Archive for May, 2014

St. Tammany DA Update – 5/28/14

05/29/2014

DA Walter Reed resigns as outside legal counsel for St. Tammany Parish Hospital

By Heather Nolan, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

St. Tammany Parish District Attorney Walter Reed has resigned as outside legal counsel for the publicly owned St. Tammany Parish Hospital, a position that paid him $30,000 annually.

The resignation comes less than two weeks after a NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News investigation raised questions about the lack of a written contract in the retainer agreement and the potential conflict of interest in having the parish’s top prosecutor work for the hospital.

St. Tammany Parish Hospital Board Chairman John Evans read a letter from Reed at the board’s monthly meeting Wednesday (May 28). In the letter, Reed referenced a telephone conversation he had with Evans on May 23 expressing his intention to resign.

Reed’s letter said his resignation was effective immediately, but he offered to “assist the board in a transition to new counsel at no cost to the board or hospital.”

Jonesboro Council Members Unhappy with Fiscal Administrator Law

05/28/2014

Last night’s meeting of the Town of Jonesboro’s Board of Aldermen heard a litany of complaints from some on the board about the fiscal administrator law, under which the town has been operating since last September. Jonesboro CPA Kenneth Folden was appointed as fiscal administrator at that time.

In 2012, a fiscal administrator (William Ryder) was appointed, but he resigned in frustration after several months on the job, citing non-cooperation by the town’s former mayor Leslie Thompson. The controversy over Ryder’s term as FA sparked the Louisiana Legislature to strengthen the law in 2013. The new provisions give the FA almost unlimited power to run the town, subject to court supervision.

Among the complaints that were voiced:

Charla Mason-Melton (District C) – “You’re (City Attorney Doug Stokes) making it seem like the fiscal administrator has all these powers, but in fact the BOARD has all these powers.”

Mason-Melton also said that Folden hasn’t been keeping the board informed, and that he’d been paid nearly $100 thousand since he came on board.

LaStevic Cottonham (Alderman-at-Large) – “This man’s (Folden) got the last say. Regardless of what the Constitution says, the Lawrason Act, regardless of what they say in Baton Rouge – in Jonesboro that’s the man. Is it legal? Is it right? Do we have to abide by it?”

“What we need to do is see if we can get the Attorney General, or somebody to come up when we have our meetings. Let them sit there and tell us it ain’t going like that.”

Devin Flowers (District D and Mayor Pro Tem) – “We’re the elected body, and when we want stuff done, we shouldn’t have to come to you (Folden). We should be able to to come straight to Doug (Stokes).”

The board members mused the possibility of hiring another city attorney, but realized that unless the FA approved, he wouldn’t be paid.

Sam Lamkin (District A) noted that other towns in North Louisiana (Richwood and Gibsland) have fiscal administrators, and that they have the last say in those towns.

Said Stokes, “The fiscal administrator’s power is the same as if you’re talking about the mayor’s power.” He added, “I’ve given you my opinion, and again I’ve often given advice that people don’t like. You can follow it or not follow it.”

Stokes noted that Folden reports to the court, and not the board. He also noted the history of how the present law came to be.

“The fiscal administrator assigns and reassigns duties for all city employees. That’s his power. You (the board) act only in an advisory capacity.”

District B’s Renee Stringer asked Folden if he had an exit strategy. She said that the new law gave the FA too much power.

Said Stringer, “I’ve made the statement early on, and I’ve even made the statement to Mr. Folden personally, this fiscal administrator law is too far reaching. It tramples on the Constitution and it tramples on the Lawrason Act.”

Stokes said that the latest expression of the legislative will controls.

The board attempted to resolve an issue regarding the minutes of March 26, and April 8, which have apparently not been transcribed. According to Stringer, several items weren’t included that should have been. Stokes said the council could make amendments as needed, and then approve them.

Mason-Melton asked Folden about a budget for the upcoming year, to which Folden replied he would present it at the next meeting.

There was also discussion about requesting an attorney general’s opinion on the conflicting laws.

Stokes noted that an AG opinion is advisory only, and not legally binding.

We will have more reporting later.

Booth: Double-Dipping @ Root of Ouachita Metro Narc Controversy

05/26/2014

Legendary Louisiana newsman Ken Booth last week has this item posted on his Facebook page:

It seems Monroe Police Corporal Reggie Brown may be at the heart of the decision by Police Chief Quentin Holmes to pull his department out of any further participation in the 31-year-old Metro Narcotics Agency in Ouachita Parish. That’s the Agency in which Monroe PD, The Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s office have pooled their resources to provide a joint task force to combat drugs and drug trafficking.

Highly credible sources said the reason Holmes pulled out of metro is because metro is investigating cpl Reggie Brown who has been assigned to Metro Narcotics. He has been accused of double dipping. Sources said Brown was working off duty (reportedly providing security for Civic Center events) while he was on the official books at Metro Narcotics.

Allegedly, at issue is up to 200 double-dipped hours. Brown also has served as Mayor Jamie Mayo’s driver. Brown was pulled out of Metro once before but before his replacement could be assigned to the special unit, the Chief was allegedly instructed to put Brown back at Metro. Now, after Metro has refused to end it’s reported investigation into the reputed double-dipping by the Corporal, the city yanked its participation in Metro.

Monroe City Council Tuesday

05/25/2014

The Monroe City Council will meet Tuesday, May 27, 6:00 PM, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway.

See here the agenda.

See here the council information packet.

Belton Addresses Residency, School Attendance Issues

05/23/2014

John Belton, a candidate for Third Judicial District Attorney, and his wife Alana, issued a statement today to dispel the rumor that they moved their son to West Monroe to play football.

The Belton’s have two children, Alexis and Jon Randall. Belton said that eight years ago when Alexis was at Ruston Junior High School, concerns about the 12-year-old student were brought to their attention. Based on those concerns and a medical doctor’s evaluation, a different educational format was recommended. After much research and prayer, the Beltons transferred her to another public school system, Ouachita Parish, which utilized the recommended format. Since keeping them together was in the children’s best interest, they also transferred Jon Randall, who was eight-years-old at the time.

“As an eight-year-old, Jon Randall was not recruited by West Monroe High School for football. Rather, he was entering the third grade and was more interested in trucks and dinosaurs. We did not know then that he would play high school football. We simply knew that we needed to get the help our daughter required,” John stated.

In making the decision to transfer their children, Belton ensured that they did it legally. They researched all of their options and resources. The transfer became a big financial sacrifice in that they had to purchase a second home but considered it worthwhile because this provided their daughter a chance to succeed while learning to deal with her condition.

Alexis has since graduated from West Monroe High School and attends college where she helped to bring Campus Crusade Ministry to her university. What was difficult and hard for her to discuss at 12 years of age has become her testimony about faith and accomplishment. As a member of Athletes in Action, she has traveled to Los Angeles and Africa sharing her testimony about how, through Christ, individuals can prevail despite any disability or personal obstacles.

“Those who are parents will understand that even though Alexis has graduated we allowed Jon Randall to remain in school in Ouachita Parish because of the relationships he has formed since the third grade,” Alana said. “However, we have continued to support and sponsor Lincoln Parish schools. If it were not for the concern and help of the Lincoln Parish teachers for Alexis she would not be the success she is today. And for that we are eternally grateful.”

John Belton says this statement will also answer the question of whether he is qualified to run as a candidate in the Third Judicial District.

“I would not be a candidate for D.A. if I did not meet the legal qualifications for that office. Having more than one home does not disqualify a candidate,” John said.

The Louisiana Constitution states in order to be eligible to hold the office of district attorney, the candidate must have been admitted to the practice of law for at least five years and have resided in the district for the two years before the election. [See La. Const., Art. V, Sec. 26(A)].

“I’ve been a career prosecutor for over 22 years and have lived and voted in Lincoln Parish since 1992. The Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor has confirmed, per letter, that my homestead exemption has been in Lincoln Parish since 1992. In addition, the Louisiana Secretary of State, who is in charge of elections, confirmed, per letter, that I have been a registered voter in Lincoln Parish since 1992,” John added.

Lafayette DA Update – 5/22/14

05/22/2014

Stutes urges Harson to debate

Former Assistant District Attorney Keith Stutes is calling on DA Mike Harson, Stutes’ longtime boss, to a series of debates throughout the 15th Judicial District (Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes).

In a press release issued Tuesday, Stutes says voters in the district deserve to hear and see the candidates face to face and side by side:

“The voters of Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion Parishes deserve a real discussion about how best to keep our communities safe, while upholding the law. I am calling for a minimum of two broadcast debates so that we can fully air the issues that impact the safety and prosperity of our families, businesses and communities. I am also available to any business and civic organization in the 15th JDC to speak, to listen, and to answer questions. I am issuing an open invitation to the DA to join me. The voters face an important choice that will affect the quality of life in our area for the next six years. They deserve the respect and courtesy of candidates who will face them frequently, openly and honestly.”

Lincoln Fire District Begins Hiring Process for New Chief

05/21/2014

The Lincoln Parish Fire District No. 1 voted last night to begin the process to hire a new chief for the department. Dennis Ford, who has been on sick leave for the past year, has applied for retirement. Since last October, retired Ruston Fire Department Chief Donny Watson has been the acting chief.

The process will begin with the department’s civil service board (Charlie Edwards, Dustin St. Andre, Dwight Anderson) requesting a information packet for testing from the state civil service board. Then, the district’s Board of Commissioners, along with the the civil service board, will specify qualifications for the job. After testing, interviews will be conducted.

The process is expected to last about six months. During the interim, Watson agreed to remain as temporary chief.

In reports, board member and Finance Committee Chair Bart Dugdale said the district’s finances were in line with budget projections.

Watson reported that the district’s maintenance program was progressing, and that one of the volunteers was doing thorough inspections on the trucks, and keeping him informed of needed repairs.

LA Alcohol Control Office Nixes Washington Street Jazz Club Liquor Permit

05/21/2014

The Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) has recommended denial of a Class A liquor permit for the Washington Street Jazz Club, Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) has learned. The establishment, located at 800 Washington Street, Monroe, is across the street from the Excellence Academy, which is a charter school.

An official of the ATC told LPNO that they had dispatched an agent yesterday to the location to take measurements, and that the club is indeed LESS than 300 feet from the school. Monroe’s code of ordinances dictates that establishments that serve alcohol must be situated 300 feet or more from a “…public playground or of a building used exclusively as a church or synagogue, public library, or school…”

Both local and state permits are required for a business to sell or serve alcohol or tobacco.

The club has been the subject of controversy since last August, when Mayor Jamie Mayo was spotted at the bar during a fundraising event for a Shreveport mayoral candidate.

Monroe Mayor Mayo Spotted at Illegal Bar

Last month, the Monroe City Council approved a license for the bar, despite nothing in writing certifying that the bar met distance requirements. The approval was on the verbal say-so of Planning and Urban Development Director Chris Fischer. Earlier measurements from the Tax & Revenue Department certified that the bar’s location was within the prohibited distance.

Washington Street Bar Licensed Without Paperwork

Monday’s OPPJ Meeting

05/20/2014

Last night’s meeting of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) lasted 27 minutes, perhaps a record in the five years we have been covering the body. We vividly recall meetings of three hours or more.

During the visitors part of the meeting, S. E. Huey’s Markly Huey addressed an ongoing project to produce flood maps for the Frenchman’s Bend subdivision. Huey said the proposed maps had been reviewed by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), and should be published soon.

On another flooding issue, the jury voted to retain Lazenby & Associates to develop cost estimates for projects in the Town & Country and Tanglewood subdivisions. The updated estimates would be used for grant applications.

Architect Tommy Hatten also appeared before the jury soliciting business on upcoming building projects.

LP Fire District Meeting Tonight

05/20/2014

The Board of Commissioners for the Lincoln Parish Fire Protection District No. 1 will meet tonight (5/20), 6:00 PM, Vienna Station, 4786 Highway 167.

Here is the agenda.