Archive for the ‘Jonesboro’ Category

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.

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

Gibsland, LA Update – 7/15/14

07/15/2014

Gibsland utility clerk fired; finances probe continues

By Vickie Welborn

A utility clerk hired by former Mayor Odell Key, who is serving a prison sentence for his mishandling of the town’s money, has been fired as a probe continues into other questionable financial decision-making.

Meanwhile the fiscal administrator, David Greer, appointed in November by a Bienville District Court judge to oversee all of Gibsland’s operations, is still working to get the town back on track following years of neglect under Key’s administration. Financially, the town is better, “But we still have a big hole to dig out of,” Greer said.

Part of his work even includes trying to recoup money the Internal Revenue Service seized personally from the Board of Aldermen members and one former town employee. The IRS seized the funds and applied them to the town’s debt for nonpayment of employee payroll taxes.

A criminal investigation by the Bienville Parish sheriff’s office and investigative audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office revealed a host of problems, including owing more than $200,000 to assorted vendors. About $80,000 was due the IRS.

Sheriff’s investigators questioned spending practices and suspected misuse of public funds. However, the lack of records, many of which have yet to be found, made it difficult to create a paper trail as to where the money was going. Sheriff John Ballance raised questions about stipends paid to employees for attending meetings, unsupported documents for travel expenses, buying party supplies, flowers and meals at local restaurants.

St Tammany DA Update – 7/10/14

07/10/2014

Hospital checks to DA Walter Reed raise more questions about nature of payments

Heather Nolan – NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Lee Zurik – WVUE Fox 8 News | Fox8live.com

Whether St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed was paid a $30,000 a year retainer by St. Tammany Parish Hospital as an elected official or as a private attorney is unclear in a series of checks provided to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News by the hospital.

Some checks are endorsed with a district attorney’s office stamp and others with only Reed’s name, the documents show.

Reed resigned from his job as the hospital board’s attorney in May, less than two weeks after the news organizations raised questions about the arrangement. No contract or documents existed that detailed what Reed did to earn the money.

The checks, provided by the hospital in response to a public records request, are made out to Reed and list the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center’s address, 701 N. Columbia St. in Covington.

A stamp that reads “For Deposit Walter Reed District Attorney” appears on the back of several checks dated between 2004 and February 2007. Checks after March 2007 show a stamp that says “For Deposit Only.” Reed’s signature appears on one of the checks.

Reed has not responded to questions about the checks.

Reed and the hospital have provided conflicting accounts of their arrangement. The hospital said Reed was paid in his official capacity as district attorney, in which case the money should have gone to the public office’s coffers. Reed said he was paid as a private attorney. Reed has declared $30,000 annual payments from the hospital as personal income on his sworn disclosure forms filed with the state since 2008, the first year the filings were required.

http://media.nola.com/politics/other/Reed%20STPH%20checks.pdf

St Tammany DA Update – 7/9/2014

07/09/2014

DA Walter Reed says he didn’t try to influence public hospital’s decision to employ his brother

By NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed said he didn’t try to influence St. Tammany Parish Hospital’s decision to employ his brother, and that Richard Reed worked for many years as both a funeral director and with the hospital.

Richard Reed worked at the hospital for at least a decade, most recently as a clerk in the mailroom. He resigned June 27.

Messages obtained by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News show hospital officials talked about how the hospital had “made a position” for Richard Reed and worried how it would look if word got out.

In a statement late Wednesday (July 9), Walter Reed said he “was not even aware of any controversy regarding his work (if it existed at all) and certainly did not attempt to influence any personnel decisions by the hospital.”

STATEMENT BY WALTER REED DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR ST. TAMMANY AND WASHINGTON PARISH

Tuesday’s Jonesboro City Council

06/26/2014

We were unable to attend the Noon Tuesday meeting of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen, but through the efforts of one of our correspondents who kindly took notes, we are able to provide this narrative.

Several questions were asked during the public comment section of the meeting. Asked why the Noon meeting time, District D’s Devin Flowers, who is also the Mayor Pro Tem, said that was a more convenient time for the other members, as it was a special called meeting.

Another question concerned the annual salary for the Fiscal Administrator, which is set at $125 thousand/year. The third issue concerned the advisability of raising water rates, considering that so many customers were not paying their bills.

Fiscal Adminstrator Ken Folden presented two proposed budgets, the amended budget for the fiscal year 7/1/13-6/30/14 just ending, and the proposed budget for 7/1/14-6/30/15 about to begin.

The two were turned down on a 1-2-1 vote. Voting yes was Flowers, with Alderman-at-large LaStevic Cottonham and District C’s Charla Mason-Melton voting no. District A’s Sam Lamkin abstained, as the budget contains monies allocated to the Jackson Parish Coroner’s Office, where he is a Deputy.

District B’s Renee Stringer was absent due to a work conflict.

Folden said the budgets included money to hire another police officer, and money to operate the animal control facility.

He said the two budgets would be submitted to the Attorney General’s Office for their review and approval.

St Tammany DA Update – 6/25/14

06/25/2014

Hospital officials created position for DA Walter Reed’s brother, emails show

Heather Nolan NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik Fox 8 News/Fox8live.com

St. Tammany Parish Hospital officials talked about how the hospital had “made a position” for the purpose of providing employment for St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed’s brother, and worried how it would look if word got out, according to emails obtained by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News. They also were concerned he was publicly bragging about having the “easiest job in the hospital” and debated whether his replacement should be made full-time “just to show that Richard’s position was needed.”

Richard Reed, who was employed at the hospital for at least a decade, most recently worked as a clerk in the mailroom, the emails show. His job description and salary were not immediately available.

Walter Reed was paid a $30,000 annual retainer by the hospital for almost two decades although he never had a contract and there were no documents to show exactly what services he had performed for the money. He resigned as the hospital board’s attorney last month, less than two weeks after the news organizations raised questions about the arrangement.

Richard Reed’s position at St. Tammany Parish Hospital was designated full-time, but hospital personnel questioned whether it would be necessary to keep it that way after Richard Reed resigned June 13. His last day at the hospital is Friday (June 27), sources said.

Jean Holtman, the hospital’s vice president of human resources, recommended keeping the position full time, but Ron Scott, department head of materials management, suggested it only be a 20-hour a week position, emails show.

See the emails at the WVUE-Fox8 website.

St Tammany DA Update – 6/24/14

06/24/2014

St. Tammany ADA Leo Hemelt received federal grand jury subpoena, sources say

Heather Nolan, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Lee Zurik, Fox 8 News/Fox8live.com

St. Tammany Parish Assistant District Attorney Leo Hemelt has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury investigating his boss, District Attorney Walter Reed, sources have confirmed to NOLA.com | The Times Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News. When Reed served as outside legal counsel to St. Tammany Parish Hospital, he occasionally sent Hemelt to board meetings in his place.

Hemelt has since announced his resignation from the District Attorney’s Office.
Story by

Reed terminated his deal with the hospital last month, less than two weeks after the news organizations raised questions about his position. Reed was paid a $30,000 annual retainer for more than 15 years with no contract or documents that laid out what he did to earn the money.

Reed said Hemelt was not paid with public money to attend the meetings.

Hemelt resigned from the district attorney’s office June 3. According to his resignation letter, which the news organizations obtained through a public records request, Hemelt said his last day will be Aug. 1. He “requested or offered to stay on part time to do public records requests,” according to the letter.

Homer Audit Shows Many Problems

06/23/2014

The Town of Homer’s latest audit has many adverse findings, in addition to a lack of financial data for the town’s hospital. Wrote Shreveport CPA Marsha Millican:

The financial statements referred to above do not include financial data for the Town’s legally separate component unit. Homer Memorial Hospital, which accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America require to be reported with the financial data of the Town’s primary government.

Among the findings:

Customer utility accounts are not properly reconciled and managed

Vendor payments are not made on a timely basis

The Town made payments to organizations without a cooperative endeavor agreement in place.

Minutes of the Board of Selectmen were not published in a timely basis.

The Town is not in compliance with the Local Government Budget Act.

Traffic violations were not reported to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety as required by law

Monthly reports to the Municipal Retirement System and the Municipal Police Retirement System were not filed on time nor paid on time for eleven months

See here the complete audit.

Last March, Mayor Alicia Smith was arrested and accused of malfeasance.

St Tammany DA Update – 6/20/14

06/20/2014

Another subpoena issued surrounding Tammany DA

By Sara Pagones

The member of St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed’s staff who sometimes stood in for him at St. Tammany Parish Hospital board meetings has been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury, sources familiar with the situation said Thursday.

Leo Hemelt, an assistant district attorney, was served a subpoena while vacationing in Florida with his family, the sources said.

WVUE-TV and nola.com reported that at least 10 subpoenas were sent to members of Reed’s staff. Those reports, which cited unnamed sources, did not identify the staff members. Reporters from various media outlets staked out the grand jury room in federal court in New Orleans on Thursday, but no one from Reed’s office was spotted.

The question of how Hemelt was paid is important in determining whether Reed enriched himself from work that was at least partly billed to taxpayers — a situation potentially similar to that of former St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan, who benefited from a private contract to provide medical services to Slidell jail inmates. That work was actually done by a Coroner’s Office employee, whose salary was paid by the public.

In response to a public-records request, St. Tammany Parish Hospital provided copies of 1099 tax forms it mailed to Reed from 2008 to 2013. They show that Reed was paid the full amount each year — $30,000 — except for 2010, when he was paid $32,500. The forms indicate the money went to Reed and not the District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, the checks from the hospital were made out to “Reed, Walter,” at the address of the District Attorney’s Office: 701 N. Columbia St. in Covington.

Reed’s explanation of his arrangement with the hospital is at odds with the one offered by the hospital. Hospital CEO Patti Ellish said prior to Reed’s resignation that he “is on retainer for legal services as the district attorney,” and noted that when Reed could not make a meeting he “sent a subordinate in his place.”

WVUE and nola.com reported that Hemelt attended two of the last 16 board meetings in Reed’s stead.


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