Archive for September, 2015

Garriga Candidacy for LPPJ District Six Upheld by 2nd Circuit

09/30/2015

A challenge to the candidacy of Chris “Moose” Garriga for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) District Six slot was defeated today on appeal to the Louisiana Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

See here the ruling.

Writing for a five-judge panel, Judge Harmon Drew, Jr. said:

“…the candidate presented evidence through his own testimony that he genuinely believed that he did not owe the late fee based upon his conversations with employees of the Board of Ethics itself. Garriga submitted proof that he filed, albeit untimely, the required financial disclosure statement for 2012, and that he followed the instructions he received from the Board about how to obtain a waiver of the late fee.”

Last week, Third Judicial District (Lincoln, Union Parishes) Division B Judge Tommy Rodgers ruled in Garriga’s favor. The Louisiana Board of Ethics (BOE), who had originally challenged Garriga’s candidacy, appealed to the 2nd Circuit.

The BOE challenge centered around Garriga’s alleged failure to file a financial disclosure statement, and his assertion on the notice of candidacy that he owed no outstanding fines.

Garriga had recently served on the Lincoln Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, for which he was required to file an annual financial disclosure statement.

Both courts ruled the failure to timely file the disclosure for 2012 was not willful, and was but a mistake. It was brought out in testimony that he had properly filed several other financial disclosures as required.

Garriga’s attorney was Kyle Green.

Update on Senate 35 Race

09/30/2015

The Stewart Cathey Arrest Kerfuffle
By Scott McKay

One of the more interesting state legislative races in this current cycle is going on in Monroe, where the Senate seat left open by Bob Kostelka getting termed out is turning into a hot insider-vs-outsider campaign.

The insider is Jim Fannin, the state representative from Jonesboro and a friend of Kostelka’s (the incumbent is endorsing Fannin and supporting him heavily). Fannin, who has served as the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for the last several years, is at something of a geographical disadvantage. District 35, the Senate district in question, is made up largely out of the “nice” areas of Monroe but stretches to the south down to just north of Alexandria and west into Ruston. Fannin has a huge campaign war chest; after spending $115,000 over the last reporting period he still has some $450,000 left to spend.

And the outsider is Stewart Cathey, Jr., an IT management consultant and retired Army captain who served six years in Afghanistan. Cathey bills himself as the conservative in the race and has been passionate in his criticism of Fannin’s management of the state’s fisc as Appropriations chair. Cathey has about $50,000 left in the bank, almost all of that being his own money, and he’s spent some $85,000 so far.

As one might imagine, the race has become contentious, and there are polls indicating it could go either way.

Read the complete article here.

North Hodge Audit Has Several Significant Findings

09/28/2015

The Village of North Hodge’s latest audit for the fiscal year ended 9/30/2014 has several significant findings.

2014-4. Supporting Documentation Not Available.
Village employees were unable to find all supporting documentation for fines and forfeitures revenue and for water and sewer billings.

2014-7 Questionable Purchases.
From April 17, 2013, to September 4, 2014, Village of North Hodge officials and employees purchased equipment, supplies, and other items totaling $9,207 not necessary for Village operations.

2014-8 Village Employees Paid Excess Wages.
From October 19, 2012, to August 22, 2014, former excess wages paid through unauthorized
pay increases totaling $6,722. In addition, former Village Clerk Patricia Tapp may have violated state law by holding incompatible offices (Village clerk and police officer).

2014-9 Questionable Travel Expenses.
From January 2014 to July 2014, Village police department employees incurred travel expenses totaling $998 for which there appears to be no public purpose.

See here the complete report.

In last fall’s elections, Kathy Robertson defeated Geraldine Causey, who had been mayor since 2003.

It is notable that North Hodge received over half of the village’s FY 2014 total revenues (about $206 thousand) from fines and forfeitures (about $118 thousand).

Area School Residency Requirements Not Equally Enforced

09/28/2015

While Jackson Parish Schools students must go to school in the district where their parents or guardians reside, it appears that at least one West Monroe HS student’s high profile parents don’t have to follow the law.

See here U. S. District Judge Robert James’ order that directs Jackson Parish students to attend schools in their attendance zones.

Order of Modification

From the document:

Address Verification

a. All students. In addition to completing the Residency Form, students seeking to enroll or to continue enrollment in the District schools for school year 2015-2016, or for the first time at any time thereafter, must provide at least two (2) of the items listed below as verification of the student’s address. The submitted documents must show the location by street address of the residence of the parent, legal guardian, foster care parent, or non-parents (as applicable) where the child maintains his or her primary residence.
• Current valid driver’s license or state ID showing a residential street address (not a post office box)
• Current property tax records
• Current mortgage documents or property deed
• In cases of apartment or home lease, a notarized statement from the property owner/lessor identifying himself/herself as the property owner/lessor, describing the property, and the term of the lease, identifying the lease-holder
• Current rent payment receipt or copy of money order made for payment of rent showing residence address
• Current valid automobile registration showing residence address
• Current telephone or utility bill showing residence address
• Current voter identification card showing residence address
• Notarized affidavit verifying residence (street) address

However, Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Attorney John Belton claims a Lincoln Parish address as his primary residence, but his son John Randall attends West Monroe HS. Both Belton and his wife Alana are registered Lincoln Parish voters.

See here from the LA Secretary of State website:

John F. K. Belton
Alana Gilbert Belton

Belton’s latest financial disclosure statement lists his address as 138 Griffin Road, Ruston. The Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor website confirms property at that location belonging to John and Alana Belton, and that is homestead exempt. See here the documents:

Financial Disclosure (2015)
Lincoln Parish Tax Records (2015)

According to Louisiana’s Election Law, LA RS RS 18:101:

B. For purposes of the laws governing voter registration and voting, “resident” means a citizen who resides in this state and in the parish, municipality, if any, and precinct in which he offers to register and vote, with an intention to reside there indefinitely. If a citizen resides at more than one place in the state with an intention to reside there indefinitely, he may register and vote only at one of the places at which he resides. If a person claims a homestead exemption, pursuant to Article VII, Section 20 of the Constitution of Louisiana, on one of the residences, he shall register and vote in the precinct in which that residence is located, except that a person who resides in a nursing home as defined in R.S. 40:2009.2 or in a veterans’ home operated by the state or federal government may register and vote at the address where the nursing home or veterans’ home is located. For purposes of voter registration and voting, the residence of a married woman shall be determined in the same manner as is required for any other citizen. A citizen of this state shall not be or remain registered or vote in more than one place of residence at any one time.

Lincoln Parish School’s Student Assignment Policy says this:

VERIFICATION OF RESIDENCE

The School Board shall require verification of residence of those students whose residence is suspected to be outside the attendance zone of the school the student is attending. When investigating the residence of a student, the School Board shall attempt to verify the primary place of residence of the legal parent or legal guardian. Such verification of residence shall be based on such items as the following:

1. Voter registration card of parent or guardian, or
2. Property tax statement of parent or guardian showing homestead exemption, or
3. Certified copy of any judicially ordered tutorship, custody or guardianship of any minor child student not domiciled or in the custody of their natural and/or legal parents. Verification of the physical residency of the legal custodian, tutor/tutrix or non-parent shall also be required, or
4. Any other documentation as may be stipulated by the Board.

Apparently Belton uses a West Monroe address for purposes of school attendance. See here the document:

115 Creole Lane, West Monroe, LA 71291

Ouachita Parish Schools Student Assignment Policy says this:

Each student shall have only one residence (domicile) which is determined to be the place where he/she predominantly sleeps, takes meals, and maintains personal belongings. To establish domicile in the Ouachita Parish School District, a parent or legal custodian must present sufficient information which supports both that the parent, legal custodian, or caregiver is actually domiciled within the Ouachita Parish School Board jurisdictional school boundaries, and confirm that the child under his or her care, custody and/or control is actually domiciled with that parent or legal custodian.

See here the document.

Lafayette’s “Secret Cajun Man” Gets Six Years in Jail

09/25/2015

Recall the scandal at the Lafayette District Attorney’s office three years ago that cost incumbent DA Mike Harson his job last year?

Robert Williamson, the Lafayette private investigator who billed himself as “Secret Cajun Man” was sentenced to 78 months in prison for his role in a pay-for-plea scheme involving mostly DWI citations.

Private Investigator Williamson Sentenced to 78 Months in Prison on Charges in Bribery Case

LAFAYETTE, LA—United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that private investigator Robert Williamson was sentenced to 78 months in prison on charges related to his role in a pay-for-plea scheme that garnered favorable treatment for defendants charged with OWI and various state crimes. Williamson, 67, of Lafayette, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote on one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery and one count of Social Security fraud. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $77,677.20 in restitution. According to the June 8, 2015 guilty plea, Williamson, who is not licensed to practice law, was part of a conspiracy from March 2008 to February 2012 that solicited thousands of dollars from individuals with pending criminal charges in the 15th Judicial District. Williamson promised favorable resolutions to pending felony and misdemeanor cases, the majority of which were OWI cases.

Williamson paid bribes in cash and other things of value to personnel within the District Attorney’s Office for the 15th Judicial District and employees with other organizations associated with the OWI program, including Acadiana Outreach. Williamson also obtained false and fraudulent certifications from Acadiana Outreach, which certified that his clients completed court-ordered community service, when in fact the individuals had not. Williamson would obtain fraudulent driver safety training certificates showing that Williamson’s “clients” completed court-mandated driver improvement programs when they had not. Some of those monies were for fines, penalties and other expenses. During the course of the scheme, Williamson also received approximately $77,677.20 from the Social Security Administration that he was not entitled to receive.

“The public good was circumvented by the greed and lies perpetrated by Williamson and his associates,” Finley stated. “People who should have been dissuaded from drunk driving by receiving jail time and other penalties were instead given a pass to endanger lives again and again. The damage that this conspiracy has wrought cannot be quantified. We hope that this sentence brings an end to this type of practice and serves as a warning to anyone who would try to conduct a similar scam and circumvent the legal process.”

Co-defendants Barna D. Haynes, 61; Greg Williams, 47; and Sandra Degeyter, 64, all of Lafayette, were sentenced July 10, 2015 by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Co-defendants Denease Curry, 49, of Broussard, and Elaine Crump, 62, of Lafayette, were also sentenced by Foote July 10, 2015 on one count of misprision of a felony for failure to report bribes offered and received by employees of the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Haynes received one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. Williams, Degeyter, Curry and Crump received two years of probation. Additionally, Williams and Degeyter were sentenced to six months of home confinement. Hanyes, Williams and Curry are former employees of the District Attorney’s Office. Degeyter and Crump are former employees of Acadiana Outreach.

The FBI and the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Luke Walker and Robert C. Abendroth prosecuted the case.

Cathey: “…this situation is exactly why I’m running”

09/25/2015
Stuart Cathey, Jr. presser outside Monroe PD - 9/24/15

Stewarrt Cathey, Jr. presser outside Monroe PD – 9/24/15

Louisiana State Senate District 35 candidate Stewart Cathey, Jr was arrested yesterday and released on bond for a six year old seatbelt violation that occurred just days before his deployment to Afghanistan.

On our way to cover the I-20 board meeting at Monroe City Hall, we saw the TV cameras covering Cathey’s presser in front of the Monroe Police Department after his booking.

KNOE-TV8 – State senate candidate Stewart Cathey, Jr. arrested for seatbelt violation, Current senator responds

KTVE-TV10 – Cathey Says Arrest Politically Motivated

Campaign Manager Hannah Livingston told us that when he found out about the outstanding ticket on 9/11/15 he tried to pay up, but that: “they insisted that he be arrested and bond out of jail today. This is career politicians at work.”

I-20 Board Meeting Tomorrow

09/23/2015

The Interstate 20 Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors will meet Thursday, September 24, 4:00 PM, Monroe City Hall, 400 Lea Joyner Expressway.

Here is the agenda.

New Ouachita Animal Shelter Estimated Tab – $3 Million

09/22/2015

A new animal shelter facility for Ouachita Parish could cost about $3 million, architect Bill Land told last night’s meeting of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ).

Said Land, “I will say that we will have an estimated construction cost of somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million.”

Land said they had finalized a floor plan after touring other facilities in the region, and consulting with the parish’s Animal Control Officer, staff and volunteers.

Operation of the present facility is funded by a 1/4 mil parish-wide property tax that brings in a little less than $250 thousand/year.

Also addressing the jury was Rita Tucker, a volunteer at the shelter. About two dozen other interested citizens were in the audience.

Tucker suggested that the jury consider calling a tax election to fund the new construction, but jurors were cool to the idea.

Pat Moore (District F) and Mack Calhoun (District B) both noted that the parish’s roads needed much work, and funding for that need would take precedence over an animal shelter.

The jury will review Land’s preliminary plan when submitted within the next few weeks.

After the jury meeting, there was a meeting of the Finance Committee to review and approve budgets for 2016.

See here the agenda.

Most notable was the administrative fund budget, from which is paid salary and benefits for administrators and staff.

A 2% cost of living adjustment was funded for 2016.

See here the documents.

Former DeSoto DA Pleads Guilty to Tax Rap

09/22/2015

Richard Johnson Jr. pleads guilty to filing a false tax return

SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that Richard Z. Johnson Jr. pleaded guilty to filing a false federal income tax return.

Johnson, 58, of Mansfield, La., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. to a one count bill of information charging him with making or subscribing a false tax return. According to the guilty plea, Johnson reported a total income of $126,197 on his 2011 U.S. individual tax return but willfully failed to report additional income in the amount of $78,717.

Johnson faces up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and restitution of taxes owed to the U.S. Treasury. A sentencing date of February 17, 2016 was set.

The IRS conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Flanagan and Seth D. Reeg are prosecuting the case.

Richard Z. Johnson, Jr.

KTBS-TV3’s Vicki Wellborn first reported this story last year, and has continued to follow up.

Auditor: Doubt that Eros can Continue “as a going concern”

09/21/2015

Things haven’t improved for the Town of Eros since last year’s audit. Repeat findings include late payments for taxes and deficit spending.

Condition: As of the year ended December 31, 2014, the Town’s governmental activities current liabilities exceeded its current assets by $14,621, and the Town of Eros showed a decrease in unrestricted net position of $4,139. These factors, as well as the uncertain conditions that the Town faces regarding revenue sources, create uncertainty about the Town’s ability to continue as a going concern.

Also,

Condition: During the compilation of the Town of Eros, payroll taxes collected by the Town due to federal and state governmental agencies were not remitted to the agencies in a timely manner. The Town Clerk and the Mayor are responsible for accounting for and remitting the payments and forms to the correct agency on behalf of the employees of the Town of Eros in a timely manner.

See here the complete report.