Archive for February, 2018

Louisiana Legislature Considering Tax on Sick People


From the (New Orleans) Times Picayune:

Specifically, it wants to reduce a state tax deduction for people who itemize on their federal returns – a change that would typically raise income taxes for higher-income residents.

While that statement regarding “higher-income residents” may or may not be accurate, it is a gold-plated fact that sick people will be among those hardest hit.

Itemized deductions over and above the standard deductions generally are in two categories: mortgage interest and medical deductions.

People who have a large mortgage can use IRS Schedule A (long form) to reduced their tax bill. Older, sicker people with lots of hospital/doctor bills can do the same.

In Louisiana, the amount over and above the standard deduction is now deductible. A bill now pending in the legislature would kill that deduction.

The old and sick would have to pay more.


Bonton Trial Reset for April


Brandon Bonton, an alleged accomplice in the murder of retired Grambling State University Professor Sue Hashway, had his 2/26 trial date reset to 4/23/18 this morning in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston.

He is charged with accessory to 2nd degree murder, accessory to burglary, possession of stolen things, theft of a firearm, and possession of controlled dangerous substances.

Bonton allegedly aided Cameron Mays in the June, 2012, crime at Hashway’s home on Paynter Drive in Ruston.

Bonton’s attorney, Bob Noel of Monroe, said that he was “not anticipating” a trial, implying that some kind of plea deal was in the works, perhaps in exchange for Bonton’s testimony.

Mays’ trial is set for next week.

Markeva Daye and Robert Demps – who testified against Cameron Mays in his April, 2016 trial for aggravated kidnapping and rape – are scheduled for a court appearance this afternoon.

Presiding this morning was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.

So What is the “Courthouse Capital Fund”?


It is named the Courthouse Capital Project Fund.

It is one of several separate fund accounts the Lincoln Parish Police Jury (LPPJ) accounting department has set up to document revenue and expenditures for a specific purpose.

To quote from the jury’s 2016 audit:

The Courthouse Capital Projects Fund (CCPF) is used to account for renovations of the Courthouse. Financing is provided primarily by operating transfers from the General Fund.

There are several other dedicated funds – Bridge Replacement, Parks & Recreation, Sewer, Library – to name a few.

As of 12/31/16, the Courthouse Capital Project Fund had an audited balance of $1.85 million. Apparently, it is the only fund that is used as a piggybank for pet projects. We cannot recall monies from any other funds used for purposes other than specified.

We looked on earlier audits (1995 and 1999), and the CCPF was described the same was as it is now – “to account for renovations of the Courthouse.”

We don’t know why the practice of spending dedicated money for other purposes has been allowed, nor can we explain why it hasn’t bee flagged by auditors.

But we’ll try to find out.

LPPJ “Stealing” From Dedicated Monies?


A proposal to spend nearly a million dollars for a covered warm-up area and and other improvements at the Ruston/Lincoln Parish Exhibit Center touched off an active discussion about spending priorities at last night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury meeting.

Walter Pullen (District Six) suggested that money in the jury’s Courthouse Capital Fund should be reserved for its intended purpose and not spent on other parish projects.

“We cannot fund it the way y’all are wanting to fund it. You cannot continue to steal money from the Courthouse Capital Fund to pay for it,” Pullen said. “You’re chickens will come home to roost if you don’t have something in place to cover your long-term funding,” he added.

Moments earlier, Jody Backus (District Seven) voiced similar concerns.

“I’m a little concerned about some needs that may be approaching us in the next few years,” said Backus. He noted that the courthouse, the detention center, and the health unit were jury-owned buildings, and would require money for maintenance and upkeep in the future.

Jury President Randy Roberson (District Four) objected to the term “steal.”

Said Roberson, “Mr. Pullen, I’m going to have to ask you to stop using the word stealing. There is no stealing going on. That money is available for the jury to use for any lawful purposes.”

Replied Pullen, “It’s a matter of opinion.”

The jury voted seven to three to proceed with the project, which had received prior approval from the Public Property and Buildings Committee.

Voting no were Pullen, Backus, and Sharyon Mayfield.

Voting yes were Theresa Wyatt, Hazel Hunter, Bobby Bennett, Randy Roberson, David Hammons, Skip Russell, and Nancy Wilson.

Joe Henderson and Annette Straughter were absent.

The covered warmup area at the exhibition center has been a long-time want of director Angela Manning. Such a structure would allow rodeo participants to exercise and warm up their horses prior to events in the main arena, Manning has said.

In late 2014, the subject was brought up, but at that time, the cost was estimated around $400 thousand.

The Courthouse Capital Fund has often been a piggy bank eyed longingly by politicians looking for money to fund “needs.”

Long-time readers of Lincoln Parish News Online will recall the hundreds of thousands of dollars taken from that fund to pay for extensive repairs to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center after Sheriff Mike Stone took over operation of the jail in 2012.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tuesday


The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, September 13, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor. Committee meetings begin at 5:00 PM.

Here are the agendas and meeting times:

Health & Welfare – 5:00 PM
Public Works – 5:30 PM
Public Property & Buildings – 6:00 PM
Personnel – 6:45 PM
Police Jury – 7:00 PM

Lincoln School Board, City of Ruston Negotiating Property Deal


If negotiations are successful, the Lincoln Parish School District will donate about 8 acres of land and buildings to the City of Ruston, in lieu of about $1.8 million in cash, to help pay for the new sports complex under construction on South Farmerville Street.

Last fall, the board approved a capital outlay plan that included monies that would go toward softball fields and tennis courts that would be used by Lincoln Parish students.

The acreage to be deeded to the city is located on Mayberry Street and is the site of the old Lincoln High School. The property recently appraised for about $2 million, District Superintendent Mike Milstead said. The value differences would be worked out in negotiations, he added.

Asked about future uses for the old school property, Milstead said the Headstart Program could be relocated there from its temporary location at the Zion Traveler’s Baptist Church.

The board’s Building & Grounds Committee, and the full board, approved moving forward with negotiations.

Here’s the memo.

During the business portion of the meeting, Business Manager George Murphy noted that the employee medical plan ended the year paying out more in claims than was received in premiums by some $1.6 million.

Additional changes the program were likely in the future, he said.

Here’s the memo.

Teachers that will staff the Enhanced School Calendar program next summer will receive about $7,700 more in pay for the additional 30 school days they will be working, LPNO can report.

Average teacher pay for the 182 day school calendar is about $47 thousand/year, while those working the summer program will receive about $54.7 thousand.

Louisiana Military Museum may Relocate


The Louisiana Military Museum, located at 201 Memorial Drive in Ruston, is looking for a new and larger location, it was said at last night’s meeting of city’s Board of Aldermen.

The subject came up during discussion about the annual renewal of the cooperative endeavor agreement between the museum and the city.

Mike Froelich, a resident and frequent visitor to council meetings, said he had heard rumors of a relocation.

Mayor Ronny Walker said there was an effort to find funding to renovated an existing building, or build a new building.

“I was in DC last week looking for some funding for that. There’s lots of artifacts that are not being shown now, because there’s no place to show them.”

The museum’s director, Ernie Stevens, is a decorated Viet Nam vet.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Private First Class Ernest Alexander Stevens (MCSN: 2115400), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as a Machine Gunner with Company K, Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, THIRD Marine Division (Rein.), FMF, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam on 18 July 1966. During Operation HASTINGS in Quang Tri Province, Private First Class Stevens’ Company was providing rear security for a Battalion march column when it came under heavy mortar, small arms and automatic weapons fire from all sides from a North Vietnamese force of regimental size. Initial enemy fire superiority forced the unit to take cover. From his position in a stream bed, Private First Class Stevens realized that he could not deliver effective fire upon the enemy. The only advantageous firing position lacked cover and was completely exposed to the deadly enemy rounds. Completely disregarding his own safety, he moved his gun to the exposed position and began delivering effective fire on the enemy, preventing them from overrunning the left flank of the rear element. While in this position, he was wounded in the right eye by fragments from an enemy hand grenade and was forced to move fifty meters to the rear for medical aid. As soon as he had been treated, he returned to the forward position and continued the fight. Before he had reached his machine gun, he noticed that tone of the enemy dead forward of friendly lines had a serviceable automatic weapon. He courageously moved through intense enemy fire, captured the automatic weapon and used it to provide covering fire for the evacuation of ten wounded Marines. His heroic action was a deciding factor in stopping the enemy onslaught and in saving the lives of his disabled fellow Marines. By his daring initiative, determination and resolute devotion to duty, Private First Class Stevens upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

In other business, the council approved the naming of a bridge on Lee Avenue adjacent to Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church for the late Rev. Dr. C. P. Payne.

Payne was the long-time pastor of the church. Several family members were at last night’s meeting.

Alderwomen Carolyn Cage and Angela Mayfield noted that they were both baptized by Rev. Payne.

DeSoto Parish LACE Update


DeSoto deputies under investigation resign, retire from sheriff’s office

By Vickie Welborn – KTBS TV3

Three DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputies who were the subject of an internal investigation into possible payroll padding in an off-duty traffic enforcement detail have left the sheriff’s department.

Stephanie White filed for retirement, and Annette Carter and Shawn Parker resigned.

Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle declined to release the names upon advice of his attorney. KTBS confirmed their identities independently.

Arbuckle said his investigation was into violations of department policies. He said any criminal charges may be up to the state attorney general’s office.

He referred the case to State Police for a criminal investigation. Troopers have not said whether they have opened an investigation.

The three deputies were identified by state auditors, who have been in DeSoto Parish for weeks conducting an investigative audit of the LACE (Local Agency Compensation Enforcement) program there. That audit is focused on how the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office, Police Jury and criminal court fund administer the program.

A review of time cards and LACE tickets by the auditors led to Arbuckle placing the deputies on paid administrative leave three weeks ago.

A fourth officer, who left the sheriff’s department earlier, is also under review by auditors.

Arbuckle pulled his deputies off of working LACE last year — prior to the start of the audit.

Lincoln Parish School Board Tomorrow


The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet tomorrow (Tuesday, February 6) 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

The Building and Grounds Committee will meet at 5:30 PM.

Here are the agendas.

Payroll Fraud at Ruston Housing Authority


A just-released audit of the Ruston Housing Authority has uncovered an incidence of payroll fraud beginning in 2013.

From page 28 of the audit by Rector, Reader & Lofton, P.C.:

We were informed that one of the agency’s former employees had committed fraudulent and abusive activity beginning with April of 2013 and up through the beginning of the current audit period. The method through which misappropriation was taking place was in the modifying of payroll withholdings and falsifying overtime hours. In her role as payroll administrator, she was issuing payroll checks to herself for unauthorized overtime and using the Board Chairman and Executive Director’s signature stamp. Total overtime paid was 164 hours for a total of $5,166.02. The modifications to the employee’s payroll withholdings included a loan repayment on her retirement plan that she instead had the authority paying on her behalf. The total amount applied towards her loan by the authority was $9,425.89, She also had been enrolled in AFLAC dental insurance for the duration of her employment but had not been withholding the monthly premium in the amount of $112.20. This resulted in the authority paying a total of $3,927 of premiums on her behalf. The employee has subsequently paid $14,000 in restitution of the total of $18,518.91in questioned fraudulent costs.

It was not revealed in the audit whether the findings had been turned over to the Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Attorney for prosecution.

Also revealed in the document (pg 38) is the generous pay granted the authority’s executive director:

Salary – $87,252
Benefits (insurance) – $14,937
Benefits (retirement) – $7,416
Car allowance – $4,800
Per diem – $479
Registration fees – $600
Conference travel – $944

Total – $116,428

See here the complete document.