by Terry L. Jones
A West Baton Rouge Parish grand jury indicted Brusly Police Chief Jamie Whaley on charges of theft and malfeasance in office Thursday.
Whaley faces an arraignment hearing in 18th Judicial District Court on May 6.
Whaley surrendered to West Baton Rouge Parish authorities on Jan. 23 after he was accused of using a town-issued credit card to purchase gasoline for his personal truck and boat.
Whaley, 36, was booked into the West Baton Rouge Parish Jail on counts of theft and malfeasance in office following an investigation by the state Inspector General’s Office and the FBI.
Archive for the ‘Jonesboro’ Category
After a problematic series of transactions to buy property from the Town of Jonesboro several years ago, the Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corporation (GNLCDC) now wants to sell that 4.25 acre piece of land. And since the land was purchased from the town, GNLCDC Chairman Herbert Simmons, Jr. said, he felt the town should have the first opportunity to buy it back.
Simmons’ offer came during last night’s meeting of the town’s Board of Aldermen.
Said Simmons, “At this point in time, We do not plan to develop that property.” He added, “Since the property came from the town, that we would offer the town the first right of refusal to purchase the property.”
Simmons went on to say, “That land deal left a terrible, terrible, terrible taste in my mouth, because I was accused of having some kind of collusion with the mayor when that happened. That really did a lot to me, in terms of what we tried to do for this town, to help build Jonesboro.”
The property transaction between the town and GNLCDC had been problematic over a period of nearly two years, even becoming the subject of a criminal probe by the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO). The purchase was finalized in late 2011.
The council voted unanimously to have the property appraised, subject to the approval of the town’s Fiscal Administrator Ken Folden.
Earlier, during the public comments part of the meeting, several residents expressed concern with drainage problems during the recent heavy rains. Most problems appeared to be with stopped culverts and ditches that needed cleaning.
Notable with her comments was recently returned Jonesboro native Vicki Riddle Duke, who expressed concern about the physical appearance of the town.
Asked Duke, “Did we just give up? Do we just don’t care?” She added, “We have to work together, and that seems to be something that a lot of people aren’t wiling to do.”
In other business, the council discussed nuisance abatement, with Police Chief Wes Horton saying that notification letters had gone out to property owners. Horton said that none of the owners had requested a hearing.
After that time period, Horton said, the town can take action to “abate” the nuisance. Those costs would be added to the taxes owed by the owner.
Also discussed was the advisability of adding additional signatories to one of the town’s checking accounts. Folden said that he didn’t think that necessary, as he and Mayor Pro Tem Devin Flowers were already authorized signatories.
Arraignment of Town of Jonesboro Councilman-at-Large LaStevic Cottonham was continued (delayed) yesterday in Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes) District Court in Jonesboro, the Jackson Parish Clerk of Court’s Office said. The hearing was “upset and refixed” until Tuesday, July 8, 9:30 AM.
Cottonham was arrested in late February on charges of driving under suspension, possession of marijuana, and possession of a firearm while in possession of illegal narcotics.
The marijuana and driving charges are misdemeanors, but the firearms charge is a felony.
The arrest occurred several days after an alleged rape at Cottonham’s home in Jonesboro.
By Claire Taylor
District Attorney Mike Harson, in a March 31 letter mailed to residents, for the first time publicly apologized for the involvement of three of his employees in a bribery scheme.
The scheme, exposed in 2012, centered on an “immediate 894” process in which people accused of certain crimes like drunk driving could complete punishments like picking up litter and community service work before they were sentenced, allowing their record to be cleared faster.
In the letter, Harson said investigators found he “had no knowledge of or involvement in” the scheme, even though it occurred in his suite of offices and involved an assistant district attorney, his secretary and Harson’s long-time administrative assistant.
Longtime Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes, who retired in September 2012 and is Harson’s only announced opponent for re-election in the Nov. 4 election, said in a statement to The Daily Advertiser today he had never heard of the “immediate 894” program personally created by Harson until the federal investigation in 2012.
“The investigation and its results brought shame and embarrassment to the office,” Stutes wrote. “We did not receive an explanation, nor a response, much less an apology.”
See here the letter.
Early voting ballots in mayoral race eyed
By Terry L. Jones
PORT ALLEN — The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office have launched an investigation into allegations of voter fraud in the Port Allen mayoral race, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. Richie Johnson said Friday.
The investigation began late Thursday after the Sheriff’s Office received multiple complaints about hundreds of mail-in and faxed requests for early voting ballots that did not match voter information on file with the parish Registrar of Voters Office, Johnson said.
Meg Casper, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed Friday her office had also received complaints, which it turned over to the Sheriff’s Office.
“That’s proper protocol in this case,” she said. “We can’t release any details beyond that since it is an active investigation.”
Johnson said at least one of the ballots under review in the special election is from someone tied to the campaign of former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter, who is seeking re-election after her Nov. 16 recall, less than six months into her first term as mayor.
Because of prior obligations, we were unable to attend a Noon, Wednesday, 3/26/14 meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen. One of our corespondents took notes on that event, for which we are very grateful. Herewith, his account of the meeting:
Attendance was much improved this meeting (100%) compared to the regular March meeting (20%). The primary purpose of this special meeting was to hear J. Walker give an oral presentation of his company’s town audit. The alderpeople had copies of the unofficial audit (not official until approved by the state auditor).
In the interest of brevity, I will enumerate the gleaned verbal comments, as best as possible not having a hard copy, made during the presentation summary in the form of bullet points.
• J.Walker (JW) – June 2012, a disclaimer had to be issued because many employees had dual or conflicting assignments causing too many errors to accurately conclude an audit.
• JW – While the town in not totally stabilized fiscally yet, it is greatly improved with record keeping much more accurate.
• K.Folden (KF) – we are working on getting the software updated because Microsoft no longer supports it (xp?). We are not at 100% yet, with water and sewer issues leading the area of work needed from lost revenue.
• JW – Unable to comment on past audits because they were not in compliance with state mandates of taxpayer funds.
• KF-The town is suspected to be overpaying for garbage collection due to many residents not paying for the town service.
• JW – Reductions in town assets were not in audit because of previous lack of information (examples: police officer trained at town expense and not repaying the town for the training after taking another job shortly after graduation, missing town equipment, embezzled funds, etc.
Council comments invoked a spirited discussion on why the fiscal administrator seems to have more authority with the special authority from the state compared to the Lawson Act that normally dictates how a town operates. The town attorney, Doug Stokes was not present at the meeting, despite being requested in advance of the meeting, to field legal questions. The legal questions that were not answered are to be added to the agenda for the next meeting.
Ken also gave an impromptu “state of the town”.
• Monies (grants) are needed to improve the town’s aging sewer/water system
• Town has reduced payroll and benefits by $250k with no reduction in services to town.
• Audit is still not good and work is continuing to get it where it belongs
• Town pays $22k for Entergy billing and has not had to owe for past billings anymore.
• Bank statements are now reconciling with town records.
• We continue to need monies for street improvements.
Patrick Cannon, who rose from public housing to become mayor of North Carolina’s largest city, was arrested Wednesday by the FBI and accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes – including $20,000 in cash delivered in a briefcase last month to the mayor’s office.
Cannon, a 49-year-old Democrat who took office only four months ago, was scheduled to show up at a luxury apartment in SouthPark for yet another payoff from what he thought were businessmen needing his influence in city matters, the affidavit says.
But after arriving, Cannon learned who they really were, a source confirmed: undercover FBI agents who’d been recording their meetings over the past three years, long before he launched a campaign for mayor in 2013.
Cannon resigned as mayor Wednesday night, capping an extraordinary day that included allegations of an illicit trip to Las Vegas and payoff negotiations at the Capital Grille – the same uptown steakhouse that figured in the region’s last major political scandal. It was there that former N.C. House Speaker Jim Black of Matthews, also a Democrat, took bribes from a group of chiropractors seeking help with legislation.
On March 24, 2014, investigators with the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations arrested the mayor of Homer, LA for six (6) counts of malfeasance in office. The arrest is a result of a joint investigation conducted by the Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, and the Claiborne Parish District Attorney’s Office.
In early March 2014, investigators began an extensive review of the town of Homer’s records. The review revealed 41-year-old Alecia Smith of Homer used her position as mayor to misuse public funds from 2011 to 2013.
Smith took trips that were not related to town business which were paid for in advance by the town of Homer. She then used the town’s credit cards for expenses incurred during the trips. Smith falsified public records to justify the expenses in order to get reimbursed.
Investigators also discovered Smith used city of Homer credit cards to download audio files and data to her personal computer, all of which were non-work related expenses. Additionally, Smith failed to pay water bills owed to Homer in excess of $800 which was a violation of the town of Homer policy.
Investigators obtained arrest warrants and arrested her for six (6) counts of malfeasance in office. Smith was booked into Claiborne Parish Detention Center.
If convicted, Smith faces up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $30,000 and may have to pay restitution.
The Louisiana State Police online reporting system is available to the public through a secure reporting form that is submitted to investigators. Citizens can access the form by visiting http://www.lsp.org and clicking the suspicious activity link.
By Vickie Wellborn
HOMER — Another northwest Louisiana elected official has been accused of wrongdoing while in office.
Homer Mayor Alecia Smith was arrested late today on five counts of malfeasance in office. She surrendered to the sheriff’s office, posted a $25,000 bond and was released from custody, confirmed Claiborne Parish Sheriff Ken Bailey.
She was arrested by state police, which is the investigating agency, Bailey said.
Details of the charges filed against Smith were not immediately available. Troop G spokesman Brett Davis said he is waiting for additional information before distributing a news release.
Smith’s term has been fraught with turmoil, particularly when it comes to relations with the Police Department and Chief Russell Mills. The two have been at odds for years over funding and personnel issues. At least two attempts have been made to disband the department, the latest happening in December.