Archive for July, 2012

Ruston Elementary SPS Scores Continue Decline

07/31/2012

The School Performance Scores (SPS) at Ruston Elementary have continued to decline through the 2011-2012 school year, according to data from the La Department of Education (DOE) that was obtained by The (Baton Rouge) Advocate newspaper.

An SPS score of 65.9 was projected for the school year 2011-2012, compared to 69.1 for the 2010-2011 school year.

The scores at Ruston Elementary have been in decline since the 2008-2009 school year, when the score was 84.1.

See here the school report card for the past several years.

In an effort to get out from under federal court supervision of the district, last May the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) voted to “pair” Ruston Elementary with Hillcrest Elementary. Children from both schools will attend grades K-2 at Hillcrest, and grades 3-5 will attend Ruston Elementary.

St. Helena Schools Update

07/31/2012

It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed how things are going in this parish located northeast of Baton Rouge.

St. Helena school to stay in RSD

A federal district judge said Monday he has the authority to transfer the state-run St. Helena Central Middle School back into local School Board control but he’s not going to do so right now.

St. Helena Parish school system officials argued that the district’s dramatic improvement in state test scores, coupled with a financial turnaround from the brink of insolvency, proved that local officials know best how to improve parish schools and should be given a chance to do the same for the middle school.

But U.S. District Judge James J. Brady, who oversees the parish’s 60-year-old desegregation case, said during a status conference that he wants to see a longer track record of success before he considers removing the middle school from the Louisiana Department of Education’s Recovery School District.

Brady granted the RSD’s request to take over St. Helena Central Middle School in May 2010, following five years of failing scores and one year under a state-mandated agreement outlining performance goals.

St. Helena Central Elementary School and St. Helena Central High School, under School Board control, have outperformed the RSD-run middle school, School Board attorney Nelson Taylor argued in his June 27 motion. And the disruption of continuity as students move back and forth between the two districts has been detrimental to the children’s education, he said.

The Town of Jonesboro’s Attorney and the Rules of Professional Conduct

07/30/2012

Monroe attorney Carol Powell-Lexing may be getting close to a violation of Louisiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. She had some pointed remarks about Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson parishes) District Court Division B Judge Jimmy Teat’s ruling last week in the matter of State v Jonesboro.

From The (Monroe) News Star, July 25, 2012

Town attorney Carol Powell-Lexing called the judgment a “racial and political takeover” of the town. She plans to file a motion with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal Wednesday.

“For political reasons we anticipated the judge would rule against us. We’re ready to roll to fight this racial, political takeover,” Powell-Lexing said.

Here is the pertinent rule:

RULE 8.2. JUDICIAL AND LEGAL OFFICIALS

(a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.

Higher Ed Roundup – 7/29/12

07/29/2012

LSU urged to adapt to changes in higher ed

Roy: Ousted LSUS instructor gets support

Update: Caddo DA “Machine Gun” Scott

07/28/2012

Inspector General closes Caddo DA machine gun investigation

The Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office seems to be off the hook with the Louisiana Inspector General. The IG has stated the office didn’t break any laws when it acquired 8 fully automatic M-16 rifles but believes the office received the guns due to paperwork inaccuracies.

“Statements that were made in the justification in the application that he felt were not accurate,” DA Charles Scott said. He says his assistants Lea Hall and Hugo Holland filled out the paperwork. He signed it without properly reading it.

Probe into weapons obtained by Caddo DA’s investigators finds no violations

The Louisiana Office of State Inspector General says it has found no violations by the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office for obtaining 8 automatic weapons in April.

However, the letter sent to the DA’s Office does criticize the manner in which the request was made, pointing out that there were inaccuracies and false information in the request. The Inspector General advised the Caddo DA’s Office to consider appropriate measures to ensure the truthfulness and accuracy of all documents that leave the Caddo Parish DA’s Office in the future.

Inspector General: DA’s gun application contained false information

The state Inspector General has found the Caddo District Attorney’s Office submitted “false information” on paperwork when it acquired eight automatic weapons through a federal property clearinghouse.

In the ruling — outlined in a July 26 letter faxed Friday to District Attorney Charles Scott and after a nearly five-month investigation — Inspector General Stephen Street, Jr. also said the weapons were legally obtained. But, Street continued, Assistant District attorneys Lea Hall and Hugo Holland acknowledged a portion of the application they prepared in acquisitioning M16 rifles from the Louisiana Federal Property Assistance Agency contained “inaccuracies.”

That section included a justification statement that the office recently had staffed a Special Investigations Section and that district attorney personnel regularly participated in high-risk surveillance and arrests with the Shreveport Police Department and Caddo Sheriff’s office. The investigation showed that both law enforcement agencies disavowed that information, and that given the opportunity Hall and Holland each said they would “word the justification differently.”

Street’s letter caps a tumultuous few months since Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator asked for an investigation into the legality and circumstances surrounding the DA’s acquisition of the weapons, which were delivered to the Caddo District Courthouse on Feb. 27. In the aftermath of the discovery, Prator revoked sheriff commissions authorizing certain DA workers to carry a firearm and make arrests. The sheriff has since issued limited commissions, only allowing serving of court papers such as subpoenas, to seven DA workers, Prator said.

“False information given to get automatic weapons that are not needed is inappropriate,” said Prator when asked about his reaction to the Inspector General’s letter. “This finding justifies what I originally contended — that they (the DA’s office) don’t need them and they shouldn’t have them.”

Scott said his office cooperated fully with the Inspector General’s investigators. The DA’s office would work to ensure the truthfulness and accuracy of all documents that leave the office as requested by the Inspector General, Scott said.

Higher Ed Roundup – 7/28/12

07/28/2012

LSU Alumni see leader in NPR reporter

Dallas firm chosen to lead search for LSU president

Letter: Moffett and Crain help schools

Hearing on Hakim v Gannett Continued

07/27/2012

Despite being listed in the 07/23/12 Civil Docket for the Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita parishes) District Court, a hearing on a “special motion to strike” in the case of Hakim v Gannett was not held this morning.

It turns out the judge in the case had earlier this month signed an order to upset and reset the hearing, but the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court neglected to show that change in the published court docket.

The new date and time is 9:30 AM, October 16, 2012, Ouachita parish court house.

See here the order, signed by Division A Judge Scott Leehy.

Eddie Hakim’s original suit claimed Gannett’s The (Monroe) News Star defamed him in their reports on the trial of former Monroe City Councilmen Arthur Gilmore and Robert “Red” Stevens.” Hakim was the prosecution’s chief witness against the two.

Last month, Gannett filed what is called an “anti-slapp” motion, which would if upheld require the plaintiff to prove a probability of success in his claim.

Attorneys in the case are Joe Guerriero, plaintiff, and William McNew, defendant.

Stringer Letter to Louisiana Attorney General

07/27/2012

July 17, 2012

The Honorable James D. Caldwell
Louisiana Attorney General

Mr. Caldwell,

I wanted to thank you on behalf of the Town of Jonesboro for finally moving forward with the process of the appointment of a Fiscal Administrator to the Town of Jonesboro. I have sat in court these last two days and observed your staff and they have represented your office and our state professionally, with dignity and honor.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you two facts Mr. Caldwell, one being the fact that we all know by now that the Sheriff of Jackson Parish, Andy Brown completed an investigation based on the Compliance Audit that was conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the evidence of his investigation was turned over to the District Attorney of the 2nd Judicial District-Mr. Jonathan Stewart. Mr. Stewart has promised on numerous occasions to recuse himself in order for yourself or your assistants to move forward with a Grand Jury review of the evidence in order to either indict or pass on this evidence. To date, July 17, 2012 that has never happened.

We now have another Financial Audit completed by an independent auditor that has more of the same issues that were found in the Compliance Audit coupled with the testimony of an employee, under oath, whose employment was terminated because she refused to do something contradictory to good government and ethical behavior. She approached the FBI, Mr. Stewart and Sheriff Andy Brown with this and additional information. To my understanding, the Troop F, Louisiana State Police conducted an investigation based on her information and provided that to Mr. Stewart as well.

Fact two, Mr. Caldwell, we all know there is an avenue by which you can move forward with the evidence at hand as the gentleman from the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association testified to that fact before the Louisiana Legislative Audit Committee over 1 year ago after I and others testified as to the issues that have plagued the Town of Jonesboro. We, the residents and taxpayers of the Town of Jonesboro, Jackson Parish and the State of Louisiana have waited very patiently for Mr. Stewart to act on the evidence, to put this to rest and give the people an answer, for better or worse, but we have nothing but the same non action promises.

Mr. Caldwell, we are asking for your assistance, we need help and most of all we need healing in our Town, and that can only come when the issues at hand are addressed so we can all move forward with trying to rebuild a Town that has been torn apart both financially and racially.

Will you please take this matter under advisement and help us try to restore the faith of the taxpaying citizens of the Parish, Town and State and bring hope to the hopeless situation we now face, the Town of Jonesboro, and appoint someone within your office to move forward and take over the duties necessary to move this case forward.

Thank you in advance and I do appreciate your review and hopefully your action in this matter.

I remain respectfully yours,

Ms. Renee Stringer
District B
Town of Jonesboro

Over $1/2 Million in Lincoln Parish Jail Repairs Needed, Report Claims

07/27/2012

There was good news and bad news at yesterday’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission. That body consists of Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone, Third Judicial District Attorney Bob Levy, Ruston Police Chief Steve Rogers, and Lincoln Parish Police Jurors Theresa Wyatt and Joe Henderson. The group is responsible for governance of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center.

Bad News

The bad news is that nearly $1/2 million in priority repairs, and another $200 thousand in other repairs are needed at the detention center, according to a report presented by warden Zack Crooks.

See here the report.

The priority repairs include new doors, locks, and associated controls; intercom and paging system replacement; and fire alarm system upgrades. The other items include air conditioning/heating controls, kitchen dishwasher, and laundry equipment. The State Fire Marshall is pressing for the alarm and door improvements, according to Crooks.

Said Crooks, “The Fire Marshall dictates what he wants to see. We take him to where he wants to go.”

Crooks also reported that of yesterday, 186 detainees were at the Lincoln jail, 16 were at Claiborne Parish Detention Center, and 112 at the Jackson Parish Detention Center.

Good News

The good news is that for so far this fiscal year, expenditures for the center are running under budget, while revenues are about on budget, according to police jury treasurer Bobby Gray.

See here the document.

The budget adopted at the end of last year covering the fiscal (and calendar) year 2012 called for expenditures of about $2.6 million. As of July 25, about $1 million has been spent, or about 39%.

Revenues were projected to be about $2.1 million for the year, and as of the 7/25 date, about $860 thousand had been collected. However, Gray noted that July sales tax collections had not been distributed and that when those monies come in, the revenues should be close to projections.

Said Gray, “If it goes according to what has been averaging, the revenue/expenditures would be virtually even to this point.”

Gray cautioned that the line item for housing adult prisoners, while under budget for the first quarter of the year, had been trending upward during the second quarter and may outpace revenues.

Discussion

During the discussion of reports, Stone said he wanted to commission a study of the jail’s operation, and that he would fund that study from his budget. Stone also allowed that he would consider taking over operation of the detention center, which is being staffed and operated by LaSalle Corrections. It is unclear how LaSalle’s contract, which is in force until 2018, could be terminated.

LaSalle is paid $29.54/day per inmate housed at the Lincoln jail.

Said Stone, “I would like to entertain a study – that the sheriff’s office would pay the entire study, I think we could do the study cheaper in house… This study will include the entire operation of the Lincoln Parish Detention Center.” He added, “It would include the option of the Sheriff taking the detention center back.”

Of note was the large contingent of police jurors at the meeting. Besides the two jury commission members, also there were Sharyon Mayfield, Skip Russell, Bobby Bennett, Ronnie Walker, Hazel Hunter, David Hammons, and Nancy Wilson. Several participated in the discussion, peppering the chairman (Stone) with questions during the 48 minute meeting.

Higher Ed Roundup – 7/26/12

07/26/2012

Southern University plans mix cuts, revenue boosts