Archive for February, 2017

Roller Sentenced to Jail, Must pay Restitution

02/27/2017

Former Jackson Parish Ward Four Fire Protection District Chief Curtis Roller was two weeks ago sentenced to a two year jail sentence, and will have to make restitution of over $400 thousand, according to a press release from the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport. Roller had pled guilty last May.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 17, 2017

Jonesboro man sentenced to 24 months in prison for FEMA fraud

SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Jonesboro man was sentenced Monday to 24 months in prison for obtaining FEMA grants for a fire department so that he could then sell his company’s products to it.

Curtis Roller, 60, of Jonesboro, La., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. on one count of wire fraud after illegally obtaining Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants and making false statements on worker compensation forms. He also was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $403,355 restitution. According the guilty plea, Roller submitted false information on a grant application on May 9, 2009 to FEMA so that the Jackson Parish Ward 3 Fire Protection District was eligible to receive federal funds, which could be used to purchase equipment from his company, Louisiana Firefighting Services. It is against FEMA rules and policies for a grant writer to financially benefit from money awarded.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Service-Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl M. Campbell prosecuted the case.

Here are some pertinent documents:

Judgement

Plea Agreement – May, 2016

Court Minutes – Sentencing

Agreed Upon Factual Basis

Roller was originally indicted in 2010, and then in 2013, a superseding indictment was returned.

Grand Jury Indictment

Representing Roller were Shreveport attorneys Ansel Stroud III, and Nicole Buckle. He is required to report on 3/28/17.

Kennedy Says Edmonson Should Quit

02/25/2017

Zurik: Kennedy calls for State Police head’s resignation

Written by: Lee Zurik, Chief Investigative Reporter
Contributor: Tom Wright, Investigative Producer

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) –

U.S. Senator John Kennedy says the superintendent of State Police needs to resign. The former state treasurer says he doubts the investigations into State Police will be a serious one.

This follows our investigation that detailed a pricey conference trip that included a stay in the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas for four troopers.

“I like the superintendent,” Kennedy tells FOX 8. “But he has demonstrated that he is intent on being the tallest hog at the trough. And this is all taxpayer money.”

Edmonson brought 17 state employees to San Diego – and some of them brought their spouses or girlfriends. The trip included a conference and an awards ceremony where the International Chiefs of Police gave Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson a lifetime achievement award. When you calculate salaries, overtime, hotel, flights and meals, the trip cost taxpayers about $70,000.

“He took 17 of his top people and said, y’all come at taxpayers’ expense to San Diego to watch me get an award,” Kennedy says, “and listen, let’s go spend $70,000 on a nice little vacation here, when the state’s running deficits. But this wasn’t a conference to learn something. This was 17 of his friends from State Police, all of whom, the big muckety-mucks making the hundred grand a year-plus, who went out there and had a little vacation to watch him get an award.”

Sumlin Trial Rescheduled for April

02/22/2017

The March 20 trial for William Sumlin was rescheduled for April 24, Division B Judge Tommy Rogers ruled yesterday in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) in Ruston. Yesterday’s hearing on a Motion to Strike was also rescheduled, to March 14, 1:30 PM.

Sumlin’s attorney, Lavalle Salomon, claimed his wife was scheduled for surgery the week of the March trial dates.

Sumlin was arrested in October, 2015 of indecent behavior with a juvenile. In December, 2015 a Grand Jury returned a Bill of Indictment on the charges.

Representing the state was Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones.

State Police Road Trip Update

02/21/2017

Zurik: Edmonson may have signed off on troopers’ Vegas stop

Written by: Lee Zurik, Chief Investigative Reporter
Contributor: Tom Wright, Investigative Producer

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But for four employees of Louisiana State Police, the trip from Point A to Point B comes with a 350-mile detour, via Sin City.

Now signatures on internal documents, approving the travel on your dime, may have serious implications for the public staff involved.

In October 2016, during the state’s budget crunch, LSP sent 17 people to a four-day conference in San Diego for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. When you calculate salaries, overtime, meals, flights and hotels, the total cost comes to around $70,000.

While the Louisiana State Police Superintendent Michael Edmonson claims he didn’t know about the trip until last week, it appears he signed off on at least one expense report in late December – essentially approving one employee’s side trip through the Grand Canyon and Vegas, paid for with your money.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

02/19/2017

Four Louisiana State Police officials under investigation for Las Vegas ‘side trip,’ overtime

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

A group of Louisiana State Police officials, including the head of the agency’s Internal Affairs Division, were paid thousands of dollars in overtime last year while driving across the country to attend a law enforcement conference in San Diego — a scenic but circuitous road trip that included overnight stays at the Grand Canyon and a Las Vegas resort and casino.

The questionable expenses, outlined in travel records obtained by The Advocate, were on top of tens of thousands of dollars the State Police spent otherwise to send at least 15 people to the annual conference in October of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a four-day event that attracts a who’s who of law enforcement leaders.

Col. Mike Edmonson, the State Police superintendent, said he had not authorized the troopers to charge overtime — three of the four did, he said — or to take such an indirect route to the conference. The troopers drove 3,906 miles altogether but went hundreds of miles out of their way at times for reasons that are under investigation.

“Bottle Club” @ Lincoln Hall Under Consideration

02/15/2017

A parish-owned, privately operated meeting hall might become a “bottle-club” for private events, if the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) goes along with the present operator’s request to sell the remainder of his 30 year lease to another operator.

Present tenant Carl Burton and the prospective operator Jimmy Shuff asked last night’s meeting of the jury’s Public Works Comittee for permission to sell the remainder of Burton’s lease and change the terms to allow BYOB events. Shuff said he and his family had served as “deejays” for wedding receptions, and other similar events.

Lincoln Hall was constructed in 2002. It is a 4800 sq ft banquet facility located adjacent to the North Louisiana Exhibition Center off Hwy 33, about five miles northeast of Ruston. The present lease agreement is in force until 2032.

At least one juror looked askance at such a deal.

“I think that if we do this, you’re setting precedent for a lot of other people to come and say we want a bottle club,” said Annette Straughter (District 12).

The committee voted to table the issue to allow the jury’s legal counsel to review the issue, and then reconsider any written proposals submitted by Burton and Shuff.

During the full jury meeting, there was a bit of discussion about Straughter’s recent attendance of a Delta Leadership Institute event in New Orleans, and the jury’s policy regarding reimbursement of expenses.

AG Opines no Dual Office Holding Violation in Jackson Parish Tax Office

02/14/2017

A year after an advisory opinion was requested from Louisiana’s Attorney General, Assistant AG Madeline Carbonette wrote that Town of Jonesboro Alderwoman Nia Evans could also serve as Jackson Parish Tax Commission Administrator without violating the state’s Dual Officeholder Law.

Wrote Carbonette:

La. R.S. 42:63(D) does not prohibit holding an elected office in a political subdivision and full time employment in a separate political subdivision. Because Jonesboro and the Agency are separate political subdivisions, a member of the Board is not prohibited from serving as the Administrator of the Agency.

Jonesboro Mayor James Bradford had requested the opinion.

See here the complete document.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tomorrow

02/13/2017

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, February 14, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor. Here are the agendas and meeting times.

Public Works Committee – 6:00 PM

Police Jury – 7:00 PM

Ouachita Court Coverup Update

02/12/2017

Palowsky appeal gets court date in Baton Rouge

The First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge could hear arguments later this month in Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky III’s lawsuit against Allyson Campbell, a law clerk at Fourth Judicial District Court, as well as against five judges of the district court.

The Feb. 23 hearing is among several on a docket that begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Southern University Law Center’s A.A. Lenior Hall off Roosevelt Steptoe Drive in Baton Rouge.

The three judges presiding over the docket including Palowsky’s hearing include Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple, Judge John Michael Guidry and Judge Page McClendon.

Stanley R. Palowsky III v. Allyson Campbell and others, which was first filed in July 2015, centers on Palowsky’s claims that Campbell concealed or destroyed documents he filed with the court as part of a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork, and others. Palowsky also accused Campbell of payroll fraud.

Marchman: Special assistant AG involved in conspiracy

As part of her federal lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials and their attorneys, Judge Sharon Marchman filed paperwork earlier this week disputing a special assistant attorney general’s claim he had not conspired with others to accuse the judge of criminal acts.

Marchman’s lawsuit centers on claims that law clerk Allyson Campbell, Fourth Judicial District Court judges, and their attorneys retaliated against her and violated her constitutional rights when she tried to expose Campbell’s alleged payroll fraud and destruction of court documents.

Lawrence Pettiette, a Shreveport attorney who sometimes handles legal work for the state Attorney General’s office, filed a motion to dismiss Marchman’s claims against him last month.

Marchman filed a response Feb. 5, arguing Pettiette reached parts of his defense “without any citation, argument or analysis.”

LP School Supt Milstead Talks Year-Round Schools

02/08/2017

In the year and a half that Mike Milstead has been Superintendent of Lincoln Parish Schools, one could hear hints occasionally about Milstead’s support for the concept of Year-Round Schools.

At yesterday’s meeting of the School Board, he expounded on the subject.

Said Milstead, “You’re re-configuring the calendar. You’re taking a 180 day school year, in theory, and maybe going 190 days, because you’re shortening the break time in summer. The goal is to get to the point where we have one school in the district that parents from anywhere in the district can voluntarily send their children to grades K through five.”

He added, “We’re going to have several focus groups, where we bring some people in and begin to have a conversation about what this should look like. The goal is make sure that every kid – every kid every year that is not a special needs kid – and even some of them – is not retained.”

Milstead said that the program would be voluntary, and would have a teacher/pupil ratio of 10 to 15 pupils per teacher.

Milstead noted that after the summer break, some pupils take as much as two months to regain their knowledge level achieved prior to the break.

He said that the program could be started within a year and a half, depending on future construction schedules.

Earlier in the meeting, the board got briefed on an unusual occurrence – an annual financial audit with significant findings.

Amy Tynes, with Allen, Green & Williamson, said two of the more serious findings were at the newly-chartered Lincoln Preparatory School in Grambling.

Tynes said the school’s administration failed to provide documentation for salaries and benefits.

Said Tynes, “They paid time for individual’s work, or their salaries and, benefits, but there was no support of the actual time worked. There were no time sheets, or anything like that.”

Over $100 thousand was involved, she said.

Also, the school failed to obtain bids for band equipment that was over the $30 thousand threshold for the state’s public bid law.

While the charter school is not directly controlled by the school board, any audit findings are reflected on the Lincoln School’s audit.