was taking Dicharry home, Lentz said.
“My understanding is that he flashed the badge in order to assure the officers that he didn’t need any assistance,” Lentz said.
Richard Reed has no connection to law enforcement other than through his brother. He recently resigned from a post as a clerk at St. Tammany Parish Hospital — for which Walter Reed until recently did legal work — after the arrangement aroused controversy, including questions about Richard Reed’s rate of pay and his job responsibilities.
After Reed flashed his badge, the officer decided to take the woman in his car to the Covington police station so she could be checked out by EMS personnel for possible alcohol poisoning. Police issued her a summons for public intoxication and released her into the custody of friends, Lentz said.
Richard Reed came to the police station and offered to take her home, but she declined the offer, Lentz said.
Richard Reed was not ticketed or charged, and he is not under investigation for his role in the incident, Lentz said.
Reached by phone Monday, Dicharry said she didn’t know Richard Reed and that she had no idea how she ended up in his car. She vaguely remembered him saying he was connected to the district attorney, she said.
Morgan Stewart, a spokesman for Walter Reed, acknowledged that the DA gave his brother an honorary commission some “30 years ago, as a keepsake” after Walter Reed’s first election in 1984. Reed gave other badges to a “few family and friends,” Stewart said, adding that the badge confers “absolutely no authority whatsoever.”
Richard Reed returned the badge to the office after the Sunday incident, Stewart said.
He said he believes Walter Reed is trying to recall other honorary badges.
The district attorney has steadfastly refused to answer questions posed by The New Orleans Advocate in recent weeks about the office’s issuance of honorary badges, who received them and why.
In an official response to a public-records request, Reed’s administrative assistant, Gerald Reed, said the office did not have a list of people who received badges between January 2009 and June 16, 2014. A follow-up request for more information was ignored by the office.
While Stewart said he knew of only a few badges Walter Reed gave out shortly after his election in 1984, Claire Bradley, a former girlfriend of Walter Reed’s, said Reed gave her late father, James Bradley, an honorary “special investigator” badge in 2003. She provided a photograph of the badge to The New Orleans Advocate.
It shows a gold shield with the state seal and the words “Investigator, District Attorney, 22nd JDC” embossed upon it, referring to the 22nd Judicial District, which encompasses St. Tammany and Washington parishes. The accompanying certificate identifies Bradley as a “special investigator” and includes his picture, weight, eye color, hair color and Social Security number.
Nothing on the badge indicates that it is honorary or ceremonial.