Archive for January, 2014

Louisiana Senate: Cassidy (R) 44%, Landrieu (D) 40%

01/30/2014

Rassmussen Reports

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu runs slightly behind Republican challenger Bill Cassidy in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Louisiana.

A new statewide telephone survey of Likely Louisiana Voters finds Cassidy, a U.S. congressman, with 44% support to Landrieu’s 40%. Five percent (5%) like some other candidate in the race, while 11% are undecided.

The survey of 500 Likely Voters in Louisiana was conducted on January 28-29, 2014 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.

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Lafayette DA Update – 1/30/14

01/30/2014

DWI bribery suit may affect other Lafayette DWI cases

Allegations include bribery scheme

By Richard Burgess
rburgess@theadvocate.com

LAFAYETTE — A lawsuit filed this week will likely dig into the details of a scheme at the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office where bribes were paid for favorable treatment in DWI cases.

Three former employees of the District Attorney’s Office have already pleaded guilty in a federal probe of the scheme.

The lawsuit now questions the legitimacy of DWI guilty pleas that Lafayette attorney Barry Sallinger contends are tainted because they were arranged by a man who is not an attorney and who instead doled out cash to secure plea deals for his clients.

Sallinger is representing 24-year-old Ryan Dean Stelly, who claims in the lawsuit to have paid Lafayette private investigator Robert Williamson $5,000 in 2010 in exchange for arranging a plea deal for a first-offense DWI.

Stelly has since been arrested on another DWI charge and now faces a more severe penalty if convicted of a second offense.

But Sallinger argues in the lawsuit that the first-offense plea should be thrown out because it was not negotiated by an attorney, effectively denying Stelly his constitutional right to legal counsel and raising questions about whether he lost an opportunity to challenge the evidence against him.

Stelly was an “unwitting participant” in the bribery scheme, believing that Williamson “was acting with the full cooperation and approval of DA Mike Harson” and that the $5,000 was simply a legitimate fee, according to the lawsuit.

Harson said Wednesday that he believes the plea deal, even if it were secured by bribing his employees, will be upheld and that similar plea deals had been offered to other defendants who were not aided by Williamson.

The lack of an attorney being present during the negotiations should not make a difference if someone knowingly waived his or her right to counsel, Harson said.

Harson has not been implicated in the case, but federal prosecutors wrote in court filings that the scheme was carried out without his knowledge because of a “lack of oversight and safeguards.”

North Monroe Zoning Change Deferred

01/29/2014

A proposed ordinance that would have changed the designation of properties located at 2513 and 2515 Broadmoor Boulevard from B-2 (Neighborhood Business District) to R-MD (Medium Density Residential District) was removed from the agenda at last night’s meeting of the Monroe City Council.

See here the ordinance.

The city’s Zoning Commission had recommended the change at a meeting last December.

See here the recommendation.

According to sources, changes to the city’s zoning ordinances adopted at the 11/12/13 meeting would allow the proposed construction outright, and wouldn’t require a zoning change for that specific property. See here the final draft of the new zoning ordinance.

Sampco, LLC/Greg Sampognaro intends to construct an apartment complex on the property.

The council approved $5 thousand for the upcoming Lions Club State Convention, set for April 25-27 in West Monroe.

See here the resolution.

The council approved a contract with Onyx Advertising, LLC, for advertising the Monroe Regional Airport, but only after the contract terms were modified. Originally, the contract was for three years, with an automatic nine-year renewal, but the council opted to delete the renewal language.

Finally, there was a bit of animated discussion over the language of a grant application form for Monroe Transit.

Listed on the application forms was Marc Keenan, an employee of First Transit, the system’s contract operator. The council recently chose not to approve a renewal of First Transit’s contract.

City Attorney Nanci Summersgill agreed to redo the applications with Public Works Director Tom Janway as the contact, instead of Keenan.

Council President Eddie Clark (District Five) explained the disagreement thus: “Why would we vote to pay First Transit, who we voted not to renew their contract in November of 2013? Why not just change the contact person to put everybody at ease, instead of trying to get in the back door what you couldn’t get in the front door, just change the contact person?”

Monroe City & Ouachita Parish Schools are Closed Today – Why?

01/29/2014

UPDATE: Winter Weather Closures for Tuesday Night and Wednesday

Monroe City Schools-Closed on Wednesday
Ouachita Parish Public Schools-Closed on Wednesday

What about the people who pay the taxes? Do they get a day off, or do they dress warm and head out this morning to their jobs?

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Committee Assignments

01/28/2014

Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) President Hazel Hunter (District Two) has released the jury’s committee assignments for 2014.

See here the list.

Drew Aparments Mortgage Holder Had Filed Foreclosure Prior to Bankruptcy

01/27/2014

LSREF2 Baron, LLC, the holder of a mortgage on Drew Properties of Ruston, LLC, had filed a foreclosure suit against the property and its owner Doris Andrew in October of 2012, a month prior to the company’s bankruptcy filing.

See here the document.

Several apartments (located at 620 Henderson Street, Ruston) suffered extensive fire damage earlier this month, and last Thursday the entire complex was shuttered by the state fire marshal because of faulty heating equipment. Almost a hundred people were displaced, it has been reported.

Additional court documents indicate that permission has been granted by the bankruptcy court allowing Baron to sue Andrew individually. See here the documents:


Motion to Reopen

Motion for Clerk’s Entry of Default
Notice of Entry of Default
Order

St. George, LA Update – 1/27/14

01/27/2014

St. George event raises $18,750

By Rebekah Allen
rallen@theadvocate.com

More than 150 people attended the first city of St. George fundraiser Sunday evening, generating at least $18,750 for the campaign to incorporate a new city in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Lionel Rainey, a spokesman for the St. George effort, said every dollar raised goes into the campaign to aid in the group’s first hurdle of collecting at least 18,000 signatures from registered voters to put incorporation to a vote.

Earlier in January, he said they had about 10,000 signatures, but the number cannot be validated because St. George leaders never made the lists of signatures public and there is no legal requirement for the group to disclose its signature counts.

If the St. George proposition is placed on the ballot, only those living within its boundaries can vote.

The money raised will be used for buying signs, brochures and Facebook advertisements.

Eventually, Rainey said, the group may engage a firm to help promote the effort and conduct polling.

Rainey said more fundraisers likely will be held because he believes opponents representing the city of Baton Rouge are quietly raising money to finance an aggressive campaign against the St. George effort.

Monroe City Council Meets Tuesday

01/26/2014

The Monroe City Council will meet Tuesday, January 28, 6:00 PM, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway.

Here is the agenda.

Lafayette DA Update – 1/24/14

01/26/2014

Harson dispels ‘rumors,’ saying he’s all in

In a recent letter (the one forwarded to The IND was not dated) that begins “Dear Supporter,” 15th Judicial District Attorney Mike Harson aims to dispel any “rumors” that he will not seek re-election. The DA, however, does not once mention what’s driving the speculation that he won’t run for a fifth term this year: His former longtime administration, Barna Haynes, was a central figure in a bribery scheme that went on for years within earshot of his office.

Haynes has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, while the alleged mastermind, Robert Williamson, is set for trial March 10. He is charged with six counts of bribery “for operating a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with state violations of operating while intoxicated,” one count of conspiracy, one count of Social Security fraud and one count of making false statements to federal agents. He pleaded not guilty.

Before Williamson was indicted Feb. 28, four others involved in the scheme pleaded guilty. Like Haynes, they are awaiting sentencing.

Harson’s only announced opposition so far is his former lead prosecutor, Keith Stutes, whose biggest case was the effectively orchestrated prosecution of Brandon Scott Lavergne for the murders of Mickey Shunick in May 2012 and Lisa Pate in 1999. In August 2012, Lavergne was sentence to life at Angola.

Condemned Ruston Apartments Owned by Bankrupt Monroe Company, Documents Show

01/24/2014

The tax rolls of the Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor’s Office indicate the owner of a recently burned Ruston apartment complex is a Monroe, LA based company, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) has learned. Drew Properties of Ruston, LLC, 104 Silver Drive, Monroe, LA 71203 is listed as the owner of the property located at 620 Henderson Street, Ruston.

See here the document.

Also, Drew is currently operating under Chapter 11 of the U. S. Bankruptcy Code, and last December filed a motion asking the bankruptcy court for permission to auction off the property and satisfy the creditor’s claims. Listed as holding the mortgage is LSREF2 Baron, LLC, Dallas, TX. Here are the documents:

Voluntary Petition for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Order Confirming Chapter 11 Plan
July 2013 Operating Report
Motion to Sell Real Property of Debtor
Limited Objection to Motion to Sell Property of the Debtor

Attorney for the debtor is Bradley Drell, of Alexandria law firm Gold, Weems, Bruser, Sues & Rundell.

Several apartments suffered extensive fire damage earlier this month, and yesterday the entire complex was shuttered by the state fire marshal because of “conditions found to exist that are especially liable to fire or dangerous to life.” According to media reports, nearly 100 tenants were displaced.

The Lousiana Secretary of State’s website of companies show Drew’s status as “inactive,” and list the Monroe address as both the domicile and mailing address for the company.

See here the document.

The company manager is listed as Doris Faust Andrew.

Local property taxes were paid for tax year 2013, according to the records of the Lincoln Parish Tax Collector’s Office. See here the documents:

2013 Tax Receipt