Archive for the ‘Jonesboro’ Category

Lafayette DA Update – 9/19/14

09/19/2014

Amid OWI scandal, Harson sneaks in a raise

By Leslie Turk

In February 2012 Mike Harson experienced what had to be an unimaginably demoralizing incident for any sitting district attorney. The feds showed up at his office to execute search warrants, seizing computers and records on several employees, including Harson’s longtime office administrator, Barna Haynes, and an assistant district attorney, Greg Williams, as part of an investigation into a pay-for-plea scheme involving mostly OWI defendants. Two weeks later Harson put Haynes on unpaid administrative leave; she never returned and is likely going to jail.

Five months later the embarrassment was compounded when Harson’s top assistant DA, Keith Stutes, said he was retiring — in part due to the federal probe and what Stutes himself found after initiating his own internal investigation of the DA’s office amid the bribery allegations (findings he turned over to the attorney general’s office for potential prosecution of Harson on state charges of malfeasance but has never disclosed publicly). Stutes confirmed his impending departure less than a month after successfully negotiating the plea deal that sent Brandon Scott Lavergne to prison for the first-degree murders of Mickey Shunick in May 2012 and Lisa Pate in 1999 — perhaps the most effectively orchestrated prosecution ever handled by the local DA’s office. Stutes, as anyone reading this story knows, later decided to challenge Harson for DA.

So what does Harson do back in 2012? He uses Stutes’ retirement as an “opportunity to reevaluate my salary” and concludes that he deserves a $12,200 raise ($14,000 with benefits).

Yes, he did.

Lafayette bribery trial delayed until after election

By Richard Burgess

LAFAYETTE — A trial that would have delved into a bribery scandal at the District Attorney’s Office just as District Attorney Mike Harson faced re-election on Nov. 4 has been delayed until December.

Lafayette private investigator Robert Williamson is accused of soliciting cash fees from drivers charged with OWI and then using some of the money to pay off employees of the District Attorney’s Office to secure favorable plea deals.

Five others have already pleaded guilty in the federal probe, including three former employees of the District Attorney’s Office.

Williamson had been set for trial on Oct. 20 in a case that would have played out in the days leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

Harson is being challenged by retired prosecutor Keith Stutes — the incumbent’s first contested election in 20 years.

Harson has not been charged in the federal investigation, but the bribery scandal is an unavoidable campaign issue.

Port Allen, LA Update – 9/18/14

09/18/2014

Clashes between former Port Allen mayor, CFO detailed in filings

Ex-mayor, CFO had ongoing tensions
By Terry L. Jones

PORT ALLEN — New court filings in the lawsuit Port Allen Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain lodged against former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter reveal some of the behind-the-scenes drama that played out at City Hall before the controversial mayor was ousted from office.

n a motion filed in 8th Judicial District Court, McCain’s attorneys say Slaughter stripped McCain of powers inherent to her position as CFO, such as her authority to manage bank accounts. And as tensions between them rose, they wrote, Slaughter ordered McCain to keep her office door in City Hall open at all times and would send her home for not following orders McCain considered improper, the filings state.

District Judge Alvin Batiste was set to hear arguments in the case on Wednesday but had to delay the court proceedings because of health issues confronting one of Slaughter’s lawyers.

McCain sued Slaughter in February 2013 after Slaughter fired her over accounting deficiencies cited in an annual audit report for the city — a decision later overturned by Batiste. The judge ruled that the mayor lacked authority to dismiss the chief financial officer without City Council approval.

However, allegations that Slaughter’s dismissal of McCain violated the state’s whistleblower law and that the former mayor had defamed McCain and interfered with her day-to-day job duties as CFO caused the legal battle to stretch on for more than a year.

In the motions filed Monday, attorneys for McCain argue that Slaughter took punitive actions against the CFO because McCain would not obey Slaughter’s orders to make certain payments McCain considered improper.

Among other things, they wrote, McCain refused to pay the former mayor $20,000 more than her budgeted salary. McCain also would not reimburse Slaughter for expense reports that the CFO says were erroneously submitted for Slaughter’s trip to Washington, D.C., during the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Jan. 2013. In addition, McCain’s lawyers wrote, McCain disobeyed directives from Slaughter to ignore public records requests from the media.

In filings responding to the claims in McCain’s suit, attorney J. Arthur Smith, who represents the city of Port Allen, wrote that she isn’t entitled to protection under the state’s whistleblower law because the actions McCain took fall within the scope of her job duties as a financial watchdog for the city.

St Tammany DA Update – 9/11/14

09/11/2014

Legislative auditor will review former St. Tammany prosecutor’s retirement contributions

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

The state legislative auditor has agreed to review retirement contributions a former assistant in District Attorney Walter Reed’s office received through an arrangement his private law firm had with the St. Tammany Parish School Board.

E. Pete Adams, the head of the state district attorney’s retirement system, said Wednesday he asked the legislative auditor to look into the payroll practices and retirement contributions of Harry Pastuszek, who retired as a part-time assistant district attorney in Reed’s office in July. Adams confirmed the legislative auditor agreed to review Pastuszek’s retirement benefits.

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reported last week that the school board has paid Harry P. Pastuszek Jr. and Associates more than $1.4 million for legal services since 2011.

School board records show that in addition to monthly checks to Pastuszek’s firm, the board sent a separate check to Reed’s office every month that went toward Pastuszek’s public retirement, district spokeswoman Meredith Mendez has said.

A St. Tammany Parish School Board resolution shows Pastuszek’s private law firm – not Pastuszek personally or the district attorney’s office – has been paid for legal services since Nov. 1, 1992.

In a statement Wednesday, Reed said the school board started writing checks directly to Pastuszek’s law firm in 1993.

Pastuszek has not publicly commented on the arrangement.

Chris Bowman Announces for Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson DA

09/02/2014
Bowman DA Announcement

Bowman DA Announcement

Click to enlarge

St Tammany DA Update – 9/2/14

09/02/2014

Tammany DA’s arrangement with School Board raises questions

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.

Arcadia, LA Update – 8/28/14

08/28/2014

OIG: Arcadia clerk diverted check from vendor

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.

All Jonesboro Political Offices Contested

08/24/2014

All the elected positions in the Town of Jonesboro that up for a Tuesday, November 4 vote are contested, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s candidate website.

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 for Area Political Offices

08/20/2014

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.

St Tammany DA Update – 8/20/14

08/20/2014

St. Tammany DA’s brother, Richard Reed, booked with felony sexual battery

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.

Police: Tammany DA’s brother booked with sexual battery after groping drunk woman

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.

St. Tammany Parish DA Walter Reed should resign: James Varney

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.

Jackson Parish Rec Dept Cited by Auditor

08/18/2014

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
controls.

Recommendation – The District should monitor inventory purchases, inventory safe keeping, and
concession sales to ensure that all funds have been accounted for.

And,

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
5% allowed.

See here the complete audit.

Natchitoches’ Johnson Thomas & Cunningham, CPA performed the audit.


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