Archive for January, 2018

Former State Senator Charles Jones a Lawyer Again

01/30/2018

Former State Senator Charles Jones, a Monroe Democrat, was yesterday re-admitted to the Louisiana State Bar and will be allowed to practice law again.

See here the order from the Louisiana Supreme Court.

He will have a three-year period of unsupervised probation.

Jones was convicted in 2010 of filing false tax returns and tax evasion.

He was sentenced in January, 2011 to 27 months in federal prison.

Notable in the court’s order is the restitution repayment schedule for Jones.

…is paying $500 a month to the United States District Court Clerk toward the $305,174.05 in restitution related to his criminal conviction, is paying $1,578 a month to the IRS pursuant to an installment agreement related to his federal tax debt, and is paying $1,080 a month to the Louisiana Department of Revenue (“LDR”) pursuant to an installment agreement related to his state tax debt.

As Jones is in his mid to late 60s, it seems likely the taxpayers will never be fully repaid.

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FBI on Edmonson’s Case

01/24/2018

Sources: Pilots questioned, logs checked in FBI probe of Mike Edmonson’s helicopter travel at State Police

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

The FBI’s investigation of Mike Edmonson has focused in part on his extensive travel as the head of the Louisiana State Police, with agents interviewing current and former pilots about Edmonson’s prolific use of state helicopters, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the inquiry.

The bureau has been following up on allegations outlined in a legislative audit that accused Edmonson of taking an array of handouts and tapping state resources for his family’s benefit. Agents have questioned a growing list of state troopers — and even inmates who once cooked for Edmonson and his family — and reviewed policies and procedures related to State Police travel, according to two other sources with knowledge of the probe.

The federal inquiry has tracked the legislative audit in many respects, with some officials saying they fielded similar questions from both auditors and agents. But the feds appear to have cast a broader net, reviewing helicopter log books and other travel records related to the frequent trips Edmonson took during his nine years as superintendent.

In what appears to be a new vector, unrelated to the audit, federal investigators also are trying to determine whether Edmonson ever sought freebies from casino owners or anyone else subject to State Police gaming regulations.

“The questioning of the pilots has been strictly about Edmonson and whether there was personal use” of the helicopters, said one of the law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Edmonson relied on Department of Public Safety helicopters for dozens of in-state flights a year, including relatively short journeys to New Orleans from State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge to attend news conferences or to meet with officials at the FBI’s Lakefront headquarters.

Federal authorities do not appear to be focusing on the fiscal prudence of Edmonson’s travel but rather whether he improperly extended the use of state helicopters to family members or friends. That determination could be aided by flight manifest records, some of which were redacted by the State Police in response to a public records request filed several years ago by The Advocate.

DeSoto Parish LACE Program Corruption

01/19/2018

DeSoto probe: Too much time and a half?

By Vickie Welborn – KTBS TV3 Shreveport

Three current DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputies and one former deputy are under investigation for suspected abuse of overtime pay as part of their participation in a special traffic-enforcement detail.

The investigation is looking into whether they got paid for hours they didn’t work.

DeSoto Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle placed the veteran deputies on paid administrative leave this week.

They are the subjects of an internal investigation, as well as a criminal investigation that will be led by State Police. Arbuckle said he expects State Police investigators to begin their investigation next week.

Louisiana’s legislative auditor is also conducting an investigative audit into the LACE program in DeSoto Parish. Preliminary findings from that audit led to the law enforcement investigations, Arbuckle said.

LACE — or Local Agency Compensation Enforcement — is also under fire on a statewide basis as separate investigations focus on state troopers in South Louisiana who are suspected of padding their paychecks. Three troopers have been identified as subjects of that investigation. One made more than $200,000.

State auditors have been in DeSoto Parish looking at the LACE participation of several agencies that benefit from the program: the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s office, Parish Police Jury and the criminal court system.

KTBS-3 Investigates has aired several reports about LACE over the past year. Questions arose earlier last year because of a disagreement about LACE administration and the use of DA diversion programs in DeSoto Parish. District Attorney Gary Evans took over complete control of the LACE program in the parish and has been diverting most of the ticket revenue to his office.

Prior to that, ticket money from the LACE program was divvied up among 14 agencies. Evans complained the program was losing money and instead wanted to control where the money goes.

Arbuckle pulled his deputies off LACE details, leaving it to State Police troopers. Evans also signed a contract with the Mansfield Police Department.

The Police Jury last fall adopted a resolution formally asking the legislative auditor to conduct a review of the entire program. Part of that review includes verifying the hours deputies worked writing LACE tickets.

The three deputies under investigation are suspected of claiming more hours than they actually worked. The fourth person no longer works for the sheriff’s office.

LACE is a program administered by district attorneys who contract with local law enforcement agencies to focus on creating safer highways by focusing on speeders and other traffic violators.

But it also became a lucrative way for law enforcement officers to add to their paychecks through overtime pay. DeSoto deputies were paid $45 per hour to work their off-duty shifts.

State troopers benefit, too, earning time-and-a-half for their LACE work. Some of the deputies were making $20,000 or more above their regular salaries. But the troopers under the microscope in South Louisiana were racking up more, with one making an annual salary of more than $200,000 with much of it coming from LACE for hours he didn’t work.

LACE operated for decades without drawing much attention, but it has come under additional scrutiny in recent months as some district attorneys learned the program was being administered in different ways, with some using it to bolster their office revenue through ticket diversion programs.

The state’s district attorneys association has been studying those diversion programs – and in some cases how it is connected with LACE — and are working toward suggested guidance to make sure all conform with state law. The sheriffs’ association also has been doing its own review.

Schools Reopen Tomorrow

01/17/2018

Information regarding the re-opening of schools, universities and local government offices for Thursday, January 18, 2018.

• All Lincoln Parish Public Schools
• Cedar Creek School
• Bethel Christian School
• New Living Word School
• Lincoln Preparatory School
• Montessori School of Ruston
• Louisiana Tech University
• Grambling State University
• Most parish local/municipal government offices are open today and will be open on Thursday as well.

Kip Franklin, Director
Lincoln Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness

Roberson, Henderson, LPPJ Prez & VPrez

01/11/2018

Tuesday night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) meeting lacked the political drama that we’ve seen in the past when it came to electing officers for the year.

Randy Roberson (District 4), was unanimously re-elected at President for 2018. He was nominated by Bobby Bennet. No other candidates were nominated.

Likewise, Joe Henderson (District 9) was elected Vice-President with no opposition. He was nominated by Hazel Hunter.

On to business, the jury approved two re-appointments to the Board of Commissioners for Lincoln Parish Fire Protection District No. 1 – Julius Sumler and Mike Fulton.

The only significant discussion was with Humanitarian Enterprises of Lincoln Parish (H.E.L.P.) Executive Director Tomika McDonald regarding medical transportation.

A new transportation provider will be taking over patient transport, and a new agreement must be negotiated.

It was agreed to delay any decision until the next meeting so that more information can be garnered.

Also discussed was the lease renewal for Dollar General located in the old County Market Building, which is owned by the jury. Negotiations are ongoing.

The Police Jury Association of Louisiana annual meeting was discussed, but few jurors apparently plan to attend.

The meeting is set for January 17-19 at the New Orleans Sheraton Hotel.

Milstead: Enhanced School Calendar Program First in State

01/10/2018

Lincoln Parish School District Superintendent Mike Milstead told yesterday’s meeting of the School Board that the upcoming Enhanced School Calendar program will be a “game changer” for Lincoln Schools.

Said Milstead, “This is a game changer for Lincoln Parish. This has the potential to elevate our expectations, elevate where we are in the district related to kids that might not have the chances that we feel like are in the best interests of these children.” He added, “This will be the only one like it in Louisiana, and one of the few in the entire United States.”

The program, with about 500 students in two of the district’s elementary schools, will begin on June 11 through July 27, with a week break during July 4. Student applications will be taken beginning next month.

Milstead preliminary figures indicate the cost will run between $600 thousand and $650 thousand, almost all for personnel.

Details about the Enhanced School Calendar will be available at two public meetings to be held – Tuesday, January 23, and Thursday, January 25, 6:30 PM – at Trinity United Methodist Church. Milstead said both meetings will be the same, so interested parties could attend either date. After a briefing, a panel will available to answer questions about the program.

Milstead also told the board that two schools will have openings for a principalship – Cypress Springs Elementary and Ruston Elementary. Both have had interim principals for the past year.

Ruston High’s new football score board will cost about double what had originally been budgeted, Milstead said. $250 thousand was budgeted, but the cost will be about $500 thousand. The balance will be made up by private funds raised by the school, he said, and bids will soon be solicited.

Earlier in the meeting, the board elected officers, with Joe Mitcham and Lynda Henderson unanimously re-elected as President and Vice President, respectively.

The board also heard reports from various department heads.

Personnel
Financial Report

Vermillion Parish School Board Tyranny

01/09/2018

Outrage erupts at arrest of Vermilion Parish teacher who criticized superintendent

BY BEN MYERS | bmyers@theadvocate.com

Two Vermilion Parish School District board members on Tuesday said they were appalled that a teacher was arrested the previous night after being kicked out of a school board meeting, apparently for criticizing the board’s vote to give a raise to the superintendent.

A 12-minute video shot by a local reporter went viral Tuesday, with about 600,000 views on YouTube as of 4:30 p.m. National outlets picked up the story, and there was swift outrage. The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana condemned Deyshia Hargrave’s expulsion from the meeting and subsequent arrest, saying in a statement the authorities’ actions “are unacceptable and raise serious constitutional concerns.”

An attorney for the Louisiana Association for Educators, Brian Blackwell, is working with Hargrave on “next steps,” the association said in a statement. The statement added that the association will honor Hargrave’s request to refrain from additional comments, since “the case is ongoing.”

Blackwell said the association contacted him immediately after the incident, and that he was scheduled to meet with Hargrave Tuesday evening to discuss what to do.

“Everything on this has happened extremely fast,” Blackwell said.

It’s not clear exactly what prompted an Abbeville City Marshal officer to order Hargrave, a teacher at Rene Rost Middle School, to leave the meeting. Also unclear is why the officer handcuffed Hargrave as she walked out, since the video appears to show her complying with the orders to leave.

“She was basically cut off,” school board member Laura LeBeouf said in an interview. “I know Deyshia. She serves in my district. She’s outspoken, she’s one heck of a teacher.”

The officer providing security at the board meeting confronted Hargrave while Hargrave addressed the board and superintendent Jerome Puyau during a public comment period following the vote on the raise.
Vermilion teacher arrest: School superintendent defends pay raise at center of dispute
Vermilion teacher arrest: School superintendent defends pay raise at center of dispute

A day after the topic led to a teacher’s arrest at a Vermilion Parish School Board meeting, Superintendent Jerome Puyau spoke to The Acadiana …

The board president, Anthony Fontana, had recognized Hargrave’s turn to speak, but interrupted Hargrave when she demanded to know why Puyau would accept a raise while teachers received nothing.

Fontana interrupted Hargrave, telling her that her comments were not germane to the agends item under discussion. Hargrave continued to object, saying Puyau was “basically taking from the teachers and the employees under you,” with the vocal support of several in the audience.

“This directly speaks to what you have just voted on,” Hargrave said, addressing Fontana.

Puyau began to respond directly to Hargrave at the same time the officer walked across the room to confront her. The officer stood in front pf Hargrave, obstructing dialogue between her and Puayau, who stopped talking a few seconds after he started.

“He’s addressing me,” Hargrave said to the officer, who then threatened to remove Hargrave if she did not leave willingly.

Hargrave said “excuse me” to the officer, in an attempt to continue speaking with Puyau. The officer then moved to grab Hargrave by the elbow, causing Hargrave to jump back. A moment later Hargrave walked back to her seat to retrieve her purse and leave, pausing along the way to remind board members that Puyau had been speaking to her directly.

The incident appeared to be over, but within seconds, Hargrave, screaming in horror, was on the ground near the doorway in handcuffs.

“You just pushed me to the ground,” Hargrave said when the officer told her to stop resisting. “I’m way smaller than you!”

The officer, whose name has not been released, called for an Abbeville city police officer to transport Hargrave to the city jail, where she was booked with remaining after being forbidden and resisting an officer, according to KATC.

The Marshal’s Office did not return a call Tuesday.

“This is supposed to be a democracy. I’m supposed to allow you an opportunity to state your opinion. He doesn’t allow that,” said board member Kibbie Pillette in an interview, referring to Fontana, the president. “Before she finished her three minutes, he was busy telling her to shut up.”

Fontana did not return a call Tuesday, nor did board members Sara Duplechain, Chris Hebert and Stacy Landry.

Board members J.B. Moreno and Chris Gautreaux declined comment.

Puyau, the superintendent, referred questions regarding the incident with Hargrave to Fontana, while defending his pay raise in an interview.

See video here.

Ruston Zoning Changes Approved

01/09/2018

Last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council saw several changes to the city’s zoning ordinances.

Zoning administrator Jim Hays noted that the changes are a response to citizen input and are done to keep the code current and effective.

Ward 5 Aldermen Bruce Siegmund added that added that the changes had received a good response from area businesses.

Said Siegmund, “It seems like we’re getting a good response from investors and from business, and I think these are good changes.”

See here the memo.
See here the ordinance.

A resolution was approved authorizing the city to acquire property around the intersection of of the North Service Road and Hwy 33 (Farmerville Rd) near the Shell Oil Circle K convenience store.

The service road will soon be complete past Tractor Supply on to Rough Edge Road, and the increased traffic will likely aggravate the congestion in the area.

One proposed solution would divert westbound service road traffic such that it would enter Farmerville St just north of the RaceWay station.

Several Cooperative Endeavor Agreements were also approved by the council, including the Boys and Girls Club, Ruston Housing Authority, North Louisiana Farm Fresh, Ruston-Dixie Baseball Association, Ruston Girls Softball Association, Buddy Ball of Ruston, the Lincoln Parish School Board, and MTJ Smith Properties.

Here’s the agreement with Ruston-Dixie Baseball Association.

Another agreement approved is between the city and MTJ Smith Properties, LLC. The agreement allows the city to use the alleyway between Sundown Tavern’s outdoor courtyard and the Park Avenue Apartments for “periodic public cultural events.”

See here the agreement.

Lincoln Parish School Board, Police Jury meet Tomorrow

01/08/2018

Two local government entities will meet tomorrow (Tuesday, January 9), but not at the same time.

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet at 10:30 AM at the Choudrant Elementary School, 160 Walker Road, Choudrant, LA.

Here’s the agenda.

Tuesday night at 7:00 PM, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) will meet at the Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here’s the agenda.

Both bodies will elect officers for the coming year.

Ruston Board of Aldermen Monday

01/07/2018

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, January 8, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.