Archive for February, 2019

DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office LACE Update


From the Louisiana Legislative Auditor:

The audit was begun after we received complaints that DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputies may have been paid for hours they did not work while on Local Agency Compensated Enforcement (LACE) details. Under the program, which is overseen by the District Attorney, deputies were paid to write traffic tickets while working the off-duty details, while the DPSO was reimbursed for its operating costs and wear and tear on vehicles.

We found that 23 deputies were paid $15,075 for 335 hours of LACE details they may not have worked from January 1, 2017 to June 2, 2017. Of the 23, we found seven deputies received more than $1,000 each in compensation for hours they were not logged in to the electronic ticketing device they were to use for LACE details. In total, the seven deputies received $11,385 for 253 hours.

If the 23 deputies submitted erroneous time sheets and accepted pay for hours not worked, they may have violated state law. In addition, since the DPSO billed $10 per hour for the use of its patrol units for LACE details, it may have overbilled the District Attorney by $3,350.

The accompanying report presents our finding and recommendations as well as management’s response. This is a public report. Copies of this report have been delivered to the United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the Louisiana Attorney General, the District Attorney for the 42nd Judicial District of Louisiana, and others as required by law.

See here the complete report.


Turner wins Handily in House 12 Race


Mays Murder Trial Delayed for the Last Time, Judge Says


After Third Judicial District Division B Judge Tommy Rogers reminded the concerned parties that this was the last continuance (delay) allowed, he ordered that the second degree murder trial of Cameron Mays was to be rescheduled for Monday, April 29, 2019.

The action came yesterday morning during a hearing in Ruston. Mays was in the courtroom, along with alleged accomplices Brandon Bonton, Robert Demps, and Markeva Daye.

Prior to the start of court, the prosecutor and the defense attorneys could be seen conferring and consulting their calendars.

Mays is charged with a June, 2012 crime spree that resulted in the alleged murder of retired Grambling State University Professor Dr. Sue Hashway.

He was also charged with the aggravated rape and kidnapping of a Louisiana Tech University co-ed, for which he was convicted in April, 2016. That crime took place several days prior to the Hashway death.

Among Bonton’s charges are theft, accessory to burglary, accessory to murder 2nd and drug possession.

Daye and Demps are both charged with accessory to murder 2nd, accessory to burglary, drug possession, and possession of stolen things.

Mays’ attorney, Kia Richardson, said that Mays had been held on lockdown at Angola, and was unable to confer with her and co-counsel Dwayne Burrell. Rogers granted a request for an order directing the Louisiana Department of Corrections to allow Mays and his attorneys to communicate.

Demps and Daye are represented by Ruston Attorney Forest Moegle. Bonton’s attorney is Robert Noel.

Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Michelle Thompson.

Sumlin Cased Delayed, Again

Last Tuesday, former State Representative William Sumlin was yet again granted a delay. The next hearing date is May 26, 1:30 PM.

Sumlin was arrested in October, 2015 on a charge of indecent behavior with juvenile(s).

LaValle Salomon represented Sumlin, and Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones appeared for the state.

Local LA House Race Finance Reports


The campaign for Louisiana House District 12 has an interesting money angle.

One candidate has raised and spent over $75 thousand, while the other has raised less than $5 thousand, as of the last reporting period.

Chris Turner, a Ruston businessman, has filed three campaign finance reports as of this morning.

His 1/24/19 report showed contributions of about $52 thousand, with expenditures of around $9.6 thousand.

Among the significant contributors ($1 thousand or more) were:

Louisiana Bankers Association
B&C Archery, Ruston
Courtesy Automotive, Ruston
Steven Davison, Ruston
John Emory, Jr, Choudrant
Bill Hogan, Ruston
Kay Malone, Ruston
Duke Marcus, Ruston
William McConnell, Ruston
Ann Mills, Choudrant
Pamela Stewart, Ruston
The Lincoln Agency
Connie Turner, Ruston
William Turner, Ruston

The most significant expenditure for this report was $2600 with the Bautsch Group, a Baton Rouge political consultant.

Turner’s 2/12/19 report showed over $11 thousand in contributions, $25 thousand in personal contributions or loans from the candidate to the campaign, and just over $27 thousand in expenditures.

Significant contributions include:

Todd Davison, Ruston
Forestry Political Action Council
Danny Graham
LHBA Political Action Council

The pace of expenditures picked up on this report, to include:

Ben Christmas Catering
Holbrook Multimedia
LHD Consulting
LR3 Consulting
Remington Research Group

A report filed today shows significant contributions from several political action committees:

ABC Pelican Pac
Bishop Pac
Lousiana Realtors Pac

Jake Halley, the other candidate, reported on 1/24/19 $3500 in contributions and about $1400 in expenditures.

Halley is from Farmerville.

The one significant contribution was Bynes Mechanical of West Monroe.

The 2/13/19 report shows $600 in contributions and about $2500 in expenditures.

Significant expenditures include $1,188 to Associate Business Printing, and $1000 to Tommy Carr of Farmerville for event planning.

Lincoln Parish Court House Repairs Underway


Employees and citizens who use the Lincoln Parish Court House have about two more weeks before renovations are completed to the main elevator. Also, bids will soon be solicited to partially re-roof the building.

The discussion and action was part of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s Public Property and Buildings Committee meeting last night.

Parish Administrator Courtney Hall said about the elevator repairs, “They’re probably 98% completed. Everything’s going to be electronic – state of the art. Prepare to be surprised.”

As for the roof, Hall added, “If you’re going to rehabilitate the building, you need to make sure the exterior of the building is sealed. We have an estimate from a roofer – it’s about $375 thousand.”

Theresa Wyatt (District One) made a motion to solicit bids for the project.

During the full jury meeting, action was taken to contract with the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office for courthouse security. Two deputies will man the first floor entrance on West Texas during business hours.

On hand to lobby for the plan were Judges Tommy Rogers and Jeff Robinson. Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court Linda Cook was also present.

The jury also ratified Monday night’s committee action and appointed Holly Lowry as Parish Treasurer.

After the business matters were dispensed with at the Public Works Committee meeting, an interesting discussion broke out regarding rural water districts and the ongoing Sparta Aquifer issue.

Recently it was revealed that the Fellowship Water System south of Simsboro is only metering 20% of the water being drawn out of the aquifer. The rest, 80%, is lost to line leakage.

The operators are attempting to obtain grant funding to make repairs to the system.

Lincoln Parish has 20 water systems that draw water from the Sparta, which covers 16 parishes in North Louisiana.

Historically, the emphasis of water conservation has been geared toward the individual (lawn watering, car washing, toilet valve leaks, etc), while the issue of distribution system problems has been neglected.

That issue has been mentioned in the last several Sparta Commission meetings that we’ve attended.

LPPJ Committee Makes Recommendation for Treasurer


Holly Lowry is one step closer to being name Parish Treasurer after the Lincoln Parish Police Jury Personnel/Benefits Committee unanimously recommended her for the job.

Lowry has been the interim Treasurer since last summer.

Readers will recall that at last month’s jury meeting, Lowry was nominated, but it was decided to open the position for applications, advertise, and have the committee review and make recommendations.

Lowry was the only applicant.

Annette Straughter (District 12) moved, “I make the motion that we approve the application that we have, considering that this person has already been so gracious in being our (interim) Parish Treasurer.”

The full jury will act on the recommendation at tonight’s meeting.

The committee also heard from two representatives of Diversity One Staffing, a firm that had been hired to recruit candidates for the position of Assistant Parish Administrator.

Staffing Specialist Cathy Rogers presented resumes from five applicants that met the qualifications for the job. From those applicants, interviews will be conducted, it was said.

The action items came after a two-hour long executive session held to consider a grievance by a parish employee who didn’t receive a promotion he thought was due him.

After the session, the committee voted unanimously to deny the grievance, and leave the employee in his present position.

Two Meeting Dates This Week for LPPJ @ Library Events Center


The Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s committee meetings will be spread across two days this week, with one committee meeting on Monday, February 11, and three on Tuesday, February 12.

The full jury will meet Tuesday.

Also, the meetings will be held at the Lincoln Parish Library’s Events Center, 910 North Trenton, due to elevator repairs at the Lincoln Parish Court House.

Monday, February 11

Personnel/Benefits Committee – 5:30 PM

Tuesday, February 12

Marketing & Public Relations Committee – 5:30 PM

Public Property & Buildings Committee – 6:00 PM

Public Works Committee – 6:30 PM

Police Jury – 7:00 PM

LPSB Audit Shows No Issues


The latest audit for the Lincoln Parish School District was an “unmodified opinion,” it was reported at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board.

The district’s financial statements showed no material misstatements. Simply put, you can believe the numbers that the district’s business department reports.

Margie Williamson, Audit Manager of Allen, Green & Williamson also noted that the report for the period ending 6/30/18 had no findings.

“Our opinion is an unmodified opinion, without any exceptions. That means that the financial statements as presented are fairly stated, without any exceptions. That is the best opinion you can get on your financial statements,” Williamson said.

In other business, the board heard several monthly reports, including personnel, sales taxes, financial, and health plan.

Mayor Changes Council Meeting Format


Claiming advice from the City Attorney, Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said at last night’s meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen that he would no longer answer questions from the floor during public discussion. Comments would be allowed, but no questions would be answered, he said.

Said Walker, “Over the last few years of my administration, I have allowed people to ask questions, and I’m constantly reminded by our legal counsel that we are not supposed to do that – that is a comment. So, it will be comments in the future under my administration.

“My cell number is 278-9701 – I think everybody in the city probably has that. Our department heads and myself are always available to answer questions before the city council meetings, afterwards, or during the month, either way. Please understand that when we get to those times it is comments only.”

We have a definitive answer on what taxes are underwriting the proposed $20 million borrowing that the city is proposing.

BOTH the 1.75% sales tax enacted late last year by the council, AND the 3/4 cent sales tax approved in 2016 will be used to pay off the debt and interest.

City Treasurer Laura Hartt said in her report that:

“This resolution authorizes Economic Development District No 1 of the City of Ruston to proceed with obtaining approval from (LA State) Bond Commission to issue the $20 million of sales tax revenue bonds for a term of 10 years, which will be secured by the 1.75 sales tax that was recently authorized to be levied and collected within this district.

“Because this is a new sales tax levy with no history of collections, the bond will be secured additionally by a portion of the 2016 3/4 cent sales tax.

“The stated purpose of the bonds is to pay the cost of any economic development project located within the district, including without limitation, public works and infrastructure projects to promote economic development in the district.

“Specifically, the funds will be used to expand the Ruston Sports Complex to include a splash pad, senior center, and indoor sports facility as previously discussed.”

In response to a comment from Ruston resident Mike Froelich, Walker said that the 10 year/$20 million term of the bond matched the expected revenue from the 1.75% restaurant/hotel sales tax over that same time period.

Alederman Jim Pearce asked if the total $20 million would be borrowed. Hartt said, “Correct. The bond paperwork reads that way because that’s what the tax would bear. It doesn’t mean we have to spend that much or go for that much.”

“But we could do a lesser amount?” asked Pearce.

Said Walker, “Yes.”

When the plan was first revealed last September, Walker said the tax would collect $1.75 million/year from dining patrons and hotel guests. Over ten years, that would amount to $17.5 million, not the $20 million figure claimed last night.

The resolution applying for bond commission approval was passed unanimously. The accompanying ordinance was introduced, and will be up for final approval at the next council meeting.

The council also approved a resolution approving property acquisition adjacent to the Ruston Airport.

Plans are to extend the runway, necessitating relocation of LA Hwy 146. The property purchases are for the highway’s right-of-way.

Pearce asked if the funding was from the Federal Aviation Administration, to which Assistant Public Works Director John Freeman said the airport expansion was funded by the FAA and the Louisiana Department of Transportation, but the road relocation was a City of Ruston capital project.

Asked how much, Freeman said that was estimated to be $2 million. Walker said that about $5 million was budgeted each year for capital projects.

Lincoln Parish School Board Tomorrow


The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet Tuesday, February 5, 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here’s the agenda.