Archive for April, 2011

OCC Tax Defeated 3 to 1; Tangi School Tax Clobbered; Ruston School Tax Passes

04/30/2011

The four Tangipahoa parish school taxes were defeated by a historic margin – 88% no, 12% yes. The tax hike for the Ouachita Correctional Center (OCC) was also defeated by a 3 to 1 margin. Ruston school district’s tax extension handily passed, .

See here the numbers.

Tangipahoa Parish

Ouachita Parish

Lincoln Parish

Higher Ed Roundup – 4/30/11

04/30/2011

SU, Spivery settle contract dispute

SU names chancellor

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Adopts New Districts

04/29/2011

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Districts: 2010-2020

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) Tuesday on a unanimous vote adopted new district lines in accordance with the 2010 census. The old districts are outlined in bold red, while the new districts are color-coded.

Click on the map to enlarge.

There was little discussion (the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes), save brief comments from Otis Chisley and Perry Thomas, who supported the plan as adopted.

Local TEA Party Phoning to Oppose School Tax

04/29/2011

The North Central Louisiana TEA Party has begun making phone calls opposing a Ruston School District tax extension that is to be voted upon tomorrow. The calls began yesterday and will continue through today. Several hundred voters have been targeted for calls.

Here is the text of the phone message.

The Lincoln Parish School Board has 30 million tax payer dollars in cash. They want to get $3.4 million more for 2 buildings at Ruston High. Build the buildings with the cash on hand; we are Taxed Enough Already!

VOTE NO in Saturday’s election.

If passed the tax would extend an existing millage five years to fund construction of buildings at RHS.

See here earlier reporting on the proposed tax.

Lincoln Parish School Board to Call for 4/30/11 Tax Election – National Scholars to be Recognized

LPSB Votes to Pursue Tax Extension

LPSB Ten Year Construction/Maintenance Plan – Ruston School District Tax Extension Possible

Higher Ed Roundup – 4/29/11

04/29/2011

University cuts run deep

SU chancellor expected to be named Friday

UNO Faculty Senate rejects bill – Group recommends changes to merger

Live Blog From Jonesboro – Court Hearing

04/28/2011

Leon H. Whitten Courtroom, Jackson Parish Courthouse, Jonesboro, LA

We are live this morning from the Second Judicial District’s Leon H. Whitten Courtroom of the Jackson Parish Courhouse in Jonesboro for a hearing in the case of Essmeier v Jonesboro, a lawsuit filed last month regarding two ordinances enacted by the town’s board of aldermen.

The judge is Jimmy Teat, Division B, Second Judicial District.

Appearing for the plaintiffs is Jonesboro attorney Bobby Culpepper.

Appearing for the defendants are Monroe attorneys Carol Powell-Lexing and Louis Scott

Since a hearing earlier this month, several motions have been filed and could be ruled upon today. Here are the developments that have taken place since that April 4 hearing.

New Motions Filed in Essmeier v Jonesboro
Motion Filed to Disqualify J’boro’s New Lawyer
Reply Filed in J’boro Lawsuit; Stokes Withdraws
Jonesboro Hires Two Lawyers to Defend Suit

9:30 A. M.

A new motion was filed this morning by defense counsel Powell-Lexing.

Motion and Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion to Disqualify Counsel

9:34 A. M. – Court in session.

Courtroom nearly full – about 65 people here.

9:40 A.M. – Court in recess for pretrial conference.

10:35 A. M. – Court still in recess.

11:05 A. M. – Court still in recess.
12:10 P. M. – Court still in recess, with pretrial conference ongoing.

12:20 P. M. – Court to reconvene at 1:30 P. M.

1:40 P. M. – Court in session
New motions being entered into the record.

Motion to disqualify withdrawn by Culpepper – judge accepts. Motion to continue denied.

Powell-Lexing arguing that proper notification from Culpepper not done, therefore hearing cannot proceed. Denied by judge.

1:55 P. M. – Alderman Sam Lamkin called as witness for the plaintiffs.

Lamkin sequestered. Cottonham called as witness and sworn.

Culpepper questioning him about 3/8/11 council meeting. Now arguing about when Cottonham moved to amend budget at meeting. Culpepper asking why.

Culpepper asking why executive budget was increased $41 thousand in motion. Cottonham can’t recall.

Cottonham admitting that amendment amounts came from mayor.

Culpepper showing budget to Cottonham. Budget shows deficit of $204 thousand. Culpepper asking about amendment and backup documentation.

Culpepper asking when he knew about backup documentation for amendment. Culpepper asking about added income on amendment.

2:15 P. M. – Culpepper asking Cottonham if he wants to hear audio tape from meeting.

Audio tape of 3/8/ meeting now being played. Cottonham’s voice audible from when he made motion to amend budget.

Cottonham admitting that was him on tape and that amounts shown on amendment agreed with what was said.

Culpepper now talking about prepared statement he read at 3/8 meeting. Now asking Cottonham if he knew who prepared ordinance 700. Cottonham says he doesn’t know.

Culpepper: no more questions.

2:25 P. M. – Charla Mason-Thompson now called and being sworn. Culpepper asking about ord. 700. Culpepper asking if she was aware that amendment would be made to ord. Asking if she recalled if she seconded amendment. She can’t recall.

Culpepper asking why she voted for amendment. Says “budget needed amending.”

Culpepper asking if amendment was advertised in newspaper. She says she hadn’t seen it there. Asking about deficit of ord. 700.

Culpepper asking about $175 of revenue in amendment. She doesn’t recall seeing backup for number.

Thompson doesn’t recall why budget needing amending. No more questions.

2:45 P.M. – Devon Flowers now being sworn.

Culpepper asking if he knew if town had budget when he took office. Now asking about 3/8 meeting and if he voted for ord. 700. Asking why amendment. Flower says town needed balanced budget.

Flowers said he didn’t know ord 700 was to be amended. Asking about increase of executive budget and how that would help balanced budget.

2:55 PM – Culpepper now asking about backup documentation. Flowers saying he didn’t question numbers.

3:00 PM – 15 minute recess.

3:30 PM – back in session. Lamkin called as witness. Being sworn in.

Lamkin says aware that town had budget. Culpepper asking why second budget was presented. Doesn’t know.

Now asking if he knew of amendment. Says he only learned at meeting. Wasn’t part of discussion.

Culpepper asking about amounts of budget amendments – executive, transportation, etc. Lamkin not aware of why.

Now asking about $175 thousand of misc reimbursements shown in amendment. Didn’t know where number came from.

Lamkin saying he did not vote for ord. 700 and made motion to table, as he felt it needed more examination.

Cross exam by Powell-Lexing. Lamkin says he got budget on on night of meeting. Powell-Lexing asking if he familiar with last year budget.

Lamkin noting that paperwork for meetings not available prior to meetings.

Lamkin saying that constituents concerned about mayor’s raise.

Powell-Lexing asking about previous mayor’s salary – objection by Culpepper as not relevant to trial. Sustained.

Lamkin still complaining that information not available prior to meetings, but saying he hasn’t asked for it, either.

4:05 PM. Mayor being sworn in.

Asking why new budget adopted. Says he had right as mayor. Now asking about unqualified audit.

Mayor says former auditors “could not work with town.” Culpepper now asking about Allen, Green and Williamson.

Culpepper asking who responsible for town budget. Mayor says “buck stops with mayor.”

Asking about “modified budget” presented in Jan. 2011. Mayor agrees.

Asking about deficit in ord 700 budget. Now asking about amendment and if it had been advertised. Mayor admits it had not.

Now asking about “other financial resources” – $175 thousand. Asking if he has documentation for that. Mayor says no.

Culpepper now asking if amendment had been published in paper. Mayor “amendment was not advertised.”

Mayor says all town’s bills current. Asking who oversees money – mayor “the clerk.”

Mayor says town current on insurance, etc. Asking about reimbursement of expenses.

Culpepper asking about missing 2009 documents. Mayor says now looking for them. Objection to questioning about investigation. Questioning resumes.

Culpepper asking again about missing records. Mayor says he hasn’t seen them. Objection – what specific records.

Asking about records security. Mayor says its being improved. Asking who is authorized to make purchases.

Mayor says no “unauthorized purchases” made. Says wife has picked up items and signed receipts.

Mayor says he’s authorized to sign contracts by council. Says if money budgeted, he can spend.

Asking how gospel concert was paid for: check. Asking if he’s entered into contract different than that authorized by town council. Says not.

Culpepper asking about cash receipts. Asking what procedure if budget overspent. Mayor talking about 5% rule.

Asking about land sale. Says he’s not sure if he’s signed document for sale. Mayor denying he signed doc for less than authorized by council.

Asking if 2007 inaugural paid for with town money. Mayor says no. Asking if personal items purchased. Mayor says no.

Now asking about town car. Objection by Powell-Lexing. sustained.

Culpepper asking if mayor aware that ord. 700 unbalanced by $204 thousand. Mayor agrees.

Culpepper asking about “budget message” for ord. 700. Mayor saying ord 700 was amendment, rather than a new budget.

Culpepper now reading from document, noting that the doc. says nothing about amendment. Mayor still claiming it was amendment.

Culpepper asking with missing records, audits, how can you operate and make decisions. Mayor says we do best we can.

Culpepper asking about overspending above 5%. Mayor admits that done some.

Asking where amendment amounts come from. Mayor says from department heads, etc.

Mayor admits he prepared amendment introduced on 3/8. Culpepper asking who he talked to and if he had meetings.

5:15 PM. – Culpepper asking about revenue differences.

Asking who put amendment in folders. Now asking why executive budget increased, entertainment budget, etc. Culpepper brings up that testimony from aldermen said they didn’t know why budgets increased.

Mayor says he prepared backup documentation, after 3/8 meeting. Asking about Vickie Stephens and money reimbursed. Mayor says he did not write letter asking her to do that.

Culpepper now asking about other sources of revenue.

Mayor now saying tape recording may not have picked up accurately.

5:30 PM – court adjourned until 5/27, 9:30 AM.

Higher Ed Roundup – 4/28/11

04/28/2011

LSU could miss out on $16M in funds

109 state programs terminated – Four University degrees eliminated

Our View: Lombardi, LSU System operating in obscurity

Southeastern loses seven more degree programs in Regents’ cuts Wednesday

Regents cull 100 degrees

New Motions Filed in Essmeier v Jonesboro

04/27/2011

Several motions and memorandums have been filed in the last few days in the case of Essmeier v Jonesboro, a lawsuit filed last month that alleges two ordinances, #700 – town budget and #701 – mayoral pay raise, are illegal.

Filed today were:

Motion to Enroll as Counsel of Record – for Monroe attorney Louis Scott on behalf of the defendants: Town of Jonesboro; Mayor Leslie Thompson, individually and as mayor; LaStevic Cottonham, individually and as alderman; Devon Flowers, individually and as alderman; and Charla Thompson, individually and as alderman.

Motion to Continue – Filed by Scott on behalf of the defendants asking that tomorrow’s scheduled hearing be continued (delayed), as Scott is engaged in an ongoing trial in Monroe.

Memorandum in Support of Exceptions – Filed by Scott on behalf of the defendants taking exception to several of the original suit’s allegations.

Filed Monday was:

Memorandum in Support of Motion to Disqualify Counsel – Filed by plaintiff attorney Bobby Culpepper in support of a motion he had filed two weeks ago asking that Monroe attorney for the defendants Carol Powell-Lexing be disqualified because of potential conflicts.

The suit was filed by Culpepper on behalf of three Town of Jonesboro residents against the town, the mayor and three of the five aldermen that voted for the ordinances.

A hearing is scheduled for 9:30 A. M. tomorrow (Thursday) morning in the Leon H. Whitten Courtroom of the Jackson Parish courthouse. Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) will cover the hearing live.

Tangi School Tax Update – 4/27/11

04/27/2011

From our friend C. B. Forgotston, there is this analysis that you won’t see anywhere else.

Sick of it!

The voters of Tangipahoa Parish have been and are continue to be told by the local and Baton Rouge media that if we don’t pass the massive school property and sales taxes on Saturday’s ballot Federal Judge Ivan Lemelle will simply order the taxes be imposed.

Despite my efforts to enlighten the media or at least offer a different point of view (Balance as the media calls it.), you have not read and will not read anything contrary in the print media. It doesn’t fit their agenda of supporting these taxes.

Background

Initially, the judge said that he could impose the taxes himself. When he finally got around to reading the Federal jurisprudence, he backed-off that position. Now, according to the media, the judge can order the school board to impose the taxes on its own volition.

Any (state or federal) judge can issue an order that the sun shall rise in the west, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Same with ordering a school board to do something which it has no authority to do.

Law

The Louisiana Constitution prohibits the imposition of local property and sales taxes without approval of a majority of the voters who vote in an election for that purpose in the affected area. (See LA Const. Article VI, Section 29(A) and Art. VIII, Section 13(C) 3rd Paragraph.)

If Judge Lemelle orders the Tangipahoa Parish School Board to raise sales and property taxes, the board must appeal the order to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal because they would be violating their oath to uphold the laws of Louisiana. (LA Const. Article X, Section 30).

My opinion

The above is an opinion you’ve not seen in the print media because they will not publish it.

I’m not a law professor nor am I legal scholar. I’m merely a taxpayer in Tangipahoa Parish, am licensed to practice law in Louisiana and have taught at a couple of Louisiana law schools.

C.B.

Early turnout strong in Tangipahoa tax vote

Early voting in Saturday’s Tangipahoa Parish school tax election climbed to unprecedented levels, officials said Tuesday. The high turnout among early voters could indicate that overall voter participation numbers could approach 50 percent, which would be virtually unheard of, said John Russell, Tangipahoa Parish registrar of voters.

Nearly 4,000 voters cast ballots in the early voting period, which ended Saturday, he said.

“Historically, millage elections do not have large turnouts unless there is organized opposition,” said Julian Dufreche, Tangipahoa clerk of court. “In this case, there is organized opposition.”

Lincoln Police Jury, School Board Adopt Remap

04/27/2011

A joint meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) last night adopted new district lines that reflect parish population changes from the 2010 census.

See here the maps.

New districts
Previous districts

The meeting was chaired by Third Judicial Assistant District Attorney Andy Shealy, who serves as legal adviser for both public bodies. Shealy noted that last night’s meeting was the third public hearing conducted since the process started earlier this year, and that discussions about the process was also brought up several times during police jury and school board meetings.

“I can assure you that every effort has been made to keep the public informed, as well as to seek input from them,” he said. “Any concern or suggestions… that we’ve not made an effort to include the public, or to keep them informed, or to make them knowledgeable about the process, I think is just without merit,” Shealy added.

The only public comment came from long-time political gadfly Bill Smith, who expressed concern about moving voters to different polling locations from where they previously had voted.

Shealy noted that during the process, efforts were made to minimize that issue.

Both the jury and school board passed the pertinent resolutions and ordinances unanimously.