Many Local Politicians Get Free Ride to Office

07/20/2018

Many local politicians were unopposed for election at the closing of the three-day qualifying period at 4:30 PM today, including all the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB), all the Ruston City Council, the Mayor of Ruston, a Third Judicial District judge, and an appeals court judge.

Elected without opposition were:

Jay B. McCallum – Louisiana Court of Appeal, Second Circuit, District 2, Division 1
Jeff Robinson – Third Judicial District Court, Division A
Susan Wiley – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 1
David Ferguson – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 2
David Gullatt – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 3
Mike Barmore – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 4
Danny Hancock – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 5
Joe Mitcham – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 6
Hunter Smith – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 7
Lisa Best – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 8
Lynda Henderson – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 9
Otha Anders – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 10
George Mack, Jr. – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 11
Debbie Abrahm – Lincoln Parish School Board, District 12

Incumbent school board members Curtis Dowling (District 3) and Trott Hunt (District 7) did not run for re-election. All the others were incumbents and were unopposed.

Smith is a petroleum landman and graduate of Ruston High School and Louisiana Tech. Gullatt is an adjunct professor at Louisiana Tech.

Robinson is a local attorney and is an assistant district attorney in the Third Judicial District.

Also, incumbent Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker was unopposed, as was the entire incumbent Board of Aldermen:

Carolyn Cage – Alderman, Ward 1
Angela Mayfield – Alderman, Ward 2
Jedd Lewis – Alderman, Ward 3
Jim Pearce – Alderman, Ward 4
Bruce Siegmund – Alderman, Ward 5

The race for Division C of the Third Judicial District is contested, and will be decided on Tuesday, November 6.

Vying for that position are Bruce Hampton and Monique Clement.

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Louisiana State Police Corruption Update

07/17/2018

State Police Commission delays action on Las Vegas ‘side trip’ discipline; troopers say they’ve been scapegoated

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

Three Louisiana State Police troopers disciplined last year for taking a lavish “side trip” to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon while driving to a law enforcement conference in California offered their first public remarks on the controversy during their appeal Monday before the State Police Commission.

At turns resentful and conciliatory, they said they had been scapegoated for a scandal that embarrassed the State Police and prompted the retirement last year of Mike Edmonson, the agency’s longest-serving superintendent.

The State Police Commission, after a full day of testimony Monday, deferred action on the appeal.

The commission, which acts as a civil service board for the State Police, emerged from executive session without a decision on whether to uphold, amend or overturn the demotion and the pay reduction that two of the troopers received after their taxpayer-funded excursion became public. A third trooper on the trip received a letter of reprimand but contends even that discipline was unfair.

The inaction means a decision will not be announced until next month at the earliest, when the commissioners are scheduled to meet in Monroe to hear another appeal.

The troopers insisted Edmonson not only signed off on the side trip but encouraged the troopers to take a scenic route to the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference. Edmonson initially said he had not approved the trip, but text messages and phone records show he stayed in touch with the group as they drove across the country in a State Police vehicle that Edmonson wanted to have at his disposal at the San Diego conference.

The circuitous journey took the troopers hundreds of miles out of their way and included an overnight stay at a Las Vegas casino resort and a visit to the Hoover Dam.

The side trip prompted two state investigations, including a legislative audit that found Edmonson abused his power and took repeated handouts during his years at the helm of State Police.

The state Legislative Auditor’s Office found the “side trip” resulted in at least $13,000 in unnecessary taxpayer expenditures.

One commissioner, Brian Crawford, the chief administrative officer of Shreveport, resembled a prosecutor at times during the four-day hearing, referring to Edmonson’s testimony as “contradictory” and grilling the troopers on their decisions.

“I blame Col. Edmonson for most of this mess,” Crawford said. “He didn’t do you any favors. But you guys have some individual responsibility.”

Sparta Group Endorses Lt. Gov’s ‘Sparta Summit’

07/12/2018

The idea of a sixteen parish “Sparta Summit” meeting put forth Monday by Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser was formally endorsed by the Sparta Groundwater Commission at their quarterly meeting yesterday in Farmerville.

That regional meeting is designed to build grass-roots support for a unified course of action, along with possible funding ideas, related to the area’s primary source of safe drinking water.

Yesterday’s meeting also saw discussion of ideas put forward at Monday’s meeting, including the issue of water losses in the area’s water systems. It was estimated that as much as 15% of the water pumped from the aquifer doesn’t reach the user.

The group also heard from Todd Thomas, a VP with Central States Water Resources, a private water utility company.

Thomas said the company is doing very preliminary estimates on a water system at Lake Erling, just north of Springhill, LA on Bayou Bodcau.

He estimate that the project would cost about $70 million, and could supply as much as 10 million gallons/day of drinkable water.

He declined to estimate the cost to operate the system, but did say that similar systems that the company now operates range from $3.50 to $5.00 per thousand gallons delivered to the customer.

The next Sparta Commission meeting is set for October 10 in Webster Parish.

Louisiana State Police Update

07/12/2018

Edmonson subpoenaed to testify in hearing on Louisiana troopers’ Las Vegas ‘side trip’

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

Mike Edmonson, the former longtime State Police superintendent, has been subpoenaed to testify at a hearing this week in which three troopers are challenging the discipline they received for taking an expensive “side trip” to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon while driving to a law enforcement conference in California.

Edmonson was out of the country Wednesday as the troopers’ appeal began in Baton Rouge, but officials said they expected him to appear before the Louisiana State Police Commission on Friday.

Edmonson, who retired amid scandal last year, has been under federal investigation for months and could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

But his testimony could be the most critical part of the proceeding, as the troopers have maintained that Edmonson not only authorized the trip but kept in contact with them as they traversed the country in a State Police vehicle.

Sheriff Agrees to Payback Agreement on New Jail Construction

07/11/2018

Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone agreed at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) to language guaranteeing repayment to the jury the cost of constructing a $2.75 million addition to the parish jail. That money would come from the detention center operating budget, which Stone controls.

Said Stone, “We know we have obligations, and we’re sure going to meet that to the best we can as long as I’m there. I don’t mind adding that on as an addendum to the legislation, or whatever.”

Stone’s remarks came in response to a series of questions from District Six Juror Walter Pullen.

Pullen asked who would be responsible for repayment, and expressed concern that jury needed formal assurance for that repayment.

Said Pullen, “We need to have something in writing that contractually obligates the Detention Center Commission to service the indebtedness to the best of their ability.”

District Nine Juror Joe Henderson, who also serves as the Detention Center Commission Chair, also agreed to those terms.

Henderson, “We have to understand and know that’s all going to be covered in the contract.”
Pullen: “But we need to make sure all that’s understood and in writing before we sign the contract.”
Henderson: “I know, but we’re going to make sure.”

The new ten thousand sq ft jail addition would create about 100 new spaces to house inmates, and would prevent having to house overflow prisoners at other local jails in adjoining parishes. When that condition occurs, the Lincoln jail must pay the housing costs to the other jails.

Several comments were made that suggested that the state legislation from 1982 that created the Commission already provided for repayment of the debt.

However, LA RS 15:848 et seq, the legislation from 1982 that created the commission has no such provision. That law only states that the commission is obliged to “operate and maintain” the jail.

The commission has a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Sheriff’s Office to furnish manpower for the jail. The Sheriff also controls the money that operates the jail, provides medical care, and feeds the prisoners

That agreement, at present, has no language in at all allowing debt obligations, or repayment of any debt.

Pullen also asked Stone if he were running for reelection, but Stone declined to say. Pullen said it was a legitimate question, because if any agreement were made with the sheriff as the operator of the jail, it could not enforceable beyond his existing term.

Ruston Mayor Walker Still Pushing for Sparta Water “Fees”

07/10/2018

Despite the failure earlier this year of legislation that would have imposed “user fees” upon metered water customers within 16 parishes that comprise the Sparta Aquifer region, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker is still insistent that the money is needed to pay for a $100 million treatment plant and water pipeline from Lake D’Arbonne to Ruston. That lake water would replace water that is now withdrawn from the Sparta Aquifer.

Walker made his comments at a “planning session” meeting of area officials and some members of the Sparta Groundwater Commission yesterday afternoon at Ruston City Hall.

Walker’s push was met with resistance from area legislators. Getting the legislature, and then the voters to agree to that plan was problematic, they said.

District 35 State Senator Jim Fannin suggested that voters would support more taxes and fees if the priorities were different.

Said Fannin, “You’ve got to be honest with your citizens. When we put our priorities that need funding first, ahead of football, and ahead of athletics, then some of the funding will be there. Water ought to be the number one priority, period.”

Fannin suggested that a pipeline might not be the best way for $100 to be spent, saying that a significant amount of water was wasted from leakage in the many community and rural water systems around the region.

District 33 Senator Mike Walsworth agreed.

“It’s easy to say one project is going to be the magic pill. I think there’s a lot of ways to get smaller projects so everybody can get a little relief,” he said.

Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser told the group that he would chair a meeting of legislators and other officials of the sixteen parishes and see if some funding mechanism could be agreed upon, along with a course of action.

Lt. Governor Visits Jefferson Corner

07/09/2018

Billy Nungesser (L), Jeff Robinson, Bobby Bennett, Cody Richard

Saying that he was fulfilling a campaign promise to revisit the Jefferson Corner coffee club, Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser showed up bright and early this morning to enjoy a cup of coffee with the group.

Nungesser made a campaign stop there in June, 2015 prior to his election.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Meets Tuesday

07/09/2018

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) will meet Tuesday, July 10, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Public Works Committee – 6:30 PM
Agenda

Personnel Committee – 6:45 PM
Agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM
Agenda

Two Sparta Meetings This Week

07/08/2018

Two meetings related to the Sparta Aquifer will be held this week – one in Ruston on Monday, and the other in Farmerville on Wednesday.

The Monday meeting is billed as a planning meeting and will reportedly have Louisiana Lt Governor Billy Nungesser as a guest.

Monday, July 9, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton, 3:00 PM
Agenda

The Wednesday meeting is the regular quarterly meeting of the Sparta Groundwater Commission.

Wednesday, July 11, Police Jury Meeting Room, 300 E. Water Street, Farmerville, 2:00 PM
Agenda

Lincoln School Employees to get Social Media Rules

07/05/2018

A proposed “Employee Use of Social Media” policy will be discussed at next Tuesday’s (7/10) meeting of the Lincoln Paris School Board (LPSB), and will be considered for for formal adoption at the 8/7/18 board meeting, according to the agenda and other supporting documents.

From the proposed rules:

Employees who use social media for personal purposes must be mindful that they are responsible for their public conduct even when not acting in their capacities as school district employees. All employees, including student teachers and independent contractors, shall comply with the requirements of this policy when using electronic social media for personal purposes.

School Board personnel may monitor online activities of employees who access the Internet using school technological resources. Additionally, the Superintendent or designee may periodically conduct public Internet searches to determine if an employee has engaged in conduct that violates this policy. Any employee who has been found by the Superintendent to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

See here the complete document.

A significant number of personnel changes will also be reported at the meeting.

See here the complete list.

The meeting is set for 6:00 PM at the Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here’s the agenda.