Archive for June, 2013

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Monday

06/29/2013

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet Monday, July 1, 5:30 PM, Ouachita Parish Court House, second floor.

Here is the agenda.

Reporters Thrown Out of I-20 Meeting

06/27/2013

Three reporters were thrown out of a meeting of the Interstate 20 Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors at Monroe City Hall late this afternoon. Asked to leave were Zack Southwell, The (Monroe) News Star; Johnny Gunter, The Ouachita Citizen; and this reporter.

Also on hand was KNOE-TV8’s Jillian Corder, though not in the meeting room at the time.

Board Secretary Charles Pritchard said the entity was a “private corporation” and that only when taxpayer dollars were spent did the meetings have to be public.

Gunter noted that the corporation was entirely taxpayer funded and therefore all business was public. Gunter also told the board that they should note his objection to closing the meeting.

Only three members of the board showed up, so a quorum was never reached. However, the three members in attendance – Pritchard, Otis Chisley, and Mayor Jamie Mayo – proceeded to meet for 45 minutes about something.

See here the agenda.

The board normally has seven members, but three members were removed by Mayo three weeks ago. Adding to the mix was a lawsuit filed by Mayo that seeks to consolidate his stranglehold on board appointments.

Had a quorum been reached, agenda item 5 could have been voted upon. Reportedly, the firm up for the contract is a major contributor to Mayo’s mayoral campaign. It is unclear if the contract was put out for competitive bids.

After the secret meeting, board members told us that they discussed a change order on an existing project with RCH Engineering President Ron Haisty, Jr. They could not approve the change order without a quorum however.

See here the memos.

Another meeting of the board was set for next Tuesday (July 2), 5:00 PM, Monroe City Hall.

More on Jonesboro Meeting

06/27/2013

There were a couple of other notable items at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen, one that was tabled and another that was briefly discussed.

The tabled item concerned “tax incentives for local hotel.” Specifically, the Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corporation (GNLCDC) claims to be in negotiations to build a hotel in Jonesboro. GNLCDC President Herbert Simmons, Jr. wrote to ask the town to exempt the business from sales taxes for the first six years of operation.

See here the letter.

Also discussed was the upcoming Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA) annual convention in Monroe, set for early August.

Mayor Leslie Thompson said that he had made reservations for attendees at a hotel for the convention, but had not decided whether the attendees should stay in Monroe, or drive to the convention events.

KNOE-TV Reports I-20 Board Meeting Today

06/27/2013

There will be a meeting today of the secretive Interstate 20 Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors, KNOE-TV reported yesterday.

See here the news report.

Another source confirmed to us that the meeting is set for 5:00 PM today at Monroe City Hall.

Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) will cover the meeting.

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Port Allen, LA Update – 6/27/13

06/27/2013

Port Allen officials locked in budget impasse

PORT ALLEN — The City Council shot down a motion Wednesday night to publicly discuss Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter’s $9.7 million proposed spending plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but that didn’t stop officials from arguing about it anyway.

“I’m not going to put up with some of the stuff in the budget,” Councilman R.J. Loupe said during the special meeting of the council called to consider next year’s budget.

Loupe, along with Councilmen Hugh “Hootie” Riviere and Garry Hubble, voted against proceeding with the budget hearing. Council members Ray Helen Lawrence and Brandon Brown voted in favor of conducting the budget hearing.

The council majority’s decision not to discuss the budget came a day after all three joined in filing a lawsuit asserting Slaughter has been making illegal financial transactions with taxpayers’ money.

An 18th Judicial District Court judge scheduled arguments on the lawsuit for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Hubble and Riviere said they voted against holding the budget hearing because they had doubts the mayor properly introduced the proposed budget during the council’s last meeting, on June 12. They said the mayor’s spending plan should have included an appropriation ordinance.

Riviere said Slaughter also failed to present her budget proposal in time to meet a stipulation of the Louisiana Government Budget Act requiring a 15-day public review of the proposed budget before adoption.

“We were not provided with an ordinance until June 17, when it was sent to my home,” Riviere said. “How can it be considered introduced? I don’t want to do anything that could be construed as illegal.”

More on I-20 Hearing

06/26/2013

Today’s hearing in Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita Parishes) District Court in Monroe started off with plaintiff attorney Charles Kincaid trying to introduce new exhibits into evidence. After reviewing the documents with defense attorney Paul Hurd, the documents (mostly public records) were allowed.

Division K Judge Daniel Ellender then reviewed a timeline of the case since the original lawsuit was filed June 4.

Kincaide led off the arguments by saying that the Monroe City Council did not have the authority to enact a resolution that would prevent Mayor Jamie Mayo from removing the council’s appointees from the Interstate 20 Economic Development District Board of Directors.

Kincaid said the I-20 board is a private organization with its own set of bylaws and the council has no authority over how it can conduct business.

Hurd countered that Monroe’s City Charter did indeed grant the council authority over boards and commissions, and that they could limit the mayor’s authority.

Kincaid introduced a political component of the conflict, saying that District 1 Councilman Ray Armstong had run for mayor against Mayo last year. Ellender suggested that the hearing should not delve into politics.

However, later in the hearing, Ellender himself suggested that the conflict could have been avoided had the Mayor and Council “worked together” on mutually agreeable appointees.

Hurd brought up the fact that none of the I-20 board members save the mayor were a party to the suit, nor had they made any effort to intervene. He also argued that the council resolution in question (6069) did not violate any laws.

Monroe City Council Can Appoint I-20 Board Members, Judge Rules

06/26/2013

Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita Parishes) District Court Division K Judge Daniel Ellender ruled this afternoon that the Monroe City Council could make appointments to vacant positions to the Board of Directors of the Interstate 20 Economic Development District.

However, he also issued a temporary injunction against City Council Resolution 6069 until a trial can be held on the merits of the original lawsuit. That resolution would have prevented controversial Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo from removing the council’s appointments to the board.

The rulings were issued after a 1 1/2 hour hearing at the Ouachita Parish Court House in Monroe.

The original case is Mayo v Monroe City Council, filed earlier this month.

We will have additional details later on the substance of today’s hearing.

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Jonesboro FY 2013-2014 Budget Adopted

06/26/2013

The Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen at last night’s meeting adopted a Fiscal Year 2013-2014 budget on a 3-1-1 vote.

Voting yes were:

LaStevic Cottonham – Alderman-at-Large
Charla Mason-Melton – District C
Devin Flowers – District D

Voting no was:

Renee Stringer – District B

Abstaining was:

Sam Lamkin – District A

Lamkin explained that he abstained from voting on the budget because the Jackson Parish Coroner’s Office budget comes partly from the town’s budget. Lamkin said he had sought an attorney general’s opinion on the issue and was advised to abstain, as he is Chief Deputy Coroner.

Said Lamkin, “I’m doing strictly what the attorney general’s opinion was. He said do not vote for any budget that could in some way, form, shape, or fashion, or some legal words, that could end up with funds in the coroner’s office.”

The vote followed considerable discussion about further budget amendments that were sprung on the council at the last minute by Thompson. This has been the practice in the three years we’ve covered the town. Rarely do the council members see any financial numbers prior to arriving at the meeting where they are expected to vote on them. Last night, twelve line items were amended prior to adoption of the budget.

Surprise last-minute budget amendments was the subject of a lawsuit two years ago that found the mayor and council had acted illegally. The mayor unsuccessfully appealed the case all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The amendment vote was the same as that on the budget.

The “adopted budget” contains just over $200 thousand for the town’s police department.

We will have additional reporting on the meeting later.

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Port Allen, LA Update – 6/25/13

06/26/2013

3 Port Allen council members file lawsuit against mayor

PORT ALLEN — City Council members filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter, asking a state district judge to make a legal determination as to whether the council properly reduced the mayor’s salary by $20,000 a year when adopting its 2012-13 fiscal year budget.

Councilmen Hugh “Hootie” Riviere, R.J. Loupe and Garry Hubble also asked the 18th Judicial District Court to issue injunctions blocking the mayor from allegedly using unbudgeted funds to pay her legal bills, annual salary and benefits.

The lawsuit declares Slaughter’s actions have “exceeded well beyond the general powers of supervision and direction of administration of the municipality’s affairs. The City Council does not know what checks are being written, why they are being written, or whether the accounts against which they are being written have sufficient funds to cover the checks.”

Further, “The mayor has blocked access to the city’s financial information by those who have a right to and a need to know the information,” the suit says.

The councilmen also asked the court for a restraining order prohibiting Slaughter from continuing to deny city Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain access to the city’s financial accounts and banking transactions. Slaughter, who took office on Jan. 1, did not return calls Tuesday seeking comment.

The lawsuit was filed one day after the state Legislative Auditor’s Office released an audit report recommending the city seek a court ruling to resolve questions surrounding the mayor’s $84,960 annual salary.

Jonesboro Mayor Suggests New Taxes Needed

06/25/2013

The Town of Jonesboro’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson suggested at tonight’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen that the town should consider a new dedicated fire tax.

Said Thompson in closing comments, “We have to figure out some kind of way to increase our revenue source.” He added, “What I would suggest is that we put our heads together and start to figure out how we can get out and support a dedicated fire tax.”

We will have additional reporting tomorrow on the meeting.

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