The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet Monday (2/1/16), 5:30 PM, Ouachita Parish Courthouse, second floor.
Here is the agenda.
By Zach Parker
An ad hoc judge presiding over a Monroe businessman’s lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials has ordered counsel to present arguments at a hearing in early March.
However, retired Judge Jerry Barbera indicated he likely would not allow other forms of evidence such as witness testimony during a hearing that’s scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 4.
It was as routine a Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) meeting as we have ever covered last night. Routine resolutions were passed, and there was but one visitor who told the jury of road and culvert issues in his neighborhood, which the Public Works Department promised to correct in February, weather permitting.
However, it seems the jury is proud owner of a residential property on Raymond Drive.
The property was acquired twelve years ago when the jury bought up some right-of-way, in anticipation of Phase III of the Fink’s Hideaway Road project. Of course, with the ownership of a house comes all the responsibilities of renting – upkeep, rent collections, etc.
Upon hearing all this discussion, new District B juror Jack Clampit asked, “Let me understand why we’re in the rental business on this house?”
It was explained that once a governing body buys right-of-way, it made sense to hold on to it until the project is completed.
Said Walt Caldwell (District C), “It’s right-of-way preservation. You don’t want to get rid of right-of-way once you acquire it.”
All the jurors lamented that the project’s completion might be many years in the future.
Backus cut down the committee size from five members to four, and installed himself as a voting member on all the committees. Historically, the jury president has had the prerogative to appoint committee members.
See here the committee assignments.
Some jury members have expressed outrage at Backus’ actions and promise to oppose the move.
More taxes, of every sort, local and state. Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker wants to raise sales taxes to pay mostly for a new recreation complex on South Farmerville. Our new Governor Edwards says you all have to sacrifice more for sales and income taxes to pay for the tens of thousands of state employees, their retirement, and their medical benefits.
But is the money now going to government efficiently used?
We decided to take a close look at what the costs are to educate children in Lincoln Parish Schools, compared to the cost of educating children at one of the premier private schools in North Louisiana, Cedar Creek.
According to the latest audit for Lincoln School District, the 2014 cost per pupil is $13,603, almost double the cost of 2005. Notice also that there were 20 fewer teachers in 2014 than in 2005.
See here the document.
See here the complete audit.
Compare those costs with the tuition costs at Cedar Creek of $6,290/yr or $6,570/yr, depending on grade level. Additional costs are a $650/yr student fee for books and supplies.
See here the document.
So where does the money go? It’s for the children, isn’t it?
There was a defense motion filed in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston yesterday, but wasn’t filed by the defendant Cameron Mays’ attorney James Buckley. It was written and filed by the defendant himself, or “pro se.”
In the motion, Mays writes that the several charges against him (2nd degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated rape, possession of stolen things, aggravated burglary) should be dropped, because his trial didn’t commence within the time specified by Louisiana’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
The motion will be heard at 9 AM, February 16. Trial is scheduled to begin February 22.
Buckley wasn’t in court because of an illness.
Prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Mike Ruddick, and presiding was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.
By: Will Broyles
Elliott Stonecipher began to make Caddo Commissioners aware that he had found a problem in early 2015. His discovery? That Caddo Commissioners had been receiving pay and benefits outside of the legal restrictions placed in the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter (“HRC”). The HRC very specifically states in Section 3-05 that the Commissioners are entitled to pay of $700 per month ($100/month more for the Commission President) with strict guidelines of how to enact pay raises. The apparent intention behind this wording was that Caddo Parish voters would likely get to vote for when they felt like Commissioners deserved pay increases.
The HRC also goes on to specifically prohibit that “no commissioner shall receive any additional compensation, benefit or privilege, direct or indirect, because of his office.”
Instead, Commissioners conspired to give themselves pay increases via ordinances and create at least three other mechanisms to increase monetary receipts for themselves. The Legislative Auditor even wrote two scathing reports outlining with great detail how much the Commissioners took in retirement benefits for themselves using the Caddo Parish Parochial Employee Retirement System (“CPERS”). According to the Legislative Auditor, CPERS is a benefit that is also unconstitutional per the Constitution of the State of Louisiana.
As Elliott Stonecipher has published often, his study of the facts of the case point to a conspiracy by the Caddo Commission (over the course of many terms) to not only create illegal revenue streams such as CPERS, but to also protect themselves from having to pay any money back to Caddo Parish taxpayers.
What is notable is that all Caddo based media outlets have given very light coverage to this scandal. Watchdogs in the community have often and consistently called for law enforcement and local prosecutors from the Caddo District Attorney’s office to pursue charges of criminal malfeasance in office against the Commissioners. To date, not a single media outlet (until this one) has even taken up the issue. At most, the local media requested comment from Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator and the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office. Both stated that they had not been notified of the need for a criminal investigation. Although, we can report that Steve Prator was asked why he was not pursuing criminal charges back in August of 2015 after the first Legislative Auditor’s letter. The Legislative Auditor’s second letter on the matter was published on November 30, 2015. In August 2015, Prator noted that he had engaged in at least some form of investigation, but was declined by the District Attorney’s office on the matter. When asked why he did not report the matter to a higher authority, or use the local media to call for prosecution, he commented that in spite of his efforts, Mr. Stonecipher was “not very popular” for all the work he puts into his local watchdog activities and that Prator “wore the pavement out between [his] office and the District Attorney’s office.” When pressed on how he could be more effective in his pursuit of the matter in spite of his claims that the DA office and US Attorney’s office would not take up the matter, he declined to comment. It is worth noting that Mr. Stonecipher has a popular following via social media and is often interviewed and quoted in media throughout the state and country for his political analysis.
A Personal Message to Sheriff Prator and Our News Media
By Elliott Stonecipher
January 17, 2016
For those yet unaware, Shreveport’s newest website on the block is also easily its best. Will Broyles, the leader of the team that brought us their powerful Shape of Shreveport documentary, is working with his wife Chelsey, his brother Jim, and others to bring us this site, RealShreveport.com. From the jump, it demonstrates more strength of purpose than anything from our media in a very long time.
I once again thank these young Shreveporters for yet another significant investment of their time, energy and money in trying to save Shreveport and Caddo Parish from public corruption, our clear and present danger within.
Sheriff Steve Prator
I write this in response to Will Broyles’ post this morning. Will’s point about the absence of a criminal investigation and prosecution into the Caddo Commission scandal is well made. This part of it is about me:
“In August 2015, Prator noted that he had engaged in at least some form of investigation, but was declined by the District Attorney’s office on the matter. When asked why he did not report the matter to a higher authority, or use the local media to call for prosecution, he commented that in spite of his efforts, Mr. Stonecipher was ‘not very popular’ for all the work he puts into his local watchdog activities …”
So, Sheriff Prator keeps up with my popularity, or lack thereof. I would think he had long ago realized I am extremely unpopular here – among those who are corrupt, and those who protect the corrupt, and those who hope to somehow be cut in on the action of our corrupt. Yes, that is a bunch of our people, no doubt about it.
But, I was likewise unpopular among that bunch when I vetted and successfully worked for Mr. Prator to become Chief of Shreveport Police back in 1990.
Just before that, more than a quarter-century ago, one of our most prominent public officials invited me to sit down at the table of our corrupt goings-on. My reaction, without a word except “no,” was to stand up and walk out of that room. I immediately went to work doing exactly what I am doing here and now: opposing the handiwork of the many corrupt actors among us.
Our News Media
Our news media’s coverage of this Commission scandal has been (a) slight, and (b) carefully – politically? – limited only to one piece of it – CPERS, the illegal retirement payments to Commissioners. After two years of research, filing and litigating a lawsuit, then writing and publishing my findings, our local news media refuses to mention that Commissioners have also scored explicitly illegal taxpayer money for a major part of their salary, travel benefits, life and health insurance, and more.
The truth is, the regime running our local newspaper also dislikes me. (In fact, some of that “dislike” from at least a couple of those newspaper employees is a very serious matter.) The paper plays favorites, and I know it very well. As but one example, while they recently shouted a story about Caddo Commissioners being “let out” of my lawsuit by a state district court judge, they refuse to tell the public that we are appealing his rulings on lawsuit “exceptions” to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal.
For those who wonder, here is Louisiana’s excellent Malfeasance in Office law. Note the language in Section A, Subsections (1), (2) and (3). THIS is what is neither being enforced, nor explained by our news media, in the Commission scandal.
From Me … the Unpopular Guy
To Sheriff Prator.
You cannot begin to understand what my unpopularity here in Shreveport and Caddo costs me. But, I am no politician, and I am not running for anything. I am merely a long-time resident and taxpayer. My hometown, as you know very well, is being killed by public corruption. I am not OK with that, and decided 25 years ago not to give a damn who is.
To our local newspaper.
As long as you play favorites in what you do and do not print, you fail this community. As for those of you who dislike me, you may care to note that no Shreveporter in my generation, or the ones before or following it, has more strongly supported our news media and its First Amendment protections than I. That should count for something.
To our growing count of corrupt public officials.
None of you so easily do your dirty work without many in power here clearing the way for you, and then protecting you. We know that, and we know how. We know, too, that each of you sells your soul anew with each public dollar you steal … no matter how creative the heist, one more of which will soon be unveiled.
If my work should end tomorrow, I know which group “likes” me, and which group does not. I will take my supporters over the others each and every moment of each and every day, based on both their personal character and their number.
What hurt me the most that day 25 years ago, when this work truly began, is why the corrupt lobby here would even ask me to join them. It hurt, truly, to wonder why they thought I might say yes.
All I have ever known to do about that is make sure none of them continue to wonder.
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)
Witnesses are being interviewed in the ongoing controversy at Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita Parishes) District Court, according to an article by Johnny Gunter in The Ouachita Citizen.