Archive for December, 2011

Lincoln Parish School Board to Schedule April 2012 Tax Election

12/31/2011

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will consider Tuesday night scheduling a Saturday, April 21, 2012 election to re-impose a parish-wide 10.21 mil ad valorem (property) tax, and a Ruston School District 2.61 mil property tax that are set to expire in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Between the two levies, over $4.2 million is collected annually from Lincoln parish landowners. The money is used for maintenance and operation of parish schools.

See here the memo and resolutions.

We will have additional reporting later on the upcoming Tuesday meeting.

LA Sec of State Says Federal Court “Lacks Jurisdiction” in Monroe Voting Case

12/31/2011

William Crawford, Jr. an attorney for Louisiana Secretary of StateL (SOS) Tom Schedler said yesterday in a court filing that the U. S. Federal District court in Monroe “lacks subject-matter jurisdiction” on whether the voters of the City of Monroe have a right to a timely election and are entitled to equal protection of the law.

See here the document: Affirmative Defense and Answer

Crawford also argued that the plaintiffs filed their complaint in an improper venue, and that it should have been filed in Baton Rouge.

The filing is the latest development in the federal lawsuit (Clark v Marx) filed in mid-December by District Five Councilman Eddie Clark and Monroe resident Byrd Minter.

The controversy started when the Monroe City Council failed to timely adopt a redistricting plan for the five council districts. Council chair Jay Marx claimed that the delay would violate a provision of the city charter that required a six-month wait between the redistricting plan adoption and qualifying for the council elections.

The original March 2012 elections were postponed until November.

The plaintiffs in their suit allege that having the sitting council members serving almost a year beyond their specified terms, in mal-apportioned districts, violated their right to equal representation. They also argued that several other provisions of the city’s charter would be violated if the elections were moved to November.

A hearing is scheduled for 9:00 AM Tuesday, January 3, 2012, in federal court in front of Chief District Judge Robert James.

The courthouse is located at 201 Jackson Street in Monroe. The courtroom is on the second floor.

In other developments in the case, a telephone status conference among the parties in the case was held yesterday.

See here the minutes of that meeting.

Letter to the Editor

12/31/2011

The following is a letter to the editor from Town of Jonesboro’s District B Alerwoman Renee Stringer.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Monroe Council Lawsuit Hearing on for Tuesday

12/30/2011

A hearing on a federal lawsuit scheduled for Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 9:00 AM will be held as ordered by U. S. District Judge Robert James, Lincoln Parish News Online learned moments ago.

A status teleconference on the suit was held this morning, and it was speculated that a settlement might be reached and preclude the hearing, but no settlement was reached, sources said.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month to try and have elections for the Monroe City Council moved back to a March/April schedule as provided for in state law. The elections were rescheduled for November of 2012 after a deadline for redistricting the council was missed earlier this year.

Higher Ed Roundup – 12/30/11

12/30/2011

Area universities detail cuts

UL professor files civil suit against co-workers

City of Monroe Agrees to March Council Elections

12/29/2011

The City of Monroe, through City Attorney Nancy Summersgill, has agreed to scheduling the election for the Monroe City Council for March 24, 2012, followed by a general election on April 21, 2012.

This was the original date for the elections until they were pushed back to November of 2012 because it was thought a delay in redistricting would violate the city’s charter.

Earlier this month, a federal lawsuit was filed challenging the November election date. The plaintiffs – District Five Councilman Eddie Clark and Monroe citizen Byrd Minter – alleged that delaying the elections deprived them of equal protection afforded by the U. S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, and also violated numerous provisions in the city charter.

From the proposed remedial order:

…finding that the most effective and least intrusive remedy available to the Court is to conduct the election for members for the City Council for the City of Monroe at the regularly scheduled elections of March 24, 2012 and April 21, 2012, IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED, that recognizing that the election districting plan approved by the City of Monroe on November 22, 2011 receives preclearance by the United States Justice Department under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on December 21, 2011, Defendant, Tom Schedler, as the Secretary of State for the State of Louisiana, and Defendant, Louise Bond, as the Clerk of Court for Ouachita Parish, shall:

(1) conduct qualifying by candidates for a position on the City Council for the City of Monroe on January 11, 12 and 13, 2012 at the time and place, and under such procedure as shall otherwise be required by law;

(2) conduct the primary elections for the candidates for a position on the City Council for the City of Monroe on March 24, 2012, and conduct all general elections on April 21, 2012, at the time and place, and under such procedure as shall otherwise be required by law; and

(3) take such other actions as the Defendant, Tom Schedler in his official capacity as the Secretary of State, and Defendant, Louise Bond in her official capacity as the Clerk of Court for Ouachita Parish shall deem necessary to meet the election procedures of the State of Louisiana and conduct the election of members to the City Council for the City of Monroe on the dates specified herein;

The proposed order has been signed off on by Summersgill, who is counsel for the City of Monroe defendants.

Attorney for the plaintiffs is Monroe’s Paul Hurd.

It is unclear at this time if the Louisiana Secretary of State (SOS) – who is also a defendant – has signed off on the proposed remedy.

A status conference among the parties is scheduled for 11:00 AM tomorrow (Friday, December 30).

See here the documents.

Joint Stipulation of Uncontested Facts – State
Joint Stipulation of Uncontested Facts – City
Minute Entry
Proposed Remedial Order

Jonesboro Council Meeting Roundup

12/29/2011

Here’s the rest of our reporting on today’s meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen.

CFO Agreement

A final version of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) agreement between the town and Edwards, Wade & Perry (EW&P), CPA was adopted.

See here the document.

Missing from the agreement were the words “and approved by the mayor,” that the town’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson wanted to be included in the document. Thompson said the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) would not agree to that stipulation.

Cooperative Endeavor Agreement

There was a bit of discussion about a resolution for a cooperative endeavor agreement between the town and other municipalities when equipment and operating personnel is shared with the other entities. This is a common practice for towns with limited personnel and that have little or no heavy equipment.

See here the document.

District B’s Renee Stringer suggested that the agreement should have some personnel rates or equipment rental amounts and that should be part of any standard CEA. She had asked for those figures at last month’s meeting.

District A’s Sam Lampkin expressed doubts about insurance liabilities and who would be responsible in case of an accident.

Stringer moved to table – with Lampkin seconding – until such time as some rates could be established. That motion to table passed 3-2 with District C’s Charla Melton voting with Stringer and Lampkin. District D’s Devin Flowers and Alderman-at-Large LaStevic Cottonham voted no.

GNF Agreement

Also tabled was an agreement with GNF Management, a Monroe-based grant consultant.

GNF had quoted a $36 thousand fee to work up the 2012-2013 Local Community Development Block Grant (LCDBG) applications.

The town’s attorney, Douglas Stokes, suggested some changes in the proposed contract, but as the modified document was not given to the council until this afternoon’s meeting, it was decided to defer a decision until the changes could be reviewed.

Policies

Several policies and procedures were adopted during the meeting.

Travel and Expense Reimbursement
Debit Card Policy
Budget Policy and Procedures

After the meeting, Alderman-at-Large LaStevic Cottonham asked us to note that he indeed does have a telephone and can be contacted by his constituents. The number is 318/278-7717.

Last night a TV news report had said his phone was disconnected.

Jonesboro Raids Savings to pay 90K in Back Taxes

12/29/2011

Two weeks after the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) seemed to give the Town of Jonesboro a relatively clean bill of health – financially speaking – the Board of Aldermen were forced this afternoon to liquidate a $76 thousand bank certificate of deposit to pay toward federal and state tax withholdings that are in arrears for more than $90 thousand.

The federal withholding was about $34 thousand short, and the state withholding was about $57 thousand deficient.

See here the documents.

This depletes the town’s reserve that can be used to pay for unforeseen circumstances. The other CDs cannot be used for expenditures other than that for which the specific fund is dedicated.

This is the second time this year that a CD has been liquidated to pay bills. Last February $169 thousand was taken from savings to pay bills to contractors that were threatening to file liens against the town.

Despite promises to do so, that CD was never replenished.

District B’s Renee Stringer asked why the town’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) – Ruston CPA Edwards, Wade & Perry – never mentioned the magnitude of the problem during the past several months while the firm was contracted to the town.

District A’s Sam Lamkin echoed that question. Lamkin said that when EW&P partner Tonya Wade was asked during council meetings if the town was current on its bills, she always said “yes.”

Stinger asked the town’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson if there was more to come. Did we have “more bills in arrears?” she asked.

Thompson was forced to admit that there was more bad financial news to come, but would not say how much that might be.

The motion to liquidate the CD passed on a 4-1 vote with Stringer voting no. She wanted to try and cut the budget, rather than raid savings.

Asked for comment on today’s developments with the town, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said “I was not aware that this was about to happen.”

We will have additional reporting on today’s meeting later this evening.

Monroe Redistricting Lawsuit Settlement Appears Imminent – Hearing Tuesday Otherwise

12/29/2011

A hearing is set for 9:00 AM Tuesday, January 3 in U. S. District Court in Monroe on the federal lawsuit Clark v Marx, in the event the parties do not settle prior to that date, according to an order initialed last week by Chief Judge Robbie James.

…the Court GRANTED Plaintiffs’ Motion for Expedited Hearing Schedule and Hearing to Issue Preliminary Injunctions [Doc. No. 2] and set hearing on the matter for January 3, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. If they cannot reach agreement on all or some of the issues, the hearing will proceed on January 3, 2012, and the Court will issue a ruling as quickly as possible.

See here the document.

It appears from the document that there exists a good possibility that a settlement may be reached prior to next Tuesday.

However, when the Court inquired whether it was possible for the elections of the City Council to be held with the mayoral election if the Court issues an appropriate order, Ms. (Marietta) Norton (counsel for LA Secretary of State) stated that the Secretary of State does have some flexibility if the preclearance is obtained by December 30, 2011, as anticipated. She explained that the Secretary of State does need qualification for candidates to take place no later than mid-January, 2012. In response to an inquiry from Mr. (William) Crawford (counsel for LA SOS), Mr. (Robert) Berman (U. S. Department of Justice, Voting Rights Section) stated that the DOJ is working toward a decision by December 30, 2011, but would notify the parties as quickly as a decision is reached. If DOJ completes the preclearance process by December 30, the Court does not anticipate any further need for its participation in this lawsuit.

Sources have told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has since pre-cleared a proposed redistricting plan.

Jonesboro City Council @ Noon Thursday

12/28/2011

A special called meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen has been scheduled for noon tomorrow (Thursday, 12/29) at the W. Richard Zuber City Hall, 128 Allen Avenue.

See here the agenda.