Audit: LSU Prof paid for no Work


LSU faculty member was paid over $400K over 3 years without working, according to state audit
By Will Sentell – The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

A member of the faculty for the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine knowingly accepted over $400,000 in salary and benefits without doing the work over 38 months, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said Monday.

Management of the school also failed to take sufficient action to address the lack of work, Purpera said.

School leaders did not dispute the gist of the report.

“We agree with the finding that the faculty member knowingly failed to perform his duties for LSU for a significant period of time,” Joel D. Baines, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a written response.

“When asked to provide documentation to demonstrate fulfilling his duties to LSU since he submitted the last grant proposal in February, 2015 the faculty member was unable to provide any documentation,” according to Purpera’s report.

He was directed to appear at the school for the fall, 2018 semester and perform his duties but had not done so as of Sept. 29 of last year.

The faculty member was still employed by LSU as of Jan. 24 of this year.

Louisiana Legislative Auditor – LSU Audit


Solar Energy Plant to Locate in Simsboro


If other Lincoln Parish taxing authorities follow the Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s action, a 50-acre array of electricity generating solar panels will be constructed near Simsboro, at the intersection of LA Hwy 150 and LA Hwy 563.

Joule Energy, LLC, a New Orleans based designer of solar and LED lighting systems, plans to install over 18 thousand individual panel modules that would generate about 4.5 megawatts of power. That power would be sold to local utilities.

At last night’s meeting, Joule was seeking an industrial tax exemption that would exempt the company from 80% of local property taxes.

Robert Schmidt, Joule’s President, said that without the exemption, the facility couldn’t be built. He noted that even with the exemption, the company would pay about $14 thousand annually in property tax.

The acreage is now pastureland, which only pays about $200 to $500 annually.

“It would be a significant increase in the revenue – tax receipts,” Schmidt said.

The jury unanimously approved the exemption.

Schmidt said he would be asking other Lincoln Parish tax authorities for the same exemption.

Prior to the jury meeting, the Personnel/Benefits Committee was set to meet, but was unable to muster a quorum.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Meets Tuesday


The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, March 12, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor. Here are the agendas

Personnel/Benefits Committee – 6:30 PM

Police Jury – 7:00 PM

2019-2020 School Calendar Adopted


With little discussion, the Lincoln Parish School Board adopted the district’s 2019-2020 calendar at last night’s meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Lisa Bastion said the calendar is similar to that of last year.

Said she, “There’s 170 1/2 instructional days. There’s 8 professional development days for teachers. We’re incorporating a fall break, around Columbus Day in October.”

Superintendent Mike Milstead said advertising and interviews for principals at I. A. Lewis and Ruston High School will be scheduled soon.

Business Manager George Murphy reported that the May salary supplement checks would be distributed on May 24.

Teachers and other certified employees will receive $5825, and non-certified employees will receive $2,913.

See here the memo.

Pearce Has Questions on new City Borrowing


Ruston’s Ward Four Alderman Jim Pearce last night had some perceptive questions regarding the city’s next bundle of money to be borrowed and spent on phase II of the sports complex on South Farmerville Street.

His questions came at Monday night’s meeting of the board.

City Treasurer Laura Hartt said that if the council approved the $20 million bond issue, half the money would be borrowed on April 1 of this near, just four weeks away.

Pearce wondered why the hurry to borrow the money when plans have yet to be drawn up, nor has a detailed budget for the project been figured.

“We’re going to borrow the $10 million on April 1. I know we’ve hired an architect, but I don’t know if we’ve had any bills yet. I don’t know when we’re projecting to actually have some bills, but yet we’re going to borrow $10 million,” said Pearce.

“I’d rather see we get plans, we get an estimate. We don’t really know, because we don’t have anything drawn,” he added.

Mayor Ronny Walker said that they were following the advice of the city’s financial team, bond attorney Wes Shafto and financial advisor Lucius McGehee.

Shafto’s law firm is handling the bond sale, and McGehee’s firm, Argent Financial, is the paying agent, according to Hartt. She noted the interest rate is 3.075%.

Pearce also inquired about repayment of the loan, and it was revealed that the first month’s take from the restaurant/hotel sales tax was about $126 thousand. That translates into $1.5 million/year in tax revenue.

Pearce asked would that be enough for the yearly bond payment, and Hartt said it would not, as the payment required would be $2.5 million to $2.8 million.

Said Pearce, “So the new restaurant/hotel tax is not sufficient to pay the bonds, the $20 million?”

Replied Hartt, “Not as of January 1. But the hope is when the sports complex is in full operation, the hotels are full, and we have lots of visitors to the restaurants, it will cover that bond payment.”

During the debate late last year, the administration claimed there was enough extra money in the 2016 3/4 cent sales tax to make up any shortfall. However, any money diverted from that tax to pay the shortfall is money that won’t be available for other Moving Ruston Forward projects.

The final vote on the bond ordinance was 3-1, with Pearce voting no. Seigman was absent.

The council also amended the restaurant/hotel sales tax district ordinance, to include several new establishments and deleting closed businesses.

See here the document.

School Board Tomorrow


The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet tomorrow (Tuesday, 3/5), 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here’s the agenda.

Ruston Sports Complex Spending – $27 Million & Counting


As of Wednesday, February 27, 2019, about $27 million has been spent to date on the sports complex under construction on South Farmerville Street. The amount represents only what has been paid out, and does not include any money already committed for future payment, or any new spending not yet contracted.

Lincoln Parish News Online reviewed over 170 individual invoices associated with the project, along with the accompanying payment vouchers.

Here are some of the more significant expenditures.

The project’s prime contractor, Womack & Sons Construction Group, has been paid about 60% of its $35 million contract with the city.

Womack’s January invoice lists $20,792,408.19 in payments and $14,303,949.45 remaining to be paid on the total contract amount of $35,096,357.64.

See here the document.

Assuming Womack is paid in full, that indicates the project’s total cost will be at least $41.3 million.

The costs include $2.1 million in property purchases. Also, Weyerhaeuser Company was paid slightly over $1 million for wetland mitigation credits.

Yeager, Watson & Associates, the project architect, has been paid $1.18 million.

About $1.22 million has been paid to several companies for engineering, surveying, or testing:

American Testing Lab, LLC – $152,504.25
Neel-Schaffer, Inc. – $515,569.60
Pan-American Engineers, LLC – $220,856.73
Riley Company of LA, Inc. – $326,701.95

About $229 thousand has been spent on electrical equipment.

About $221 thousand has been spent on computers, software, and fiber-optic equipment.

Recently, $111 thousand was spent to purchase restaurant and food service equipment.

As the project progresses, we will periodically update this report.

Ruston City Council Monday


Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, March 4, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton, first floor courtroom.

Here’s the agenda.

DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office LACE Update


From the Louisiana Legislative Auditor:

The audit was begun after we received complaints that DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputies may have been paid for hours they did not work while on Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) details. Under the program, which is overseen by the District Attorney, deputies were paid to write traffic tickets while working the off-duty details, while the DPSO was reimbursed for its operating costs and wear and tear on vehicles.

We found that 23 deputies were paid $15,075 for 335 hours of LACE details they may not have worked from January 1, 2017 to June 2, 2017. Of the 23, we found seven deputies received more than $1,000 each in compensation for hours they were not logged in to the electronic ticketing device they were to use for LACE details. In total, the seven deputies received $11,385 for 253 hours.

If the 23 deputies submitted erroneous time sheets and accepted pay for hours not worked, they may have violated state law. In addition, since the DPSO billed $10 per hour for the use of its patrol units for LACE details, it may have overbilled the District Attorney by $3,350.

The accompanying report presents our finding and recommendations as well as management’s response. This is a public report. Copies of this report have been delivered to the United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the Louisiana Attorney General, the District Attorney for the 42nd Judicial District of Louisiana, and others as required by law.

See here the complete report.

Turner wins Handily in House 12 Race