Archive for May, 2012

Judge to Rule on Roberts v Jonesboro After Written Arguments

05/31/2012

A judge said today he would rule after written memoranda are filed in support of the oral arguments made today in the civil trial of Roberts v Jonesboro.

In the suit, David Roberts claims he was never properly terminated as Town of Jonesboro Fire Chief and should be awarded back pay and benefits as of January 11, 2011.

The town claims Roberts had acknowledged his termination and is entitled to no compensation.

Unable to come to a settlement during an 1 1/2 hour pretrial conference, the parties in the suit made their arguments before Division B Judge Jimmy Teat in Second Judicial District Court at the Jackson Parish court house.

Appearing for the plaintiff was Jonesboro attorney Bobby Culpepper. Representing the town was Assistant District Attorney Doug Stokes, in his capacity as town attorney.

Culpepper began by calling as his first witness the town’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson, and asking him to show in the minutes of the town’s 1/11/2011 board of aldermen meeting where any specific motion was made to remove Roberts as the town’s fire chief, and where it was voted upon by the board.

Roberts claims in his petition that the proper procedures as required by law were not followed at that meeting. Cited in arguments today was LA RS 33:404(A)3 – Duties of mayor:

However, appointment or removal of a nonelected chief of police, the municipal clerk, the municipal attorney, or any department head shall be subject to approval by the board of aldermen…

Also cited was an attorney general’s opinion that said department heads shall serve until removed.

Thompson said that the action of naming a new chief served the same purpose as the specific action of removing Roberts. Thompson noted that the town can have only one fire chief at a time.

Said Thompson, “that had to have been their assumption,” referring to the intent of the board.

On cross-examination, Stokes asked Thompson if had he advised Roberts of his intention to replace him. Thompson said he had done so, both verbally and in writing. Thompson’s letter to Roberts was entered into evidence.

Culpepper rebutted that the letter was not specifically voted upon by the board, and that the law requires board approval.

Stokes also brought up a demand letter to the town from Roberts, and the resulting settlement, regarding unused comp and vacation time. The issue had come up in Feb, 2011, prior to the lawsuit currently under litigation.

Former Jonesboro Fire Chief Threatens Suit

Stokes noted that a release had been signed by Roberts, and entered both that document and the cleared checks into evidence. Stokes argued that the settlement implied Robert’s acknowledgement of termination.

Culpepper argued that the settlement was for the time period prior to 1/11/2011, and that it had no bearing on the issue at hand.

After a lunch recess, Roberts took the stand, and in reply to Culpepper’s specific question of was he terminated “with the concurrence of the board of alderman,” he said no.

On cross, Roberts acknowledged to Stokes that he had received the mayor’s letter telling him he would be terminated, and also that he had signed the settlement with the town for comp and vacation time.

A ruling is expected within thirty to sixty days.

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Higher Ed Roundup – 5/31/12

05/31/2012

State Senate, students work to prevent budget cuts

Panel moves SLCC merger bill

Merger not given fair chance

FitzGerald: SUS-La. Tech discussion worthwhile

Roberts v Jonesboro Tomorrow

05/30/2012

The trial for a lawsuit filed last year by former Town of Jonesboro Fire Chief David Roberts is scheduled for tomorrow, May 31, 9:30 AM, in Second Judicial District Court in Jonesboro.

In the suit, Roberts claimed he was never properly terminated from that position and should be awarded back pay and benefits.

See here earlier reporting on the issue.

Roberts v Jonesboro Trial Date Refixed
Former Jonesboro Fire Chief Suit Set for Trial
Jonesboro Responds to Roberts Lawsuit
Former? Jonesboro Fire Chief Sues Town

Higher Ed Roundup – 5/29/12

05/29/2012

Investigation looms in firings of 10 tenured professors at Southern University in Baton Rouge

North Carolina Bar Goes after Former DA

05/28/2012

N.C. State Bar blasts former Durham District Attorney Tracy Cline’s conduct

The N.C. State Bar filed a complaint Friday charging that former Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline spun a string of courthouse lies, behavior that could cost Cline her law license.

The widely anticipated complaint repeatedly accuses Cline of knowingly making false and misleading statements, an indication that the bar wants to strip Cline of her license. State Bar rules say that disbarment “shall be considered” if a lawyer engaged in acts of dishonesty, misrepresentation, deceit or fabrication.

The complaint focused on Cline’s high-profile attack on Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, an unprecedented action by Durham’s top law enforcement officer on the county’s chief resident judge.

This will be the second case where the State Bar has prosecuted an elected Durham district attorney.

Mike Nifong was disbarred in 2007 for a host of ethical violations in his handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

GNLCDC Grant Money Drying Up

05/28/2012

A major source of funding for Jonesboro’s Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corporation (GNLCDC) – taxpayer-funded grants – has declined precipitously from calendar year 2009 to 2010, the organization’s tax returns show.

GNLCDC received $48,504 in government grants in 2010, down from $368,768 in 2009.

Total revenues also have plunged, from about $512 thousand in 2009 to about $222 thousand in 2010.

However, salaries, compensation, and benefits of current officers, directors, trustees, and key employees more than doubled from 2009 to 2010 – about $58 thousand to about $125 thousand.

See here the documents:

2010 Form 990
2009 Form 990

The GNLCDC is organized as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt public charity, and as such, their Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax) is public record.

Prior to 2009, total revenues for GNLCDC had grown every year since at least as far back as 2005.

In 2005, total revenues were about $90 thousand. By 2008, that number was about $583 thousand. Revenues declined slightly to about $512 thousand in 2009.

2005 Form 990
2006 Form 990
2007 Form 990
2008 Form 990

Last week, GNLCDC’s chairman, Herbert Simmons, Jr. – a close political ally of Jonesboro’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson – wrote a somewhat disjointed letter to the editor of The Jackson Independent that some observers say was indicative of funding problems for the organization.

Higher Ed Roundup – 5/27/12

05/27/2012

Grambling could suffer from proposed budget cuts

Barry Erwin: Cutting higher education not a solution

Higher Ed Roundup – 5/26/12

05/26/2012

LSU’s Martin heads to Rockies

LSU’s Martin accepts offer

Gustavson: Stand behind your university

Chancellor accepts position at Colorado State University

Partial Unitary Status for Lincoln Schools Granted

05/25/2012

Partial Unitary Status for Lincoln Parish Schools has been granted by U. S. Chief District Judge Robert “Robbie” James in an order signed yesterday. In the order, James wrote:

Having found that the Board has satisfied its desegregation obligations in the areas of faculty assignment, staff assignment, transportation, extracurricular activities, and facilities in the operation of the District’s schools, the Court hereby declares the Board unitary in those areas, dismisses the permanent injunction as to those issues, and withdraws its jurisdiction over those areas of operation of the District’s schools.

However, he further stated:

The parties have agreed and the Court finds that the Board will meet its desegregation obligations in the remaining areas of its operation of the District’s schools if it implements the Ruston attendance zone plan and the transfer policy, both as set forth above. Therefore, upon demonstration of successful implementation of such provisions, the Board may move for a declaration of unitary status on the issue of student assignment no sooner than thirty (30) days after the submission of its October 15,
2013 court report.

The court will still maintain supervision over the issue of Lincoln Parish’s two lab schools.

The United States and the Board specifically agree and the Court finds that this Consent Order will have no effect upon any issues related to the desegregation of the laboratory schools operated at Louisiana Tech University and/or Grambling State University. Particularly, this Consent Order will not affect, in any way, any issues related to any obligation of the Board under or its compliance with any provision of the 1984 Consent Decree relative to the desegregation of the laboratory schools, and the Board will remain a party to this case until it has satisfactorily complied with all such obligations.

See here the order.
See here the motion.

About Those “Official Journals”

05/25/2012

Times-Picayune announcement prompts review of ‘official journal’ law

BATON ROUGE — State law will have to be changed before the end of this legislative session to allow a non-daily newspaper in the New Orleans area to be the official journal for governmental advertising. lawmakers said Thursday.

Reacting to the announcement that The Times-Picayune will be moving from publishing a daily print version to three days a week in print while expanding its online product, Sens. J.P. Morrell and Edwin Murray, both D-New Orleans, said that a state law dealing with its status as the legal journal for state and local government entities in the New Orleans area will change.

Murray said if the law is not changed, legal challenges can be filed if advertising continues in a non-daily newspaper.

Morrell said he sees three possible options: amending the present law to allow a non-daily newspaper in the New Orleans area to keep the journal status, “open it up for everybody to compete” for the legal notices in the area, or the “least likely” by allowing government entities and court proceedings to be advertised online or in a non-print format.