Live Blog From Jonesboro – Court Hearing

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Motion to disqualify withdrawn by Culpepper – judge accepts.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.

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31 Responses to “Live Blog From Jonesboro – Court Hearing”

  1. tailfeathers Says:

    Awesome coverage, Walter! Thank you for keeping us informed! We appreciate your work.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    you know ,to me its sounds like the council has the “I DONT KNOWS” now. didnt figure they would have many answers for Mr. Culpepper

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Just wanted to also say a big “thank you” to Walter. Your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated.

  4. GC Says:

    great coverage!!
    why only Lamkin called and not the other member too
    can you shed light on this, Walter?

  5. sunrisesunset Says:

    Seems as though those council members have a “Do not remember” mentality. I do not think they even knew what was being done at that meeting of 3/8th. They just went with the flow of what Thompson requested, and did not realize the ramifications that would surely come from it.

  6. GC Says:

    “requested” is putting good spin on it

  7. Former Resident c/o 2000 Says:

    Thing is, is that those council members probably really don’t remember why they voted for those amendments. They voted for them blindly at the time they did only because Thompson wanted them to. They probably don’t even realize the impact it would have. That’s what you get when stupidity gets in office!

  8. sunrisesunset Says:

    Any intelligent person can tell from reading Walter’s above article, the council “does not have a clue” about the duties of their responsibility as council members, or they were advised by their counsel to be evasive in their answers. Mayor calls the shots and they jump as high as he wants. Shameful!

    Good work Walter. Keep it going. There’s a lot to find out yet!!!!!!

    • people from court Says:

      you know what f all ,u people that want to see the town go down ,the council are great people and the mayor doesn’t run them,look at sam lamkin he got today.

  9. sunrisesunset Says:

    People from court:

    I do not know how you can conclude that the people want to see the Town go down. That’s totally asinine. We want to see the Town SUCCEED in a respectable manner. And, that, my friend, is NOT what is happening in the Town today. Otherwise, all this would NOT BE in the news and getting the coverage it is garnering today. If there wasn’t a problem, things would be quiet and humming along peacefully.

  10. Stand Up and Be Counted Says:

    People from Court,
    Your IQ is only exceeded by your age or the local speed limit! It would take a complete idiot to think the mayor and the three stooges have acted in “good” faith or for the betterment of the community. What the plantiffs are trying to do is keep the town from going down unlike the actions of the mayor which seems to be to try and bankrupt the community with undocumented spending. The mayor is responsible (remember he says the bucks stops here) for over $150,000 in extra audit expense since taking office, hiring extra help in the form of unqualified accountant who did nothing to correct the problem, now he is spending another unbudgeted $90,000 for the same unqualified accountant to do more of the same, nothing. Wise spending of the town’s money.

    As for the “great people” on the council, if they had half a brain they would have taken office and started asking questions about where the money was going and why there were no auditable books. No, their main objective in their first 30 days in office was to elevate the pay of the worst mayor in Louisiana, that was so smart. Following the pied piper will get you led off a cliff but I guess the know that now.

    Oh and by the way, we know when someone is loosing the battle because they start dropping the f bomb, you are such a looser!!!!!!!!!!

    • c Says:

      Stand up and be counted, your post is excellent! Thank you! And, Walter, you did a great job with your live blog. Thanks for your dedication. You have a good heart and I can tell that you want to see our town succeed and grow. People from court, you are a moron. Go wash your hair and shut up.

    • Anonymous2 Says:

      I agree with your comments Stand Up. People from court seems to suffer from tunnel vision, reading compension problems and multiple personality problems. That unique way of expressing himself reminds me of JONESBORO RESIDENT, CITIZEN of JONESBORO, family of council, GOD IN CONTROL and im not from jonesboro to name a few.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    I THinK YOU ALL need to get a life , you know if the town went down and was desolved you would live like us poor folk out in the parish . I dont see us haveing it so bad without a town government. so if the town runs out of money so be it. But know all you had a part in it . YOU are why the town is paying so much money for all this legal help, cpa, cfo and the like so. get a life and get on with it!

    • Anonymous Says:

      You amaze me with your logic. Blame the problems of City Hall on the people who want to save Jonesboro instead of blaming the real culprit, Mayor Thompson. Never in the history of Jonesboro has there been any problems like exist today. Never has the town had to spend money on tracking down spending like it has over the last 3 years.

      Remember, the last audited budget was when the former Mayor ran the office for 6 months and Mayor Thompson ran it for 6 months. When Mayor Thompson hired Earline Knox any self- respecting individual would not work for his office effectively clearing out the house. Was that intentional or did the Mayor not know what was going on in his office? When the people in the know left look what happened.

      When you run for an office you are supposedly saying “I am qualified to hold this position” is that not correct? There is no title “Mayor in Training” that goes along with the position. If there was a need for preparation to hold the office he should have done that in the months proir to his taking office rather than preparing an inagural bash to proclaim his assent to the throne. Apparently that is not the case with the current Mayor, he is totally incompentent. He could not run a business with a budget of $30,000 much less a town with a budget of $3,000,000 (not $4,000,000 as the Mayor likes to say).

      What bothers those who care about Jonesboro is that the people who put the Mayor and three stooges in office haven’t come forth and joined the fight to rein in the corrupt situation. If you thought by electing the three stooges you were going to see improvement then you have been proven wrong, wrong wrong. They have all commited malfeasance in office by not investigating what the Mayor requested/required them to do so that makes them as guilty as him. Answering “I don’t know what, why or when” does not excuse you from liability if you joined in on the illegal activity proposed by soemone else. This may make the next vote at a council meeting mean a lot more, no more blind allegiance to the Mayor, if they get to vote again!!!

      • c Says:

        Absolutely, Anonymous, you said it so well!!! Thank you, this post is the best one I have seen in a while. You are right on!! Have a great weekend.

  12. sunrisesunset Says:

    We must not forget that those supporting the Mayor, and his problems, are just as NAIVE and UNINFORMED as he is. And, futhermore, they do not give a rat’s behind that he is incompetent. They just want him at City Hall irregardless of the circumstances!!!!!!!! What a shame that people choose to IGNORE what is right and SUPPORT what is wrong. I SUPPOSE THAT GOES WITH THE TERRITORY.

    • atisketatasket Says:

      So right, sunrise! It’s the same mentality of the people that support Obama and oh, they just loved Bill (Adulterer) Clinton! I guess I have opened up a can of worms but who cares, I have the right to speak my mind.

      • AA Says:

        The same mentality “ya’ll”, have. The ones who supported George W. Bush and Bobby Jindal, who by the way will destroy the state of Louisiana. Fox news watchers, get a life!

  13. sunrisesunset Says:

    AA:
    Does that stand for alcoholics anonymous? You sure sound like you have been drinking kool aid or something to write what you wrote in your blog. I think you need to get your head out of the sand. It’s having a BIG effect on your thinking. And, you just might LEARN the truth if YOU would watch Fox News sometime. That is, if you can comprehend real truth. They (Fox) are the most unbiased news reporting agent out there. Fair and balanced……unlike the likes of CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, etc.

    • AA Says:

      Everything you wrote is straight out of the mouth of Bill O’Reilly. You can’t even come up with your own argument. But should I expect more, of course not. Typical!

  14. Fed up Fed Says:

    Walter–Thank you so much for the great coverage on the mess that is now Jonesboro. I know there are many others like me, who grew up in J’boro and have fond memories of that town and the people in it, who are having heartburn every day from reading and hearing about the absolute debacle that Jonesboro’s political establishment has become. I find it hard to believe that my old town has turned over the reins of the town to a few people who do not care about the town and the legacy that will be handed down to the younger generations. I firmly believe that prison is the only proper place for the few who are in power only for what they can get from it, and will steal, lie or do what it takes to enrich themselves. I don’t state that the people in power now in Jonesboro are stealing and lying, but it does appear that the alternatives to such actions are being quickly dispensed with. Please keep up the good work you are doing; there are many of us who truly appreciate your work.

  15. sunrisesunset Says:

    AA:

    Well, AA I am surprised YOU watch Bill O’Reilly. You told off on yourself, did you not? You sure do seem to know a lot about his program. And, no, I did not get that straight from Bill O’Reilly’s show. It does not take a rocket scientist to know what is RIGHT and what is WRONG. And, I consider myself in that category………..that is, being able to distinguish between good and evil. You, sir, apparently have not learned that yet. Probably never will. Typical, isn’t it?

  16. hahahaha Says:

    I want to thank you Walter for this piece of web news if it can be called news. I like to read all the news i can and i like to get both sides to a story. Next I want to thank the people that blog here. Reading all this has made me ask myself some Questions. Questions like am I racist? I ask God does he think Im racist? Am I living and doing his will? If i believe in God and His Word . I can tell myself the real answers and try and be what God wants me to be. First Question I ask myself am i racist , I first say heck no im NOT racist! Then i ask myself do i want a black sister in law or a black cousin then i start to make up excuses why i dont want that race in my family. then i ask myself and God am I racist? the answer is yes . Now what? I have admitted I have a problem with it, and now i can work on being NOT racist. I ask God what does he want me to do and to be , my inner voice/The Holly Spirit tell me Read My Word! Now I have a rule book , a parts manual, A book of directions that i can try and live my life by. I know when I stand in Judgement, God will ask me what i did to help my fellow man/ my brothers and sisters in Christ. I dont think God will tell me I did something good by backbiting , slandering, making rumors, Casting judgements, Hating people, Keepiing Drama going , I truly believe during Judgement I will be ask did you do what I Put In My Word For you To Do? one of the Deciples ask Jesus what His Greatest Comandmet Was? Jesus answered with two little words. LOVE ONEANOTHER. I dream if I can only do this “love oneanother” I can be in Gods Will. Notice God didnt say Love blk or white ppl he said one another. Jesus said those has ears let him hear, so i dont expect some of you to get anything from this but know im going to love you and MY GOD has told me to do .

  17. sunrisesunset Says:

    atisketatasket:

    Thanks very much!!!!! I know at least a few of us have our heads on straight.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    To the “mayor”: THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!!

  19. sunrisesunset Says:

    Anonymous:

    Remember it works both ways: The “truth” in all of this hell of a mess may have him paying bigtime. So, the “truth” may NOT set him free. We will wait and see. Time will tell.

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