Archive for March, 2011

Jonesboro Special Call Meeting Tomorrow


A special called meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen has been called for Friday, April 1, 1:00 P. M., 128 Allen Avenue.

See here the agenda.

One of the items is listed as “town attorney.” Presumably, this is related to the engagement of Monroe attorney Carol Powell-Lexing to represent the defendants in a lawsuit that was filed earlier this week.

See here that document.


Redistricting, Louisiana Style


Royce Toney Update – 3/31/11


Lawsuit Filed Against Business that Sold OPSO Ridgedale Land

The Monroe business that sold Sheriff Royce Toney the old Ridgedale Academy property is facing legal action.

NBC 10 has uncovered a letter that shows the sheriff negotiated a tax credit worth over $400,000 to one of his personal friends, Joseph Hakim, of Penny Realty.

Sheriff Toney says he’s ditching plans to build a work release facility in the middle of a quiet West Monroe neighborhood. The sheriff says a downturn in the economy means that renovating the building into a work force facility doesn’t make good business sense.

Sheriff Toney announced during the summertime last year, that he had big plans for the old Ridgedale school, off Whites Ferry Road in West Monroe. His vision was to convert the building into a work release facility with about 180 beds.

Sheriff Royce Toney says he struck a deal with Joseph Hakim, president of Penny Realty, to buy the property, which is appraised at $600,000. The sheriff’s office paid only $188,000, according to a copy of the deed.

Higher Ed Roundup – 3/31/11


Crain supports Jindal’s plan for university reform

Law school holds pep rally for SU

Proposal would increase tuition cap

Former Senator Jones Letter to the Editor


From former Louisiana State Senator Bill Jones:

Redistricting 2011—or, how Lincoln Parish disappeared.

Senator Bob Kostelka is Chairman of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. That is the committee that handles redistricting after the 2010 census. Senator Kostelka currently represents Lincoln Parish in the State Senate. The proposed redistricting plan that came out of Senator Kostelka’s committee condemns Lincoln Parish to obscurity and strips it of any future influence in the State Legislature. Apparently Senator Kostelka cares very little for Lincoln Parish. If he did, he would not have let Senate Bill 1 out of his committee—which, as Chairman, he controls.

  • Here is what Senator Kostelka’s redistricting plan does:
  • It divides Lincoln Parish between three Senate districts—the 29th, the 33d, and the 35th.
  • It divides Lincoln Parish’s two State Universities between the 29th and the 35th districts.
  • It makes Lincoln Parish a distinct minority in all 3 Senate districts.
  1. Lincoln Parish has only 17% of the 29th, which contains Grambling University; Rapides dominates that district; Rapides has 49%.
  2. Lincoln Parish has just 4.4% of the 33d; Ouachita Parish has 39.1%.
  3. Lincoln Parish has only 18.8% of the 35th, which contains Louisiana Tech; Ouachita has 41.2%; Rapides has 17%.

What do these numbers mean? They mean that the State Senators from the 29th, 33d, and 35th will owe their primary allegiance to Ouachita and Rapides Parishes, not Lincoln Parish. That means that the needs of Lincoln Parish will come behind those of Ouachita and Rapides.

Senator Kostelka has cleverly elevated Ouachita into being the dominant Parish in two districts and he has enabled Rapides to dominate the other. He has also stripped Lincoln Parish of its historic authority in the State Senate.

Lincoln Parish’s economy is driven by our two universities. In the fight for scarce resources, is it reasonable to think that future Senators are going to put Lincoln Parish’s needs ahead of Ouachita or Rapides? I doubt it. Those future Senators will have the bulk of their voters in Ouachita and Rapides. Lincoln Parish is so chopped up by this bill that it will not be a factor in future elections. If the plan that Senator Kostelka let out of his committee becomes law, there won’t be any State Senators from Lincoln Parish.

By the way, Governor Bobby Jindal, who has always enjoyed strong support from Lincoln Parish, has publicly endorsed the redistricting plan that came out Senator Kostelka’s committee.

Now the question becomes, what will State Representative Rick Gallot, who is the Chairman of House Governmental Affairs, do with this bill when it gets to his committee?

Lincoln Parish voters must get active, and quickly.

Bill Jones

Florida Parishes Juvie Center Update – 3/30/11


Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission to hold special meeting to discuss theft case

The Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission will hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss the alleged theft of more than $1 million by a commission employee.

A news release from the commission said the panel will convene at 6 p.m. and consider a request to go into executive session “to discuss investigative proceedings regarding the allegations of misconduct of Brenda C. Bickford.”

Public comment will be limited to 5 minutes per person wishing to address the commission.

The center is located at 28528 U.S. 190 just inside Tangipahoa Parish.

Juvenile justice board under fire; statement expected after commission meeting

By Don Ellzey
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 12:07 PM CDT

The Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission is scheduled to meet in special session at 5 p.m. Thursday in connection with the alleged embezzlement of over $1 million from the board by the former recording secretary.

A statement is expected after the meeting as to what action, if any, the board will take concerning the matter, Director Tom Jarlock of the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center said Tuesday.

The Juvenile Justice Commission has oversight over the detention center, located east of Robert near the St. Tammany Parish line off U.S. 190.

The Office of the State Attorney General arrested Brenda Bickford of Hammond last week for the alleged embezzlement of over $1 million from the commission. Bickford served as the commission’s recording secretary for the past 16 years.

Some public officials, including Slidell City Judge Jim Lamz and state representatives Kevin Pearson and Greg Cromer have called for the commission and the director to resign. Pearson said in comments last week that the commission should have had a surety bond to cover those handling the agency’s funds.

Commission member K. Lyn Easley of Denham Springs said Tuesday that board members have been advised by board attorney John Feduccia of Hammond not to comment on the case. Easley said Feduccia told board members that all information would come through him.

However, The Daily Star’s efforts to reach Feduccia Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Commission members are Chairwoman Peggy G. Hoover of Denham Springs, appointed by the 21st Judicial District judges; Ronald D. Bell Jr., Franklinton, appointed by the 22nd Judicial District judges; Judge Salvadore Mule’, Folsom, appointed by the 22nd Judicial District judges; Easley, appointed by Denham Springs and Hammond City Court judges; Richard Wood, Mandeville, appointed by the 22nd Judicial District Attorney; David Merlin Duke, Bogalusa, appointed by the Bogalusa and Slidell city court judges; Paul Johnson, Amite, appointed by the 21st Judicial District judges and Michael B. Forbes, Hammond, appointed by the 21st Judicial District Attorney.

The AG’s report says Feduccia discovered the discrepancies in the commission audit report that led to Bickford’s arrest.

The allegations against Bickford cover the period from July, 2007, to February, 2011, although an attorney for the AG’s office said investigators will go further back to try to determine if any money was taken prior to 2007.

The statute of limitations for the allegations against Bickford cover only four years.

The Legislative audit made by the firm of Hannis T. Bourgeois, CPA, shows a steady increase in the “legal” fund of the professional services category. It was from the legal fund that the money was allegedly embezzled.

According to the AG’s arrest report, Feduccia was personally hiring and paying the court reporters. During a review of the annual audit at the Jan. 12 commission meeting, Feduccia said he noticed that the item “legal fees” reflected on the audit appeared to be unusually large and he undertook an investigation into the underlying causes for the large amounts reflected in that category, the report says.

Audits conducted by the Bourgeois firm beginning in June, 2001, show a steady increase in the “legal fees” budget up until about the time of Bickford’s arrest.

In 2001, the commission budgeted $37,382 for legal fees; 2002, $71,387; 2003, $92,819; 2004, $147,496; 2005, $203,681; 2006, $238,644; 2007, $239,328 and 2008, $351,902. The budgeted amount for 2009 showed a slight decrease to $307,672.

For purposes of prosecution, the allegations against Bickford took place from July 1, 2007 to about Feb. 3, 2011.

The allegations are:

# One count of theft over $1 million.
# One count of forgery.
# One count of filing or maintaining false public records.
# One count of malfeasance.

Culpepper Wants to See Bank Records


A subpoena request for the Town of Jonesboro’s bank records was filed by Jonesboro attorney Bobby Culpepper, in connection with a lawsuit he filed two days ago on behalf of three plaintiffs, against the mayor and town regarding the budget and a mayoral pay raise.

See here the document.

Any and all bank statements on accounts of the Town of Jonesboro with the Jackson Parish Bank showing the amounts on deposit as of January 31, 2011.

Higher Ed Roundup – 3/30/11


University representatives unhappy with CBS story

Rep. Baldone criticizes Gov. Jindal’s budget decisions

Royce Toney Update – 3/30/11


Toney scraps plan for school

Ouachita Parish Sheriff Royce Toney announced on Tuesday he has abandoned plans to convert the old Ridgedale Academy building in West Monroe into a workforce development facility.

More Subpoenas Issued in Jonesboro Probe


Several more subpoenas were issued late yesterday in the ongoing Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) investigation of the Town of Jonesboro and its controversial mayor Leslie Thompson.

See here the documents.

Among the entities subpoenaed were the J. C. Penney and Dillard’s department stores in Monroe’s Pecanland Mall, and L & L Catering of Jonesboro.

From the Dillard’s subpoena:

Details of purchase, on November 11, 2009, by the Town of Jonesboro, Mayor Leslie Thompson or any other parties associated with the Town of Jonesboro. Including but not limited to, itemized list of purchases and costs, identification records of purchaser(s), dates of purchases, and methods of payment.

From the J. C Penny subpoena:

Detailed purchases made from June 30, 2009, to October 15, 2009, by the Town of Jonesboro, Mayor Leslie Thompson or any other parties associated with the Town of Jonesboro. This shall include but not limited to, itemized lists of purchases and costs, identification records of purchaser(s), dates of purchase and methods of payment.