Archive for December, 2016

Lawsuits @ I-20 Board

12/29/2016

Denmon denies responsibility for bridge failure

By Zach Parker zach@ouachitacitizen.com

A legal dispute between Interstate 20 Economic Development Corp.’s governing board and Denmon Engineering over a collapsing bridge could be headed to trial though the I-20 board’s president indicated previously that the matter would be settled amicably.

The I-20 board sued Denmon in Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe, claiming the Monroe engineering firm provided “flawed” engineering plans that led to the closure of a bridge on a frontage road south of I-20. A geological survey commissioned by the I-20 board revealed the bridge was collapsing as a result of Denmon’s “flawed engineering.”

Denmon denied any responsibility for the bridge’s failure, according to a Nov. 17 answer to the I-20 board’s lawsuit. The I-20 board’s lawsuit sought damages and alleged breach of contract.

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, who serves as a member of the I-20 board, has collected thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Denmon and its officers.

Nanci Summersgill is representing the I-20 board. Summersgill, who handles legal work for the city of Monroe, most recently represented the I-20 board in a lawsuit filed by Amethyst Construction Inc. on Oct. 5. In that lawsuit, Amethyst claimed the I-20 board had failed to pay the contractor some $1.1 million for work on a project widening Nutland Road.

A Nov. 17 document filed in that civil proceeding shows Summersgill worked with Amethyst’s attorneys to dismiss the case with prejudice after reaching a settlement where the I-20 board paid all court costs.

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LPPJ VP Joe Henderson Claims Office Depot Discriminated

12/27/2016

Joe Henderson (District Nine), Vice-President of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ), has been involved in a year-long legal battle with Office Depot over Henderson’s claim that he was discriminated against in the Ruston store when a clerk wouldn’t assist him in purchasing a printer.

From the complaint originally filed on 12/30/15:

On or about January 24, 2015, at approximately 2 P.M., Plaintiff Henderson drove to Defendant Office Depot’s Ruston, Louisiana store, located in Lincoln Parish, to purchase a printer.

Upon entering the store, Henderson walked to the aisle where the printers were on display. Plaintiff waited in the aisle for 15 minutes, but was not acknowledged by a sales representative or any other agent of Defendant Office Depot.

Plaintiff then politely took off his hat and waived at the cashier to get his attention, who in turn called for someone to help Henderson. However, Plaintiff waited for an additional 10 minutes without being helped or his presence being acknowledged any further.

Plaintiff then walked to another aisle and sought assistance from another of Defendant’s sales representatives, upon information and belief going by the name “Cat,” a Caucasian female, to help him choose a printer to purchase. However, Defendant’s sales representative, “Cat,” was assisting another customer, a Caucasian male, with a tax related issue.

Henderson, an accountant specializing in tax consulting, offered his advice to the other customer and told the sales representative that he would be in the printer aisle when she finished assisting the other gentleman.

Plaintiff browsed the printers on display as he waited for the sales representative to finish helping the other customer.

After Defendant’s sales representative finished assisting the Caucasian customer, instead of attending to Plaintiff the sales representative walked off the sales floor without acknowledging Plaintiff and did not return to assist him.

Shortly after the sales representative left the sales floor, another Caucasian male entered Office Depot.

Although Plaintiff was still waiting for assistance and had previously informed the sales representative that he needed assistance, the sales representative, “Cat,” returned to the sales floor, ignored Plaintiff, and walked directly to the second Caucasian customer who had just entered the store, well after Henderson’s arrival and request for help, and began serving the Caucasian customer.

Plaintiff again waited while the sales representative assisted the second Caucasian customer.

At or about 2:45, after waiting without receiving assistance for at least 45 minutes while Defendant’s sales representative, “Cat,” tended to Caucasian customers, Plaintiff left the Ruston, Louisiana Office Depot store without purchasing a printer as intended. On his way out, Plaintiff informed the cashier that he would never return to the store because of the mistreatment he received.

See here the document.

After a flurry of motions and counter motions, Henderson filed an amended complaint.

See here the document.

The attorneys for Office Depot, Miles Thomas and Tamula Yelling filed a response.

See here the document.

In September, Magistrate Judge Karen Hayes of the U. S. District Court (Western District of Louisiana) filed a report and recommendations that upheld part of the plaintiff’s claims and dismissed other parts. Judge Robert James approved the recommendations.

See here the document.

Office Depot appealed James’ judgement, and Henderson objected to the appeal, which is where matter stand now.

Defendant Office Depot, Inc.’s Partial Objection to the Report and Recommendation

Defendant’s Motion for Certification of Issue for Interlocutory Appeal

Plaintiff’s Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Certification of Issue for Interlocutory Appeal.

Notable in the case is the plaintiff attorney, Karl Bernard of New Orleans.

Bernard is also the plaintiff attorney in a lawsuit by Lincoln Juror Teresa Wyatt (District Seven) against her fellow jurors.

Wyatt alleges that the present jury committee assignments short-change voters in two districts of representation on the committees.

So, Bernard, on behalf of one juror, has sued a fellow juror who he also represents in another case.

Henderson, in his capacity as a police juror, chairs the Lincoln Parish Detention Center Commission.

He’s Not a Crook! Guv Edwards on Brother the Sheriff

12/22/2016

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards defends brother, Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards: ‘He did not engage in anything improper, much less illegal’

BY ELIZABETH CRISP | ecrisp@theadvocate.com

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday gave a forceful defense of his brother, Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards, whose office was raided by the FBI last week in connection with a federal drug probe.

“Without any fear of contradiction or ever being proven wrong, I will tell you now, he did not engage in anything improper, much less illegal,” Gov. Edwards told reporters gathered at the Governor’s Mansion for an end-of-year news conference. “I have all the confidence in the world in that, and I think that time will bear that out.”

Gov. Edwards added that he doesn’t “have much information about what they were looking for, why they chose to operate in the manner that they did.”

The FBI raided the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Hammond Police Department, last Thursday, as part of a U.S. Justice Department investigation of a federal drug task force linked to officers suspected of stealing drugs and cash that had been seized during narcotics investigations. Two former Tangipahoa sheriff’s deputies have been charged.

Law enforcement officials told The Advocate that Daniel Edwards’ computer was among the items seized during last week’s daylong raid.

Campaign Finances of Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards

12/19/2016

Last week’s revelations in The Hayride regarding a pricey fundraiser for Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards prompted us to take a look at the campaign war chest of Governor John Edward’s brother, the sheriff.

As of 12/31/15, the latest report available, Daniel Edward’s fund balance was $225,876.

See here the 11/02/15 – 12/31/15 report.

During the fall, 2015 election campaign, Edwards reported $50,650 in receipts, and $208,793 in expenditures. At the beginning of 2015, Edwards had a fund balance of $399,258.

Here are the four reports covering that period.

01/01/15 – 09/14/15
09/15/15 – 10/04/16
10/05/15 – 11/01/15
10/24/15 (election day GOTV)

Edwards was handily re-elected in the 10/24/15 primary, receiving 65% of the vote. His closest opponent, Sherman Phares, got 19% of the vote.

A fundraiser for a newly re-elected politician is common, but in this case Sheriff Edwards spent less than half the money he raised combined with what he had on hand. He could fund another campaign with what he’s got in the bank now.

So why the pricey July, 2016 fundraiser featuring his brother the governor as special guest?

An answer may be in who sent out the invites and who all was invited.

According to The Hayride’s Scott McKay, an email invitation revealed that the hosts for the event were two of Governor Edward’s cabinet members – Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD) Secretary Shawn Wilson, and Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) board member Johnny Bradbury.

The invite list included engineering and construction firms from South Louisiana, McKay wrote.

So we have two of Governor John Bel Edwards’ cabinet members, who control between them hundreds of millions in state construction contracts, inviting companies that do business with state, to a fundraiser for a sheriff who happens to be the governor’s brother.

Some things never change in Louisiana.

Kind of a Pricey Fundraiser for a Sheriff

12/17/2016

Fundraiser Invitation for Tangipahoa Sheriff Edwards

Gov Edwards Brother (Tangi Sheriff) Clams Up

12/16/2016

Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards, brother of Gov. John Bel Edwards, short on info about involvement in FBI raid

ADVOCATE STAFF REPORT

Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said Friday that no one in his office — other than two people who have already been charged — have been notified that they’re targets of a federal investigation into a drug task force.

The federal probe is looking into officers suspected of stealing drugs and cash seized during narcotics investigations.

“I can tell you that my office has cooperated with the federal authorities since the beginning of their investigation,” the sheriff said.

Edwards, the brother of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, had his computer seized by the FBI in Thursday’s raid of the sheriff’s office and Hammond Police Department, according to a law enforcement official.

The sheriff didn’t answer any questions at the quick, two-minute news conference. After he finished reading a statement, Daniel Edwards walked away from a podium while a reporter shouted a question, asking if he had retained an attorney.

Daniel Edwards remained inside the Sheriff’s Office for the first several hours of the FBI’s search Thursday. After lunch, the sheriff climbed in his SUV and drove past a group of reporters without commenting. Calls to his cellphone were not returned.

More of Louisiana’s Finest Pinched

12/15/2016

FBI raids Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office, Hammond police HQ as part of probe of drug task force

BY JIM MUSTIAN AND FAIMON A. ROBERTS III | jmustian@theadvocate.com froberts@theadvocate.com

The FBI raided the offices of the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Hammond Police Department on Thursday, seizing computers, cellphones and case files in simultaneous searches stemming from a broadening U.S. Justice Department investigation of a federal drug task force.

The daylong raids closed down two government buildings in Hammond as agents conducted interviews and carried out at least two search warrants related to a nearly year-old inquiry into a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force accused of stealing cash from drug dealers, selling confiscated narcotics and tampering with witnesses.

Two former members of the New Orleans-based task force — both of whom worked for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office — are facing federal charges, and one pleaded guilty earlier this year to state drug conspiracy charges.

Thursday’s searches marked an escalation of the misconduct investigation, which has been steeped in secrecy for months as investigators dug into the background of several task force members, including Chad Scott, a longtime DEA agent who has been suspended indefinitely and stripped of his badge.

Non-essential personnel were sent home, law enforcement sources said, and visitors were steered away from the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department buildings.

The materials taken included a computer from the office of Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards, said one law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the operation. Edwards is the brother of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

LPPJ Adopts Budgets

12/14/2016

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) adopted amended 2016 and proposed 2017 budgets at last night’s meeting. See here the documents:

Amended 2016 Budget
Proposed 2017 Budget

There was little discussion during the vote, but they didn’t pass unanimously.

Voting no for the 2016 amended was Teresa Wyatt (District 1). Voting no on the 2017 proposed was Wyatt and Nancy Wilson (District 10).

On a budget related issue, Treasurer Laura Hartt reported that sales tax collections were significantly lower than last year.

Said Hartt, “We’re 19% lower, year to date.”

During the earlier Personnel/Benefits Committee meeting, several re-appointments to area boards were made.

However, when it came time to appoint a replacement for long-time Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control member Virgil Orr, there were three applicants for the job.

Despite a letter from the board recommending Deborah Holliman to fill Orr’s unexpired term, three of the five committee members voted to appoint Gay O’Neal to the board.

Voting for O’Neal were Jody Backus (District 7), Randy Roberson (District 4), and Annette Straughter (District 12).

Teresa Wyatt voted for Holliman, and Joe Henderson voted for Allison Mead.

Hearing on Sumlin Motion Delayed

12/14/2016

A hearing on a Motion to Strike on behalf of William Sumlin was delayed in a Ruston courtroom of Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court yesterday afternoon. The hearing was reset for January 17, 2017.

According to US Legal.com, a motion to strike is defined as a party’s request to the court to delete insufficient defenses or immaterial, redundant, impertinent, or scandalous statements from an opponent’s pleading. It is also used to request elimination of inadmissible evidence to be deleted from the record.

Sumlin is scheduled to be tried in March on charges of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

Presiding was Divison B Judge Tommy Rogers.

Appearing for Sumlin was Monroe attorney LaValle Salomon, and for the State of Louisiana, Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones.

Are Louisiana’s College Presidents Now Part-Time Employees?

12/13/2016

We were in the Ruston courtroom of the Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court this afternoon, when a familiar local attorney appeared, and then disappeared into one of the buildings conference rooms – Rick Gallot.

That is not unusual, as we have often seen him representing criminal defendants in area parish courtrooms over the years.

What is different, is that he is the current President of Grambling State University (GSU), and has been since August 1, 2016.

A review of today’s criminal court docket showed that Gallot represents six clients on the court’s calendar.

See here the document.

To be fair, it appears that all the cases represented by Gallot appear to have arrest dates prior to his employment with GSU.

GSU has for years been beset with financial and academic issues.