Your Tax Dollars at Work

02/19/2017

Four Louisiana State Police officials under investigation for Las Vegas ‘side trip,’ overtime

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

A group of Louisiana State Police officials, including the head of the agency’s Internal Affairs Division, were paid thousands of dollars in overtime last year while driving across the country to attend a law enforcement conference in San Diego — a scenic but circuitous road trip that included overnight stays at the Grand Canyon and a Las Vegas resort and casino.

The questionable expenses, outlined in travel records obtained by The Advocate, were on top of tens of thousands of dollars the State Police spent otherwise to send at least 15 people to the annual conference in October of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a four-day event that attracts a who’s who of law enforcement leaders.

Col. Mike Edmonson, the State Police superintendent, said he had not authorized the troopers to charge overtime — three of the four did, he said — or to take such an indirect route to the conference. The troopers drove 3,906 miles altogether but went hundreds of miles out of their way at times for reasons that are under investigation.

“Bottle Club” @ Lincoln Hall Under Consideration

02/15/2017

A parish-owned, privately operated meeting hall might become a “bottle-club” for private events, if the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) goes along with the present operator’s request to sell the remainder of his 30 year lease to another operator.

Present tenant Carl Burton and the prospective operator Jimmy Shuff asked last night’s meeting of the jury’s Public Works Comittee for permission to sell the remainder of Burton’s lease and change the terms to allow BYOB events. Shuff said he and his family had served as “deejays” for wedding receptions, and other similar events.

Lincoln Hall was constructed in 2002. It is a 4800 sq ft banquet facility located adjacent to the North Louisiana Exhibition Center off Hwy 33, about five miles northeast of Ruston. The present lease agreement is in force until 2032.

At least one juror looked askance at such a deal.

“I think that if we do this, you’re setting precedent for a lot of other people to come and say we want a bottle club,” said Annette Straughter (District 12).

The committee voted to table the issue to allow the jury’s legal counsel to review the issue, and then reconsider any written proposals submitted by Burton and Shuff.

During the full jury meeting, there was a bit of discussion about Straughter’s recent attendance of a Delta Leadership Institute event in New Orleans, and the jury’s policy regarding reimbursement of expenses.

AG Opines no Dual Office Holding Violation in Jackson Parish Tax Office

02/14/2017

A year after an advisory opinion was requested from Louisiana’s Attorney General, Assistant AG Madeline Carbonette wrote that Town of Jonesboro Alderwoman Nia Evans could also serve as Jackson Parish Tax Commission Administrator without violating the state’s Dual Officeholder Law.

Wrote Carbonette:

La. R.S. 42:63(D) does not prohibit holding an elected office in a political subdivision and full time employment in a separate political subdivision. Because Jonesboro and the Agency are separate political subdivisions, a member of the Board is not prohibited from serving as the Administrator of the Agency.

Jonesboro Mayor James Bradford had requested the opinion.

See here the complete document.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tomorrow

02/13/2017

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, February 14, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor. Here are the agendas and meeting times.

Public Works Committee – 6:00 PM

Police Jury – 7:00 PM

Ouachita Court Coverup Update

02/12/2017

Palowsky appeal gets court date in Baton Rouge

The First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge could hear arguments later this month in Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky III’s lawsuit against Allyson Campbell, a law clerk at Fourth Judicial District Court, as well as against five judges of the district court.

The Feb. 23 hearing is among several on a docket that begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Southern University Law Center’s A.A. Lenior Hall off Roosevelt Steptoe Drive in Baton Rouge.

The three judges presiding over the docket including Palowsky’s hearing include Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple, Judge John Michael Guidry and Judge Page McClendon.

Stanley R. Palowsky III v. Allyson Campbell and others, which was first filed in July 2015, centers on Palowsky’s claims that Campbell concealed or destroyed documents he filed with the court as part of a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork, and others. Palowsky also accused Campbell of payroll fraud.

Marchman: Special assistant AG involved in conspiracy

As part of her federal lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials and their attorneys, Judge Sharon Marchman filed paperwork earlier this week disputing a special assistant attorney general’s claim he had not conspired with others to accuse the judge of criminal acts.

Marchman’s lawsuit centers on claims that law clerk Allyson Campbell, Fourth Judicial District Court judges, and their attorneys retaliated against her and violated her constitutional rights when she tried to expose Campbell’s alleged payroll fraud and destruction of court documents.

Lawrence Pettiette, a Shreveport attorney who sometimes handles legal work for the state Attorney General’s office, filed a motion to dismiss Marchman’s claims against him last month.

Marchman filed a response Feb. 5, arguing Pettiette reached parts of his defense “without any citation, argument or analysis.”

LP School Supt Milstead Talks Year-Round Schools

02/08/2017

In the year and a half that Mike Milstead has been Superintendent of Lincoln Parish Schools, one could hear hints occasionally about Milstead’s support for the concept of Year-Round Schools.

At yesterday’s meeting of the School Board, he expounded on the subject.

Said Milstead, “You’re re-configuring the calendar. You’re taking a 180 day school year, in theory, and maybe going 190 days, because you’re shortening the break time in summer. The goal is to get to the point where we have one school in the district that parents from anywhere in the district can voluntarily send their children to grades K through five.”

He added, “We’re going to have several focus groups, where we bring some people in and begin to have a conversation about what this should look like. The goal is make sure that every kid – every kid every year that is not a special needs kid – and even some of them – is not retained.”

Milstead said that the program would be voluntary, and would have a teacher/pupil ratio of 10 to 15 pupils per teacher.

Milstead noted that after the summer break, some pupils take as much as two months to regain their knowledge level achieved prior to the break.

He said that the program could be started within a year and a half, depending on future construction schedules.

Earlier in the meeting, the board got briefed on an unusual occurrence – an annual financial audit with significant findings.

Amy Tynes, with Allen, Green & Williamson, said two of the more serious findings were at the newly-chartered Lincoln Preparatory School in Grambling.

Tynes said the school’s administration failed to provide documentation for salaries and benefits.

Said Tynes, “They paid time for individual’s work, or their salaries and, benefits, but there was no support of the actual time worked. There were no time sheets, or anything like that.”

Over $100 thousand was involved, she said.

Also, the school failed to obtain bids for band equipment that was over the $30 thousand threshold for the state’s public bid law.

While the charter school is not directly controlled by the school board, any audit findings are reflected on the Lincoln School’s audit.

Council Approves Rec Property Purchase

02/07/2017

Ruston taxpayers will soon spend slightly over $1 million to purchase three parcels of land totaling about 29.4 acres on South Farmerville Street for development of a proposed recreational complex.

The city’s Board of Aldermen approved unanimously at last night’s meeting the purchase of 14.47 acres from the Campus Community Assembly of God (parcel no. 36183000093) for about $818,000.

According to Mayor Ronny Walker, the property itself was appraised for about $230,000, and the building was valued at about $588 thousand. Walker said that the church building would be utilized as a new office for the the Ruston Parks and Recreation Department.

The church is located at 2505 South Vienna, and the property extends from South Vienna (US 167) eastward to South Farmerville Street.

Also approved was purchase of two parcels from Ruston Girls Softball Association (36183119795 & 36183954349), totaling about 14.9 acres. That price was about $235 thousand, City Attorney Bill Carter said.

Those two parcels are on the east side of South Farmerville, near the intersection of Ball Park Road.

Earlier, the council heard from Wastewater Superintendent Keith Jeselink, who reported that a bid had been awarded to Jabar Corporation for sewer rehab on South Farmerville Street, Calvin Avenue, Oakdale Street, Jones Street, Taylor Street, and South Trenton.

The contract amount was about $980 thousand. An LCDBG grant will pay about $568 thousand of the cost, Jeselink said.

Lincoln School Board Tuesday

02/06/2017

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet Tuesday, February 7, 10:30 AM, Lincoln Parish Early Childhood Center, 801 East Mississippi.

Here is the agenda.

Ruston Board of Aldermen to Meet Monday

02/05/2017

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, February 6, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

Former NLU Prez Vines Tells How to Handle Protests

02/04/2017

Former Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana at Monroe) President Dwight Vines once had to deal with a significant protest on campus in 1978, he tells in a email message sent out yesterday:

Almost every day the news media exposes another university that has lost control of their students and other agitators. I worked for universities for 38 years. but I never remember hearing about even one university losing control of group activities on its campus.

In 1978, Northeast Louisiana University invited a representative of the Shah of Iran to speak on the campus. Iranian students and their friends enrolled in USA universities were not pleased and planned to prevent the talk at NLU. After they began recruiting students to come to NLU to protest, we learned about their plan.

I discussed the matter with NLU officials and we decided that we would not let off-campus students disrupt the speaker. I met with local law enforcement officials from Monroe, West Monroe and Ouachita Parish. asking them to help NLU develop a plan for the situation.

When the time arrived, students attempted to interrupt the speaker. They were twice told not to interrupt by Dean of Students, Tom Murphy. On the third interruption, we asked law enforcement to clear Brown Auditorium.

When the smoke cleared, there were about 70 demonstrators in local jails. The protesters refused to give their names, so they were booked as John Does. After about two weeks, a local Muslim doctor paid a fine for each of them and they were released after signing a commitment not to return to NLU.

This was the biggest story NLU ever had in the news media in Europe and the Middle East.

I rest my case.