Archive for December, 2013

Secret Meeting Set for I-20 Board

12/31/2013

The first meeting of the controversial Interstate 20 Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors to be held since last May will have a secret session, according to an agenda for Thursday’s (1/2/14) 5 PM meeting at Monroe City Hall.

See here the agenda.

Among the items on the agenda for the “closed session” are:

  • Election of officers.
  • Selection of engineer to design I-20 Service Road Northeast, Garrett Rd. to Millhaven.
  • Funding for the Monroe Regional Air Terminal

Last May, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) filed a complaint with Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita Parishes) District Attorney Jerry Jones asking that he investigate whether the board’s meetings are subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law. Per LA RS 42:25, district attorneys are responsible for enforcing the provisions of that law.

To date, we’ve received no official response from the DA’s office. LPNO will cover Thursday’s meeting.

Advertisements

St. George, LA Update – 12/30/13

12/30/2013

The St. George People Could Get That School District For The Asking Now

By Jeff Sadow

Might the whole effort to create a new city in southern East Baton Rouge Parish really be just to overcome the last resistance now cracking to create a breakaway school district there?

From the beginning, organizers of the effort to create the city of St. George, which would be comprised of unincorporated land, have said this is a way to facilitate formation of a district separate from the East Baton Rouge Parish School District. Within the past couple of weeks, at a gathering of area leaders, a couple of them reiterated that very point.

Historically, the state never has had a school district that was not coterminous with the boundaries of a parish or municipality, and the last one to come to life, Central Community School System, did so only after the separate city of Central was formed. In order to have a separate district in education, the Legislature must enable it by statute, and the Constitution must be amended to provide a funding mechanism. On its second try earlier this year, the enabling legislation was passed, but it cannot operate until funded.

Organizers have taken some opponents at their word that if it takes a municipality to form district around (which would have different boundaries than the one already in law), then that’s what they’ll do. But now some opponents either are backtracking on this impression (among the state legislators of the bunch, many turning hypocrite after having voted for the district’s formation) or revealing that they opposed the district idea all along, stating that city creation will not influence their views on the school district. This includes state legislators with votes here more crucial than ever given the two-thirds requirement in the Legislature to put up an amendment; the last attempt fell 12 votes short of the supermajority requirement in the House of Representatives.

Yet in doing so, they follow and old political maxim that political forces by their rhetoric and actions tell us what they really fear: in this case, the incorporation more than the new district in that they insist incorporation won’t get supporters closer to having a district. If they did not fear the new city more than the new district, there would be no reason for them to telegraph the way they would vote on the district.

More on Monroe City Council

12/29/2013

There was quite a bit of discussion at last Monday’s meeting of the Monroe City Council about a proposal by Louisiana House District 17’s Marcus Hunter (D, Monroe) that would mandate a $10/hour minimum wage for people employed within the city limits of Monroe. A resolution supporting the proposed legislation was passed on a 3-2 vote, after a presentation by Hunter.

See here the resolution.

Voting yes: Betty Blakes (District 3), Kenneth Wilson (District 4), Eddie Clark (District 5).

Voting no: Ray Armstrong (District 1), Gretchen Ezernack (District 2).

The proposed legislation likely would never make it out of a Senate or House committee, let alone pass either chamber of the Louisiana Legislature.

Also, the council appointed four members to the controversial Interstate 20 Economic Development District Board of Directors.

Appointed to represent the council was Eddie Clark. Blakes appointed Charles Theus, Wilson appointed Rowena Sledge, and Armstrong appointed Johnny Bryant.

Mayor Mayo said he would again not approve the appointment of Clark or Theus.

The I-20 board is set to meet Thursday (1/2/14) afternoon at 5 PM. As soon as we get an agenda, we will post it.

St. George, LA Update – 12/29/13

12/29/2013

St. George debate: Will creating a city help the schools break away?

By Charles Lussier
clussier@theadvocate.com

Supporters of forming the new city of St. George launched the effort last summer arguing it would serve as the catalyst to finally allow residents of the area to break away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system and form their own school district.

But whether a new city would make forming a new St. George school district easier is far from clear.

The key unanswered question is, how does it help supporters gain, or avoid the need for, a two-thirds majority in both the Louisiana Senate, and even more difficult, the Louisiana House? That’s the threshold for calling a statewide referendum to amend the state Constitution and add the St. George school district to that document. Baker, Central and Zachary all went that route to gain their independence from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

If a two-thirds majority vote is still necessary, voters could successfully create a city of St. George and yet fail to break the legislative impasse that has thus far stymied efforts to form an independent school district in southeast Baton Rouge.

Mayo Goes Off on Buses, Council Shutters Bar

12/26/2013

Controversial Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo launched into one of his patented rants at Monday night’s meeting of the Monroe City Council, accusing the council of “lies” about the ongoing issues concerning the Monroe Transit Authority.

Also, the council voted 3-1, with one abstention to not renew the Class A liquor license for the Sixth Street Saloon.

During opening comments, Mayo said that the vote by the council at the 12/10/13 meeting to not renew the transit management contract with First Transit of Cincinnati, OH, was “irresponsible.”

Mayo also claimed that the council had not communicated with him concerning alleged problems with the management company, but that they did have the right to approve/disapprove their contract.

Said Mayo, “The only problem was it was an irresponsible vote, because there was no communication whatsoever, that I’m aware of, with the administration concerning that.”

He added, “When you say that the administration ignore people, that is a flat out lie!” “We have a council that is trying to create a kingdom for themselves.”

Mayo’s tirade followed council comments earlier that touched on the transit issue.

District 1’s Ray Armstrong said that transit workers (who are city employees) had problems with First Transit and complained at council meetings, but that First Transit would not respond. The workers also claimed the buses weren’t being maintained.

There were proposals from four other firms to manage the bus system, Armstrong claimed.

Said Amstrong, “There were four other applications for the job, and we only turned down one.”

District 3’s Betty Blakes noted that they didn’t vote to do away with public transportation, just the management company.

Said Blakes, “We voted not to get rid of the transit system – what we voted was to get rid of the managing company.”

The liquor license renewal vote followed comments from a couple of citizens who lived in the area, and also comments from the bar’s owner and an employee.

Among the citizen complaints was noise and gunfire at the establishment.

Monroe Police Department (MPD) Chief Quentin Holmes said the gunfire was an “accidental discharge” that happened last summer.

The owner said he was doing all that he could to control the noise, and that he was trying to be a good corporate citizen.

Voting not to renew the license was Armstrong, Gretchen Ezernack (District 2), and Kenneth Wilson (District 4). Blakes abstained and Eddie Clark (District 5) voted yes to the renewal.

The rest of the license renewals for classes A, B, C, D, F, and G – about 65 total – were renewed.

See here the memo.

More reporting later.

Port Allen, LA Update – 12/25/13

12/25/2013

Port Allen City Council sets January budget hearing

By Terry L. Jones
tjones@theadvocate.com

PORT ALLEN — City leaders took a step toward Port Allen’s financial stability Monday night by setting a budget hearing in January where interim Mayor Lynn Robertson expects the City Council to finally adopt a 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

But before the City Council entertained a vote to introduce the new spending plan, it had to relive its contentious time with former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter through the presentation of an audit report for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed Robertson to serve as interim mayor on Dec. 17 after the City Council failed to reach a consensus on the appointment within its 20-day deadline.

Robertson and the City Council were told during a special meeting Monday the city would be cited for several internal issues in its annual audit, which will be presented to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor for final approval next month.

In the report, auditors said approximately $25,000 worth in past due fees for customer utility accounts were not collected in the 2012-13 budget year due to a software glitch in the city’s new billing system.

Auditors said Monday night the problem has already been addressed by the current administration.

But auditors panned Slaughter and the City Council for not properly amending the 2012 budget when the mayor’s annual salary and car allowance exceeded authorized amounts.

The audit report cites the council for not following the July 2 ruling from a state district court judge requiring the council to amend its 2012-13 budget to reflect the higher salary amount. The report criticizes Slaughter as well for not seeking court approval to collect the $84,000 salary.

According to the audit report, the city also violated “specific technical requirements” of its bond covenants and failed to comply with its own personnel hiring procedures.

In a letter presented to the council Monday, auditors also suggested the City Council review all the legal bills paid to attorneys Slaughter hired to represent her in several lawsuits when she served as mayor.

The letter suggests the council determine whether it will force Slaughter to pay the city back for her legal expenses.

Lastly, auditors slammed the city for not adopting a 2013-14 fiscal year budget by June 30 — the end of the 2012-13 budget year.

The council took strides Monday night to remedy the issue by unanimously adopting an ordinance introducing another proposed spending plan for 2014.

St. George, LA Update – 12/25/13

12/25/2013

Threat of legal action looms over St. George effort

By Rebekah Allen
rallen@theadvocate.com

Although the fate of the city of St. George would appear to rest with voters who live within its boundaries, the threat of legal action looms as a potential wild card.

Opponents such as Metro Councilman John Delgado say a court challenge is certain to be filed if voters in St. George approve the proposal to incorporate a new city.

Delgado, a lawyer, said he does not intend to stand idly by as St. George attempts to lay claim to tax dollars that fund the parish. He said he will file a lawsuit himself “in the incredibly unlikely event that (St. George voters) are both able to get the signatures to put the matter on the ballot and convince the majority of people to incorporate St. George.”

Lionel Rainey, a St. George spokesman, said the officials with the group working toward creating a new city have researched potential legal challenges to the incorporation and feel confident that a judge would ultimately rule in their favor.

More on Gibsland, LA

12/24/2013

KSLA-TV12
Gibsland mayor arrested, charged with malfeasance in office

KTBS-TV3
Mayor of Gibsland arrested on 5 counts of Malfeasance in Office

Gibsland mayor arrested for malfeasance

12/23/2013

Mayor Odell Key accused of numerous violations of state law

Written by Vickie Welborn

GIBSLAND — An investigation that’s been ongoing for more than a year in the financially-troubled town of Gibsland took a turn today with the arrest of Mayor Odell Key.

Key, 73, surrendered to Bienville Parish sheriff’s investigators shortly before noon and was booked into the Bienville Parish Jail on five counts of malfeasance in office. Bond is set at $50,000.

Investigators have attempted for weeks to question Key about discrepancies in the town’s finances. However, he failed to show up for interviews.

The decision was made to serve the arrest warrants rather than wait for a grand jury to hear evidence uncovered since the probe began in June 2012.

Bienville Parish Sheriff John Ballance said the investigation was “long and drawn out,” mostly because of all of the agencies involved and the coordination it took gathering information needed to pursue the appropriate charges.

St. George, LA Update

12/22/2013

No clear leader for St. George opposition

BY Elizabeth crisp
ecrisp@theadvocate.com

For the past four months, supporters of an effort to create an affluent new city in the southern unincorporated area of East Baton Rouge Parish have organized and built a support base.

The St. George campaign has a sleek, regularly updated website and regularly engages critics and supporters through its social media accounts. Volunteers set up tables throughout the community on weekends to build awareness and urge people to sign petitions necessary to put incorporation to a vote. They canvass their neighborhoods, petitions in hand, passing out stickers and yard signs that proclaim “I’m IN.”

Standing on the sidelines for much of the fight so far, opponents are taking notice. But a clear figurehead for the anti-St. George movement has yet to emerge.

Metro Councilman John Delgado, who has become a vocal opponent of St. George despite no formal role as the opposition’s leader, said St. George supporters have had an advantage of being “the only voice in the argument” since they began circulating petitions in September.