Archive for June, 2010

Jonesboro Flunks Audit for 2nd Year Running

06/30/2010

The Town of Jonesboro will receive a Disclaimer of Opinion on their financial statements for the fiscal year ended 6/30/09, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) has learned. This marks the second consecutive year that this has happened to the town’s books. Here is last year’s report dated 6/30/08. As soon as documentation becomes available for this latest report, we will post it.

The report is to be presented to the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen at the Tuesday, July 13 meeting, Mayor Leslie Thompson told LPNO Monday night.

A disclaimer of opinion is appropriate in the following circumstances:

Lack of independence
Scope limitations (inability to obtain sufficient competent evidential matter)
When the auditor concludes that there is substantial doubt about the entity’s ability to survive
Matters involving uncertainties

This latest report was compiled by Allen, Green & Williamson, LLP (AG&W) from Monroe, and was originally due on 12/31/09. An extension had been requested and was approved advancing the deadline to May 31, 2010. That due date was also not met.

Last year’s report was complied by Kenneth D. Folden & Co.

Louisiana Legislative Auditor

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office (LLA) refused to comment until they reviewed the report.

Last October, all five members of the town’s Board of Aldermen signed a letter to the LLA requesting a compliance audit. A copy of the letter was sent to the 2nd Judicial District Attorney, Jonathan Stewart.

According to their website, the agency:

…serves as the watchdog of public spending, overseeing more than 3,500 audits of state and local governments and their related quasi-public enterprises. Conducting independent financial and performance audits of the State’s agencies, colleges, and universities, our auditors find ways to improve government and identify critical issues to protect public resources and tighten government control systems. When necessary, we follow up on allegations of fraud, waste, or abuse.

See this link for an archive of Jonesboro news stories from LPNO.

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Jonesboro Budget $1/2 Million in the Red

06/29/2010

The Town of Jonesboro’s fiscal year 2009-2010 budget shows spending of about $516 thousand more than budgeted, according to documents presented at last night’s board of alderman meeting.

We will have further reporting later this morning, along with documentation.

Additional Reporting

According to the budget document presented to the board by Mayor Leslie Thompson, the FY 09-10 budget was about $2.9 million. The final number will come in at about $3.41 million, an 18% overrun. According to the board members, this has all been done without approval of the board of aldermen. Even District C’s Aaron “Pete” Stringer, normally a supporter of the mayor, complained that the board has been kept in the dark.

Much of the overspending – over $200 thousand – appeared to be in the town’s police department.

All this is clearly against the law – here is the pertinent law regarding budget amendments.

LA RS 39:1310 Amending the budget

When the governing authority has received notification pursuant to R.S. 39:1311, or there has been a change in operations upon which the original adopted budget was developed, the governing authority shall adopt a budget amendment in an open meeting to reflect such change. When an independently elected parish official has received notification pursuant to R.S. 39:1311(A), or when there has been a change in operations upon which the original adopted budget was developed, the independently elected official shall adopt a budget amendment and publish such amendment in the official journal as described by R.S. 39:1307(B). In no event shall a budget amendment be adopted proposing expenditures which exceed the total of estimated funds available for the fiscal year.

In his remarks, Mayor Thompson said the budget process had been reviewed by “counsel.” He did not specify who or what counsel that was.

District A’s Randy Layfield told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) that he had met with Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes) District Attorney Jonathan Stewart, but said the DA complained of understafffing and workload.

Action on the budget was tabled until a special call meeting to be held next week. Meanwhile the legal deadline for budget adoption of next year’s budget is tomorrow, June 30.

Mayor Pay Raise

On page three of the budget document, we see a $16 thousand increase in the executive salary line item from last year’s budget.

Additional Items

Several items were added to the agenda, discussion about renting the animal control facility, addition of a sewer line at the new Mitchell’s Pharmacy and land purchase by the Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corporation (GNLCDC).

Sale of about 3.7 acres to GNLCDC had been held up pending receipt of a second appraisal. The board felt the original appraisal was low and wanted a second opinion before finalizing the sale. The property in question abuts that now owned by GNLCDC in the town’s industrial park. Here are the two appraisals. The first appraisal from Tim Babcock of Ruston was about $13.1 thousand/acre while the second from A. J. Burns was for about $12.9 thousand/acre. The board voted to use the higher of the two and allow the land sale to proceed.

On the animal control facility, Layfield said the town of Hodge would like to rent or lease Jonesboro’s facility, as theirs was full. Also brought up was the possibility of cooperation with the Police Jury on animal control. Action was deferred until terms and conditions could be worked out.

There was some bad news concerning one of the city’s water wells – the line shaft between the above-ground pump motor and the impeller broke. The impeller will have to be “fished” from the well and will require about $7-9 thousand total to finish. Also the preliminary estimate is for another $30-$50 thousand to replace the existing pump with a submersible. This is a more up-to-date and economical application than the old motor/line shaft/impeller arrangement now used. Action on a new pump was deferred until estimates can be firmed up.

District D Alderman Terry Wiley was absent from the meeting.

Jonesboro Board of Aldermen Tonight

06/28/2010

The Board of Alderman for the Town of Jonesboro will have a special meeting tonight at 6:00 PM at city hall, 128 Allen Avenue.

Here is the agenda.

Likely to be contentious will be introduction of the budget ordinance. Before it can be adopted, it must be submitted for public review.

LA RS 39:1307 Public participation

A. Political subdivisions with total proposed expenditures of five hundred thousand dollars or more from the general fund and any special revenue funds in a fiscal year or other similar budgetary period shall afford the public an opportunity to participate in the budgetary process prior to adoption of the budget.

B. Upon completion of the proposed budget and, if applicable, its submission to the governing authority, the political subdivision shall cause to be published a notice stating that the proposed budget is available for public inspection. The notice shall also state that a public hearing on the proposed budget shall be held with the date, time, and place of the hearing specified in the notice. The notice shall be published at least ten days prior to the date of the first public hearing. Where applicable, publication shall be in the official journal of the political subdivision. Where there is no requirement that the political subdivision have an official journal, publication shall be in the official journal of the governing authority of the parish in which the political subdivision is located. In cases where the political subdivision is located within the boundaries of more than one parish, publication shall be in the official journal of the governing authority of each parish.

C. No proposed budget shall be considered for adoption or otherwise finalized until at least one public hearing has been conducted on the proposal. Nothing herein shall prohibit one or more political subdivisions from conducting joint public hearings.

D. The political subdivision shall certify completion of all action required by this Section by publishing a notice in the same manner as is herein provided for the notice of availability of the proposed budget and public hearing.

And, LA RS 39:1308 Inspection of the proposed budget

The proposed budget of a political subdivision shall be available for public inspection at the following locations:

(1) Municipalities: at the office of the mayor or municipal governing authority.

The fiscal year begins July 1, 2010, so everything is behind schedule.

LA RS 39:1306 Completion and submission of the proposed budget

A. The proposed budget for political subdivisions with a governing authority including municipalities, parishes, school boards, and special districts shall be completed and submitted to the governing authority of that political subdivision and made available for public inspection as provided for in R.S. 39:1308 no later than fifteen days prior to the beginning of each fiscal year…

So what is supposed to happen if the budget is not adopted as prescribed by law?

LA RS 39:1315 Violations

A. Except as provided in R.S. 39:1314, any public official or officer that violates, either knowingly or intentionally, the provisions of R.S. 39:1305(E), either through the adoption of an original budget or through amendment to a legally adopted budget, shall be a violation of R.S. 14:134 and shall be subject to the penalties contained therein.

B. Any person may commence a suit in a court of competent jurisdiction for the parish in which the political subdivision is domiciled for mandamus, injunctive, or declaratory relief to require compliance with the provisions of this Chapter.

LA RS 14:134 Malfeasance in office – SUBPART F. OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT AND CORRUPT PRACTICES

Malfeasance in office is committed when any public officer or public employee shall:

(1) Intentionally refuse or fail to perform any duty lawfully required of him, as such officer or employee; or

(2) Intentionally perform any such duty in an unlawful manner; or

(3) Knowingly permit any other public officer or public employee, under his authority, to intentionally refuse or fail to perform any duty lawfully required of him, or to perform any such duty in an unlawful manner.

Any duty lawfully required of a public officer or public employee when delegated by him to a public officer or public employee shall be deemed to be a lawful duty of such public officer or employee. The delegation of such lawful duty shall not relieve the public officer or employee of his lawful duty.

Whoever commits the crime of malfeasance in office shall be imprisoned for not more than five years with or without hard labor or shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars or both.

But then we all know why that’s not likely to happen, don’t we?

District Att’y, J’boro Mayor Politically Connected

Town Atty, Jonesboro Mayor Have Campaign Ties

We report, you decide.

The “Sally Clausen” Done Elsewhere

06/27/2010

It’s not just Louisiana that does the “Sally Clausen.” In today’s The Seattle Times there is this.

Retired, then rehired: How college workers use loophole to boost pay

Greg Royer ranks among the state’s top-paid employees, with a salary of $304,000. But that’s just part of his income. For nearly seven years, he’s also collected an annual pension of $105,000.

Royer, the vice president for business and finance at Washington State University, tops a long list of college administrative staff members who’ve been able to boost their incomes by up to 60 percent by exploiting a loophole in state retirement laws.

A Seattle Times investigation has found that at least 40 university or community-college employees retired and were rehired within weeks, often returning to the same job without the position ever being advertised. That has allowed them to double dip by collecting both a salary and a pension.

The pattern of quickie retirements has continued despite the Legislature’s efforts to crack down.

ULM and The News Star – the InLaw Connection

06/27/2010

In today’s The (Monroe) News-Star – dead tree edition only – there is this keeper: commemorative section looks back at Dr. James Cofer’s time at ULM.

But what won’t be in that story is that the newspaper’s Executive Editor – Kathy Spurlock – is married to Lindsey Wilkerson who works at ULM.

See the story here.

Higher Ed Roundup for Saturday

06/26/2010

News roundup of higher ed news stories for today.

Colleges await GRAD Act signature, money

Pogue named GSU president

Board names Richters interim ULM leader

Pogue now permanent

ULS June Board Action

Board considers Southeastern proposals

Changes give Jindal power on LSU board

Southern proposes $426,000 annual pay package for Mason

Outreach part of SU classes

Our Views: Politics bid on Regents

Richters’ Appointment Terms Said

06/25/2010

A copy of the Appointment Letter of Dr. Stephen Richters, Interim President of the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) has been obtained from the University of Louisiana System (ULS). His appointment was formally made this morning in Baton Rouge at a meeting of the board.

See the document here.

Among the highlights:

Salary: $252,866/year
Car Allowance: $900/month for personally owned vehicle, $600/month for vehicle provided by affiliated entity.
Food & Beverage Allowance: Per ULS Rules, Part II, Chapter III, Section IV-C: Presidential Expenses. In accordance with applicable state policies and procedures, an institution shall make adequate provisions within an appropriate expenditure category of its operating budget for funding of campus-related activities and functions that the institution president is expected to host and furnish. Expenditures for these activities may encompass items such as food, beverages, flowers, decorations, and other entertainment-related expenses.

LPPJ, HELP Get Clean Audits

06/25/2010

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) and the Humanitarian Enterprises of Lincoln Parish (HELP) got unqualified opinions for their annual financial audits at last night’s jury meeting. David Hart, representing William R. Hulsey, CPA said there were no significant findings and that both Treasurer Bobby Gray and Administrator Courtney Hall had the books in top shape. “Anything we needed, they jumped on it and got it for us,” Hart said.

LPPJ 2009 Audit

The jury commended the staff and the accountants for their work, an action with which we agree wholeheartedly. Especially so after being exposed over the past several weeks to the financial basket case that is Jonesboro.

During the meeting, there also was discussion of an upcoming tax vote for the Lincoln Parish Library. The present 5.99 millage that funds operation will expire soon, so another tax will be placed on the ballot to replace it. However, the library’s Board of Control voted Wednesday to up the millage to 7.0 mils, saying that’s how much it would take to break even. District Twelve’s R. D. “Mickey” Mays noted that the 5.99 millage generated over $400 thousand in extra revenue for fiscal year (FY) 2009.

The issue will be revisited at the July 13 meeting of the jury when the library board will ask the jury to put the tax on the ballot.

Earlier, the Public Property and Buildings Committee voted to accept the low bid for renovations of the soon-to-be office of the Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor at the Police Jury Complex on Alabama Avenue. The winning bidder – contingent upon them securing a performance bond – was Whitlock & Shelton Construction, Inc. at $149 thousand. See the bid tabs here. The specifications call for a 90-day completion schedule.

Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) had erroneously reported that this was work to be performed on the first floor of the court house for occupancy by the Clerk of Court. That work will be done after the assessor relocates to the jury complex.

We apologize for the error.

Last, the jury passed a resolution requesting that President Obama reduce the six-month Gulf drilling moratorium to thirty days. It was the same resolution debated and passed by the Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) Monday night. And the discussion at both bodies was similar – supporters of the resolution cited jobs lost and the detractors cited the environment and the “unknown.”

We were disappointed to hear some of the comments from some of the Lincoln jurors last night about “greedy oil companies” and “greedy businessmen.” They were reminiscent of what we hear at the United Nations (UN) when third-world dictators take to the microphone to bash the United States and the evils of capitalism. It is really tiresome to hear politicians bellyaching about the very people who pay the taxes that fund all the handout money they so eagerly covet.

Voting against the resolution were Theresa Wyatt, Hazel Hunter, Joe Henderson and Annie Brown. Voting for were Mike Franklin, David Hammons, Roy Glover, Jody Backus, Skip Russell, Sharyon Mayfield and Mickey Mays. Bobby Bennett was absent, reportedly having a coronary stent implanted.

Ken Booth Recovering from Heart Attack, Bypass

06/25/2010

Legendary Louisiana newsman Ken Booth is recuperating from a heart attack and quintuple bypass surgery. Booth, 66, spoke by phone to Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) this morning from his home near Yuma, AZ. He said about two weeks ago he felt chest pains and managed to get to an urgent care center nearby.

After he was stabilized the doctor proclaimed, “Well, Mr. Booth, I’ve got good news and bad news – the bad news is we’re looking at four, maybe five by-passes.” To which Booth replied, “How can there be any good news in all of that?” The doctor said that after his recovery, he would be twenty-one again. Booth’s reply, “Oh, my!”

Booth said that after he is able to travel in a couple of weeks, he plans to recuperate in Louisiana.

Booth’s career spans nearly fifty years from radio news to television news. In the early 70s he did radio news from KEEL-710AM in Shreveport. He started out at a Baton Rouge radio station, WLCS-910AM, if we recall correctly.

Booth’s most important work was as News Director, Anchor, and Investigative Reporter at KNOE-TV8 in Monroe, LA. He is without peer as an investigative reporter in the history of Louisiana journalism. Many a politician’s bowels turned to water when they saw Booth come in the front door with camera and microphone in hand.

We wish Ken Booth a speedy and complete recovery. There’s work yet to do in Louisiana and he needs to be a part of it.

Higher Education – Today’s Roundup

06/25/2010

Roundup of today’s news stories of the ongoing meetings of the Board of Regents and the University of Louisiana System (ULS) Board.

LSU campuses told to detail what they’ll cut

LSU leader asks for budget cut plans

UL System cuts language programs

Panel set up to find Clausen’s successor

College funding bill up in air