Archive for June, 2019

Ruston City Council Monday

06/30/2019

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, July 1, 2019, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 410 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.

Notable is a resolution authorizing work on the Celebrity Drive/North Service Road Connector on Hwy 33, near the Raceway Service Station.

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Judges Not Above the Law: LA State Supreme Court

06/27/2019

Supreme Court allows lawsuit against 4JDC judges, law clerk
By Zach Parker zach@ouachitacitizen.com Jun 27, 2019

The state Supreme Court gave the green light Wednesday to a Monroe businessman’s lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials, including five judges and a law clerk, who are accused of tampering with court filings and concealing the activity.

In his July 2015 lawsuit, Stanley Palowsky III, of Monroe, alleged that law clerk Allyson Campbell concealed or destroyed court documents he filed in a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork. Palowsky also sued Fourth Judicial District Court judges Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters, and retired Judge Benjamin “Ben” Jones, who now serves as the court administrator. Palowsky claimed the judges knew about Campbell’s activities and worked with her to cover up the acts.

Palowsky’s lawsuit failed to advance in district court after retired Judge Jerome “Jerry” Barbera III, of Thibodeaux, dismissed the lawsuit in November 2015. At that time, Barbera ruled that Campbell and the five defendant judges could not be sued because they enjoyed judicial immunity. The legal concept of judicial immunity protects judges from civil claims, or having to pay civil damages, based on any actions they undertook in a judicial capacity.

“Considering the highly unusual and specific facts of this case, the court of appeal erred in finding the judges were entitled to absolute judicial immunity,” stated the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The crux of oral arguments before the Supreme Court was whether the judges’ alleged cover-up was an administrative act or a judicial, or adjudicative, act.

See here the complete article (subscription required).

See here the court opinion.

Mays Sentenced to Two More Life w/o Parole Terms

06/25/2019

Cameron Mays, convicted last May of the murder of Dr. Susan Hashway, was this morning sentenced to two life without parole terms, plus an additional 30 years for ancillary crimes.

Hashway, a retired Grambling professor, was found slain in June of 2012 in her Paynter Drive home in Ruston.

The sentence was handed down by Division B Judge Tommy Rogers at Third Judicial District Court in Ruston.

The two life sentences are for Aggravated Kidnapping and Second Degree Murder. The additional sentences were for Aggravated Burglary, Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, and Unauthorized Use of an Access Card.

Rogers noted that there “were no mitigating factors” in the crimes, and that these were “brutal and callous offenses” that resulted in Hashway’s death. Mays had “no remorse, and openly bragged to his friends” about the crime.

Appearing for the state was Assistant Attorney General Michelle Thompson. Also on hand was Assistant AG Madeline Slaughter-Young.

Representing Mays was Public Defender Kia Richardson.

With this sentencing, Cameron Mays’ role in the 2012 crime spree is concluded.

Left to adjudicate are the roles for three of Mays’ accomplices, Brandon Bonton, Markeva Daye, and Robert Demps.

Also unresolved is the role of one Kevin Owens in the crime spree.

At the recent murder trial, it was claimed by defense attorney Dwayne Burrell that Owens committed the murder and also committed an earlier rape and kidnapping that Mays was convicted of in April, 2016.

Mays is currently serving two life terms for that crime event.

Burrell also claimed that Owen was an informant for the Ruston Police Department.

We recently reviewed the case files at the Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court and can confirm that Owens was indeed an RPD informant.

At the earlier trial, the victim testified that there were two perpetrators and that both participated in the kidnapping. Only one assaulted her, she testified.

Mays said on the stand that Owens was his accomplice for that crime, and that he was the one who assaulted the victim.

When interviewed, Owens denied any involvement, according to the case files.

No second suspect in the first crime has ever been named.

That crime took place in the early hours of Monday, June 4, 2012. The murder occurred in the early hours of Wednesday, June 6, 2012.

LPPJ/Ruston Agreement to Cover Work Already Done

06/12/2019

The cooperative endeavor agreement between the City of Ruston and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury pertaining to tornado debris cleanup is for work that has already been done, and not for any new work, it was said at last night’s meeting of the jury’s Public Works Committee.

Jury Administrator Courtney Hall said that in the immediate aftermath of last April’s tornado, the jury dispatched several crews with boom trucks to help open streets and roads within the city limits.

Said Hall, “This agreement that you have here is really a post-event agreement. We actually were in the City of Ruston, on my directive, at their request, like a week or so after the storm.”

He added, “What we need to do in order to be able to capture any costs that we incurred, and that the city incurred – since we’ve gotten the presidential disaster declaration… one thing that they require is a written agreement between any and all entities and private contractors. If you don’t have those, you might be hung out on a limb on trying to get your reimbursements.”

Asked if a retroactive agreement might cause issues with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Hall said that usually they were amenable to such deals, as it wouldn’t make sense to delay emergency work while waiting on paperwork.

Bobby Bennett (District Three) asked about the procedure for payment.

Said Hall, “This particular agreement will allow the police jury, who sent personnel and equipment in to assist the city, to be able to claim that time, manpower, equipment, fuel as costs for reimbursements.”

The committee voted unanimously to adopt the agreement.

The committee also fielded requests from the Village of Choudrant and the Town of Dubach for street repair and drainage work.

Those were also approved.

Perhaps the most important event of last night was the return of District Seven juror Jody Backus, who has been absent for several months. Last fall, he was diagnosed with cancer, and since that time has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy treatment.

Thanking everyone for their prayers and well-wishes, Backus added, “I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior for pulling me through this time. I finished my treatment four weeks ago yesterday – my last chemo – the doctor says I’m clean.”

The Parks, Recreation & Tourism Committee heard from Nadel and Gussman VP Joe Anderson, who was negotiating to buy 600 thousand barrels of surface water from the Lincoln Parish Park lake. That amount of water would lower the lake about four to five feet, if no further rains occur, he said.

The water is for fracking several oil/gas wells the company has drilled.

However, the upside is that the park would receive about $150 thousand, which would be used to make park improvements.

Anderson noted that the company had bought water from the park several times previously, but it had been in the winter and spring, so the lake refilled prior to summer usage.

Even though he had other sources for water, Anderson said he would rather buy from the parish so the money could benefit the public.

The committee unanimously approved the sale.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury to Help City with Tornado Cleanup

06/10/2019

A proposed cooperative endeavor agreement between the City of Ruston and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury would call for the parish to furnish trucks and drivers to help with city’s cleanup from tornado damage suffered last April.

The item is on the jury’s Public Works Committee agenda at tomorrow’s (Tuesday, 6/11) regular meeting of the jury and its committees.

Here are the terms:

A. City Obligations:
1. Organize handling efforts (bottom of page cut off).
2. Provide seven (7) trash trucks and up to five (5) dump trucks and loaders.
3. Provide fuel for all City and Parish trucks.

B. Police Jury Obligations:
1. Provide up to four (4) insured trash trucks and drivers for handle debris removal and disposal.
2. Provide all Landfill tickets to City to claim in national disaster declaration with FEMA.
3. Claim all labor for services on the disaster declaration claims with FEMA.
4. Burn or otherwise dispose of all Debris at the Landfill at no cost to the City.

See here the complete document.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be at the Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor.

Here are the meeting times and agendas:

Public Property and Buildings Committee – 6:00 PM
agenda

Parks, Recreation & Tourism Committee – 6:15 PM
agenda

Public Works Committee – 6:30 PM
agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM
agenda

Ruston Housing Authority Assistant Director Charged

06/06/2019

A former Assistant Director of the Ruston Housing Authority (RHA) has been charged with misappropriation of monies to which she was not entitled, according to documents from the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

Kimberly King was RHA assistant director from 2015 to 2017, and was in charge of payroll, accounts payable, and all bookkeeping for the agency.

She was cited for unauthorized overtime of $6,190, non-payment of insurance premiums of $3,927, and unauthorized borrowing of $9,426 from the agency’s retirement fund.

A hearing by the Ethics Adjudicatory Board has been requested.

See here the document.

Meng Family Achieves again @ Lincoln Schools

06/05/2019

Amanda Meng, center, with parents June and Dave

Not to be outdone by her older brother Austin, Amanda Meng is the second of Dave and June Meng’s children to be lauded as a high achiever in Lincoln Parish schools.

She was at last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish School Board, and was recognized for scoring a perfect 36 on the American College Test (ACT).

Her brother Austin was recognized four years ago as a National Merit Scholarship finalist.

Amanda, who’ll be a Ruston High School (RHS) Senior this fall, is a National Honor Society member, news editor of the school’s newspaper, and is President of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter.

An accomplished pianist, she was a first-place winner in Calculus at the state Literary Rally.

Her plans include a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) college education, and then medical school.

Board President Joe Mitcham noted, “The fact that you’ve taken the talents God has given to you – developed them further to improve your mind and improve your studies – we’re very proud that you’ve made Lincoln Parish proud.”

Other academic news included a report from Secondary Supervisor Ricky Durrett, who said that for the school year 2017-2018, the graduation rate was above 95%, among the best in the state.

Durrett said that measure counts freshmen who graduate within four years.

See here the tabulations.

Business Manager George Murphy reported that sales tax collections were still lagging, mostly because of a decline of oil and gas exploration in the parish.

He cited a report from the parish’s tax office that documents the collections by business/industry.

Ruston Airport Board Changes Contemplated

06/05/2019

One of Lincoln Parish News Online’s sharp-eyed readers asked about an agenda item from Monday night’s meeting, specifically the Ruston Airport Authority Advisory Board. An ordinance was introduced that at first glance seemed routine.

See here the proposed ordinance.

We compared the proposed with the existing ordinance, and it appears a significant change in airport governance would result if the new ordinance is adopted.

From the proposed ordinance:

Sec. 4-18. Powers and duties; compensation; records.

(a) The board shall operate in an advisory capacity to the mayor and board of aldermen and shall advise and provide recommendations to the mayor and board of aldermen regarding the Ruston Regional Airport and matters related thereto. The board shall have no other powers or duties.

The existing ordinance reads as follows:

Sec. 4-18. – Powers and duties; incurring debt; compensation; records.

(a) The airport authority shall have such powers and perform such duties as prescribed in R.S. 2:601 et seq., except as provided in this section.

Here is a link to LA RS 2:601, Airport Authorities Law. Among the duties and powers vested to an airport authority are:

An authority may employ an executive director, airport manager, secretary, technical experts, and such other officers, agents, and employees, permanent and temporary, as it may require, and shall determine their qualifications, duties, and compensation.

To plan, acquire, construct, improve, maintain, equip, operate, regulate and protect airports and air navigation facilities, including the acquisition, maintenance and operation at such airports of buildings and other facilities for the servicing of aircraft or for the comfort and accommodation of air travelers, and the purchase of and sale of supplies, goods, and commodities as an incident to the operation of its airport properties.

An authority is authorized to accept, receive, receipt for, disburse, and expend federal and state moneys and other moneys, public or private, made available by grant or loan or both, to accomplish, in whole or in part, any of the purposes of this Chapter.

The new ordinance apparently would strip the airport authority of all duties and powers, and place those responsibilities with the mayor and council.

Ward Three Alderman Jedd Lewis introduced the proposed ordinance. There was no discussion.

Prior to a final vote, a public hearing for citizen input must be held.

Presumably, the item will be on next month’s agenda.

Federal Assistance Approved for April Tornado

06/04/2019

President Trump has approved a Federal Disaster Declaration for damage received in the April 25 tornado that struck Ruston, Mayor Ronny Walker told last night’s meeting of the Ruston City Council.

“At 3:30 today, I received a call from the Governor, and the President has signed the national letter – disaster letter – so that means we will be eligible for FEMA reimbursement on FEMA qualified expenses to the tune of 75%,” Walker said.

Walker thanked the staff who prepared the required paperwork, which was voluminous, he noted.

He also said that a contractor had been retained to clean up storm debris.

According to a press release from the Governor’s Office:

The approval covers Public Assistance (PA) costs in the impacted areas. The purpose of the PA Grant Program is to support communities’ recovery from major disasters by providing them with grant assistance for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and restoring public infrastructure. Local governments, states, tribes, territories, and certain private nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply.

The request for Individual Assistance for homeowners is still under review.

See here the declaration DR-4439 at the FEMA website.

During the business part of the meeting, several housekeeping resolutions and ordinances were addressed, including the revocation of the dedication of Ball Park Road between South Farmerville and US 167.

A new access is being constructed in connection with the sports complex, and the old road right-of-way will become part of the complex.

Also, a resolution was approved to work with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development regarding I-20 lighting improvements at the Cooktown Road exit.

It is hoped that project will come to fruition within the next 2 to 3 years.

Lincoln Parish School Board Tomorrow

06/03/2019

The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet Tuesday, June 4, 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville St.

Here’s the agenda.