Archive for January, 2019

“You’re Welcome, Sheriff Stone” – Lincoln Parish Taxpayers


Source: Louisiana Legislative Audit – 06/30/2017, pg 49


Speculation Rampant on Lincoln Sheriff Plans


The local political gossip has gone into high gear this week, after word got out that Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone had called an “all hands on deck” meeting of all deputies, including the Sheriff’s Citizen Observer Patrol (SCOP) for this afternoon.

Informed speculation is that Stone may announce his retirement and leave office at the end of the current term, which ends June 30, 2020. Stone took office on June 30, 2004.

Elections are set for this fall, with the primary on Saturday, October 12, 2019. If a runoff is needed, the election will be Saturday, November 16.

If Stone retires, expect his Chief Criminal Deputy Stephen Williams to throw his hat into the ring, with Stone’s blessing.

Regardless of what Stone does, there WILL be a race for sheriff this fall.

Running hard for the past year is former deputy George Webb.

LPNO readers will recall that Webb’s sister, Becky, ran a very strong race for Lincoln Parish Tax Assessor in 2011, receiving 45% of the vote.

Local political observers have noted that Webb is working the parish non-stop, and never fails to shake every hand anyplace a crowd is gathered.

Also running is former Ruston Police Chief Randal Hermes.

Hermes now serves as Chief of the Louisiana Tech University Police.

Update – 7:40 PM

As expected, Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone announced today that he would not be seeking re-election this fall, LPNO has learned.

OPPJ Pulls ULM Tax from Agenda


Citing a written request from a University of Louisiana at Monroe booster, Ouachita Parish Police Jury President Shane Smiley last night removed from the jury’s agenda a proposal to call a tax election on the University’s behalf.

George Schaeffer signed the letter where he claims to be acting on behalf of ULM President Nick Bruno.

However, Schaeffer has no official connection with ULM that we can find, nor does he appear to be on the school’s payroll.

The letter was sent via email from ULM’s Office of Marketing and Communications.

Wrote Schaeffer:

Dr. Bruno and I spoke several times over the weekend, and we both agree that our hope of sharing our vision for growth has been turned into an unfortunate and unprofessional social media debate that is both harmful and divisive for all.

The process of notifying the public of an election call required a 30-day gap prior to our being able to present the plan at a meeting of the Police Jury. Unfortunately, this resulted in an enormous amount of misinformation being spread on social media about the plan that must be clarified. To be fair, there have also been some legitimate concerns raised that also must be addressed before we move forward. Dr. Bruno agrees with me that there is not enough time under our present schedule to adequately address these concerns. For this reason, I respectfully request that you withdraw the Vision 2031 proposal from today’s agenda.

He continued:

To be clear, we are not abandoning the millage concept or proposal. We also believe a vote of the people should be the proper outcome for the public interest. We will review our timing and approach, seek additional input, and wait for our next best opportunity to convince Ouachita voters that growth, economic prosperity, and a better quality of life are obtainable for all with a meaningful plan and vision.

See here the letter.

The tax plan would have increased Ouachita Parish property taxes by 5 mils for 30 years. An estimated $150 million would have been taken from taxpaying property owners over the life of the tax. Plans for use of the money were detailed in this ULM brochure.

No representatives of ULM were at last night’s meeting, but it appeared that several people opposed to the plan were in the audience.

Smiley remarked that since the item was not on the agenda, public comment on the issue would be moot.

“Related to that – what that item is, is the ULM proposal that was to be discussed tonight. About Noon today, we were contacted by email by ULM and were asked to remove that proposal from our agenda,” he said.

Smiley continued, “There will be no vote by the jury, no discussion or action taken up on that matter.”

District F’s Pat Moore asked Smiley to consider allowing those who came to the meeting to speak, but Smiley said that since no one from ULM was there to present their views, he would prefer to not to have the discussion at that time.

Later, the jury approved without discussion a cooperative endeavor agreement between the Lincoln Parish Detention Center and Green Oaks Juvenile Detention Center.

See here the document.

Former Lincoln Parish School Board Member Cited


Eddie Milton Jones, a former Lincoln Parish School Board member (District 2) was last year cited by the Louisiana Board of Ethics and fined for violation of the state’s nepotism law.

Jones was cited thus:

…that Eddie M. Jones, while serving as a member of the Lincoln Parish School Board, violated La. R.S. 42:1 l19B by virtue of the employment of his son, Otis Jones, with the Lincoln Parish School Board.

The younger Jones was employed as a paraprofessional at the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home in 2013. Since the children’s home receives school board funding for a Title I program position, it was ruled that his employment was a violation.

Eddie Jones served on the school board from 2007 to 2015, and was defeated in 2014 by incumbent David Ferguson.

A $1000 joint penalty was levied against Eddie and Otis Jones, to be paid in full by 11/15/18.

While the violation occurred in 2013, the investigation was conducted in secret and the findings were not released until this past December.

See here the complete Ethics Board document.

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Tomorrow


It’s been a while since we’ve covered a meeting of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury, but a couple of items on tomorrow night’s agenda have stimulated our interest.

Late last year, University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) President Nick Bruno talked the jury into adding an agenda item thus: “Notice of Intent to Call an Election”

The Ouachita Citizen’s Zach Parker picked up on the item and had this front-page story here: ULM unveils tax proposal, questions raised

In another story last week, Parker wrote that the proposal has virtually no chance of passing, as most of the jurors had received overwhelming opposition from their constituents.

Bruno, however, has also been busy, emailing ULM employees and asking them to be at tomorrow’s meeting.

Here’s the brochure published detailing where the money is to go.

Success for the ULM plan would no doubt tempt other Louisiana higher education institutions to try the same scheme in their parishes. Lincoln Parish has two universities – Grambling State University and Louisiana Tech.

Another item on the agenda is renewal of a cooperative endeavor agreement between the Lincoln Parish Detention Center and Green Oaks Juvenile Detention Center. As Lincoln Parish has no facilities to house underage inmates, Green Oaks has been used in the past for that role.

The meeting will be at 5:30 PM tomorrow (1/22/19) at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse, second floor. We’ll be there.

Here’s the agenda.

In Today’s Mail


This arrived in our mail today. Postmarked Shreveport, LA, 1/14/19. No return address.

The First Amendment in action.

Roberson, Henderson Re-elected @ LPPJ


Randy Roberson (District Four), and Joe Henderson (District Nine) were re-elected as President and Vice-President respectively at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury.

The first meeting of the new year was held at the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center, due to elevator repair work at the Lincoln Parish Court House.

Skip Russell (District Eight) nominated both Roberson and Henderson.

When it came time to elect the Treasurer – a requirement of LA state law – there was a bit of active discussion.

Some jurors wanted Interim Treasurer Holly Lowery to be elected, and others wanted to advertise for more candidates.

Hazel Hunter (District Two) moved “…that position be advertised, also applications made, and interviews according to how our policies and procedures state.”

Parish Administrator Courtney Hall noted that Lowry was well qualified and that she had done a good job in the interim position. He also said that since he was retiring later this year, continuity was needed in the jury’s management.

Hall had told the jury last year of his plans.

Henderson said, “I’m a stickler for the rules. We’re not voting for a treasurer, we’re voting for the procedure.”

Russell said, “We’re going to lose Holly, and then we’re going to lose him (Hall), and I’d like to know who’s going to step forward and run this thing.”

Voting for the Motion was Wyatt, Hunter, Bennett, Henderson, Wilson, Mayfield, and Straughter. Voting no were Roberson, Hammons, Pullen, and Russell.

Backus was absent.

Afterwards, a motion to keep Lowry as Interim Treasurer was passed unanimously.

A Plenitude of LPSO Deputies @ Cypress Springs Elem Yesterday


A notable item at yesterday morning’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board was the presence of several Lincoln Parish School Resource Officers at the Cypress Springs Elementary School off Maple Avenue.

Part of the discussion about more taxes for Lincoln Parish property owners had been the claim that more officers were needed to protect parish schoolchildren. For sure, there was no shortage of deputies yesterday.

Perhaps those officers were there to make sure the handful of uppity taxpayers who dared to show up at the meeting to question the new tax plan didn’t become too unruly.

After all, we can’t allow the folks who actually pay the bills have a say in how the money’s spent, can we?

Service Road/Cooktown Corner added to District


A three-acre tract of land at the immediate northeast corner of Cooktown Road and the North I-20 Service Road will be added to the Cooktown Road Economic Development District, if an ordinance introduced at Monday night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council is enacted.

The original district, created in late 2017, consists of 15 1/2 acres, and is now being developed by Chattanooga, TN-based Hutton Company.

According to Ruston City Attorney Bill Carter, Hutton recently acqired the 3 acre corner, and asked for it to be included into the district.

There was a bit of discussion about a resolution authorizing property acquisition for phase 4 of the Rock Island Greenway Project.

That part of the project runs from West Texas Avenue near South Monroe Street southward to West California near Henderson Street, approximately 1400 feet, according to the city’s Andrew Halbrook.

Kevin Crume asked for an update on the project’s total costs so far.

Halbrook said that phase two, about 11,000 feet, cost about $540 thousand. Phase 3 was about $740 thousand. Both parts each received $89 thousand in state grants.

Phase 4 cost estimates are about $350 thousand, he said, and a grant commitment has been received from the state.

After the meeting, the council and mayor were sworn in for their new terms by Third Judicial District Judge Jeff Robinson.

Lincoln School Tax Plan Deleted from Agenda


In a surprise move, the Lincoln Parish School Board this morning removed a planned tax vote from the board’s agenda.

Had the board vote taken place and approved, a May, 2019 parish-wide tax election would have been called. If passed, the plan would have levied an additional 11.6 mil property tax to pay for various school programs and capital improvements.

See here the resolution.

Making the motion to amend the agenda was Danny Hancock (District 5), and seconding was Lisa Best (District 8).

The motion passed unanimously on a roll call vote.

Board President Joe Mitcham (District 6) said that more discussion needed to take place before any tax election could be held.

Said Mitcham, “We going to study it further – there’s several issues on that we need to consider. As of this time, it’s not going to be on the ballot.”

Reportedly, school board members heard from many of their constituents who were vociferously opposed to a new tax.

Several citizens – and at least one Police Juror – were in the audience who appeared to be ready to speak against the plan.

In other business the board re-elected Joe Mitcham as President, and Lynda Henderson as Vice-President.