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Motion to disqualify withdrawn by Culpepper – judge accepts.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.