Archive for October, 2010

25% to 30% Tax Increase for OCC Planned, According to OPPJ’s Charles Jackson

10/31/2010

A tax increase of 2.5 to 3 mils on top of the existing 9.2 mil ad valorem tax now collected for operation of the Ouachita Correctional Center (OCC) is in the works, according to an article in The Ouachita Citizen.

Jackson pushes for tax election

The election for the tax increase is likely to be scheduled for next March, according to Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) District A’s Charles Jackson.

The next meeting of the OPPJ is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2 at 5:30 PM on the second floor of the Court House.

Here is the agenda.

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Higher Ed Roundup – 10/31/10

10/31/2010

Jindal, save La. higher ed

Our Views: LSU boosters cross parties

Students start petition to save higher education

Andy Brown: “The DA Will Recuse Himself”

10/30/2010

Jackson Parish Sheriff Andy Brown said in an exclusive interview with Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) that his office will be initiating a fraud investigation into the operation of the Town of Jonesboro and its controversial mayor Leslie Thompson, and that Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson parishes) District Attorney Jonathan Stewart said he “would recuse himself” from the case to allow the Louisiana Attorney General to handle any prosecutions that might result.

Brown said he last week met with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) and that they would be sending a fraud team to Jonesboro to assist the sheriff.

Brown then met with Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who told him that he would also assist, providing that Stewart agreed to a recusal.

Stewart and Thompson have extensive political ties to one another.

Brown also met with Stewart last week, who agreed to step aside and allow the AG to handle the case.

LPNO has covered Jonesboro extensively since last summer. See here the archive for past news stories.

City of Ruston Board of Aldermen and Section Eight Housing Board Monday Evening

10/30/2010

The City of Ruston’s Board of Aldermen and the Section 8 Housing Board will meet Monday, November 1, on the second floor of city hall, 401 North Trenton. The Section 8 meeting is at 5:15 PM and the aldermen meet at 5:30 PM.

Here are the agendas:

Section 8 Housing Board
Board of Aldermen

There will be a couple of applications in planning and zoning for conditional use permits:

609 West California – convert an existing building into apartments.
600 East Georgia – proposed boat dealership in an existing building.

Also in planning and zoning will be a request for permission to begin property condemnation process for several structures.

The annual ordnance providing the date, time and place of the regular meetings of the board of aldermen for calendar year 2011 will be adopted.

Higher Ed Roundup

10/30/2010

Apparently yesterday was the day Monroe’s “official” news media got invited to the Nick Bruno (aka The Political Stooge) guided tour at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM). Probably the ground rules for the invite required that no “unfriendly questions” could be asked.

It is no coincidence that Greg Hilburn has replaced Stephen Largen as the reporter covering the ULM beat. Largen asks too many tough questions, we suspect.

Bruno makes homecoming visit

Get To Know ULM’s New President Nick Bruno – KNOE

KTVE-TV10 also did a puff piece on Bruno, but it is not available online.

Here’s today’s LSU stories.

Student leaders frustrated

LSU student leaders on Friday unsuccessfully tried to deliver to Gov. Bobby Jindal about 300 letters from students stating their concerns about higher education budget cuts.

Student Government holds letter writing campaign

Governor Bobby Jindal wasn’t around the State Capitol to greet Student Body President J Hudson and Vice President Dani Borel Friday afternoon when the two attempted to hand-deliver hundreds of handwritten letters from students about the budget crisis.

What you’ve got with the college student/administrator connection is the higher education version of using the students as human shields to protect the administrator’s fat behinds from attack by the evil legislature, governor and taxpayers.

St. Helena Update – 10/30/10

10/30/2010

Members want accountability in school finances

Members of one of two biracial committees instructed to seek solutions to problems in St. Helena Parish public schools agreed during their first meeting to find accountability in the spending of school funds.

Traylor Finance Reports Online

10/29/2010

The last of the campaign finance reports for former Louisiana State Supreme Court Justice and senatorial candidate Chet Traylor has now been posted on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website.

See here the document.

Some of the larger expenditures were:

Market Research Insight – $18,000 – Polling

Fletcher Consultants, LLC – $47,500 – Advertising

Pickett and Company – $28,745 – Accounting and management services

Here is the FEC website with all of Traylor’s reports.

Minutes for 9/16/10 LAAC Meeting

10/29/2010

The minutes for the 09/16/10 meeting of the Legislative Audit Advisory Council (LAAC) are available online.

Town of Jonesboro

Mr. Irwin said for the last two years the auditor has issued a disclaimer of opinion. The reason the auditor was unable to opine on the financial statements in Jonesboro because of numerous control and compliance problems, and the town did not maintain adequate records. Senator Murray asked if the Board of Alderman and the Mayor was aware of these issues. Ms. Irwin said they were not invited, but her staff went twice to the town to give them assistance.

Representative Kleckley said the council has the ability to withhold funds if they are not timely filing audits, but asked what can the council do if they do not correct their findings. Mr. Purpera said the council has the ability to determine whether an entity is compliant or noncompliant with the audit law. In the case of Jonesboro, the opinion was a disclaimer of opinion, which is that the town’s records do not permit the auditor to conduct an audit. The audit is designed for ensuring accountability within the town, but the records are such that the auditor cannot do the audit, only a report. Representative Kleckley asked if they can withhold funding. Mr. Purpera said the council can determine the town to be noncompliant, but it would then be the responsibility of the transmitting funds to the town to withhold the funding.

Vickie Stephens, Town Clerk for the Town of Jonesboro, explained that she was very ill prepared to replace the town clerk who left two years previously. She said they had engaged an accountant to correct their financials. She said they are moving to implement internal controls, and some things were changed over her suggestions, as well as creating rules and regulations for the employees. Melba Murphy Holland, Office Manager, had written most of the rules and given it to the Mayor for his approval. Senator Gautreaux suggested to Ms. Stephens also call the Municipal Association for assistance. Ms. Stephens stated there is a lot of conflict between the Mayor’s office and the Board of Alderman.

Mr. Purpera stated that his Advisory Services staff have visited the Town of Jonesboro and given them detailed instructions. Ms. Stephens said the accounts have not been reconciled, but has checked off items that cleared the bank, because it was not until their 2008 audit was done that she understood how to reconcile the bank statements. She stated they did not have audit adjustments prior, but now has the ability to do that, so expect it to fall into place.

Senator Nevers asked who overruled the changes and recommendations to deal with some of these issues. Ms. Stephens said the Mayor is her only supervisor, and she saw a lot of things not being done as she thought were done. Senator Nevers asked the Legislative Auditor what he would suggest the council to do. Mr. Purpera recommended to ask the Mayor and members of the Council to come to a meeting, as these are serious issues and do need to see they are moving forward.

Senator Nevers’ motion to subpoena the Mayor and invite the Board of Alderman to attend the next meeting passed with no objections. Senator Nevers asked if there are any indications that there could be activities that the Attorney General needs to look into, he suggested that he be brought into this matter. Senator Murray asked if the auditor’s office sends notification to the District Attorney or U.S. Attorney if there could be any findings with criminal activity. Ms. Irwin said they do, but sometimes it is difficult to discern such unless a forensic audit done. Ms. Irwin said it is difficult to tell if it is bad accounting and bad controls for the Town of Jonesboro. Senator Murray said that this would be put on the agenda for the next meeting and requested to see Ms. Stephens and Ms. Holland as well.

The the meeting also can be viewed online here.

LAAC – September 16, 2010

What Did We Tell You?

10/29/2010

What did we tell you earlier this week in the “The (Baton Rouge) Advocate/LSU Nexus” piece? We said the nest over at LSU was the Manship School of Mass Communication. Well lookie here, y’all, in today’s The (Baton Rouge) Advocate.

Students stand up to cuts

About 300 LSU students came together Thursday night to witness the mysterious “WhatNOW? The Event.”

While many students showed up only out of curiosity about the viral marketing campaign, most ended the night e-mailing state House Speaker Jim Tucker and writing letters to legislators in protest of higher education budget cuts.

The event was organized by some mass communication students and Student Government leaders — with an assist from a few faculty who encouraged student attendance — to start a new student-led political lobbying group, called the Flagship Advocates.

Meanwhile, here’s the rest of the higher ed updates for today.

La. teacher salaries up 85% since ’95

Tax proposals face obstacles

Jindal fires back at critics

Proud Students creates budget cut film, invites student input

MDA Council starts letter campaign

‘WhatNow Lsu’ unveils meaning behind ‘The Event’

Letter to the Editor From Jonesboro

10/28/2010

This letter to the editor was published today in the Jackson Independent. The author gave us permission to publish it on our news blog. He has submitted it to The (Monroe) News-Star and The (Shreveport) Times for publication, but as of noon today, they had not responded.

October 22, 2010
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Jonesboro is in big trouble!

Two independent auditors have not been able to complete an audit because of the lack of financial records. We can’t even seem to balance our bank statement or keep track of who pays their water bills.

We don’t know for sure if we have theft and malfeasance, or if it’s just gross incompetence. The District Attorney has ignored our pleas for help, the State Police say they can’t do anything and the FBI has not responded to our plea.

The Legislative Audit Advisory Council has conducted hearings where they recognized the problem but say they have no enforcement authority, except to withhold all funds coming to the town from the State. According to decisions made at the Oct. 21 hearing, the State Treasurer has been instructed to do this.

The State Attorney General will not act until the local District Attorney recues himself and he won’t do that or act at all

Local politics and voter apathy have only managed to dig the hole even deeper. Except for Lincoln Parish News Online, who has covered this story from the beginning, the print and electronic media do not seem interested enough to share our problems with their readers/viewers. For reasons unknown to me the local law enforcement authorities have not stepped in.

Incompetence and/or Criminal activities should not be tolerated, especially with public funds. What are we to do and where do we turn for help?

James Schmidt
Jonesboro, LA