Archive for December, 2019

Sumlin Pleads Guilty to Obscenity

12/17/2019

A Former Louisiana House of Representatives member this evening plead guilty to one charge of Obscenity with a Juvenile in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston.

William Sumlin, 76, of Simsboro was sentenced to three years hard labor, suspended, three years supervised probation, and a $1 thousand fine.

Sumlin told Division B Judge Tommy Rogers “Yessir” when asked by the judge did you on or about September 18, 2015 “exhibit sexually violent material to a juvenile who was 16?”

After sentencing, Sumlin said “I’m sorry this happened.”

He served in the Louisiana House from 1983 to 1988.

The charge of obscenity is defined thus:

LA RS §106:A(6)

Advertisement, exhibition, electronic communication, or display of sexually violent material. “Violent material” is any tangible work or thing which the trier of facts determines depicts actual or simulated patently offensive acts of violence, including but not limited to, acts depicting sadistic conduct, whippings, beatings, torture, and mutilation of the human body, as described in Item (2)(b)(iii) of this Subsection.

The original charge was Indecent Behavior with a Juvenile, and carries a maximum penalty of seven years and a maximum $5 thousand fine.

See here the original indictment.

Sumlin was arrested in October, 2015.

Sumlin was defended by Monroe attorney LaValle Salomon and prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones.

The guilty plea followed an hour-long recess where the prosecutor and defense attorney presumably hammered out the details of the deal. Also, Salomon could be seen huddled in discussion several times with Sumlin both in and out of the courtroom.

Second Circuit Court Controversy/Coverup Spreads

12/15/2019

The sudden retirement last year of Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Henry Brown is still making waves, and is likely to become an issue in upcoming judge’s races.

Brown retired after it was alleged that he leaned on fellow circuit court judges in an effort to sway their opinions on a case that involved a “close personal friend” of his. A three-judge panel was hearing the appeal, but he wasn’t a member of that panel. Typically, three judges chosen at random from the nine-judge court hear appeals of cases from district courts.

The panel upheld a 2016 First Judicial District Court jury decision that Hahn Williams breached her fiduciary duty as trustee of the Fred L. Houston Inter Vivos Trust. The jury charged Ms. Williams with $1.1 million in damages for breach of duty to the Trust and determined she was liable to the Estate for $460,605.

See here the 2nd Circuit Court decision.

Earlier this year, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Williams’ appeal, upholding the circuit court’s ruling.

The trust involved the estate of one Fred Langford Houston, a DeSoto Parish widower who amassed a small fortune before his death in 2008. Williams was Houston’s financial advisor and executor of his will. Williams and Judge Brown had a close personal relationship, according to news reports. Brown bought a house from Williams in 2016, in which Williams continued to live for a time, those same reports allege.

Also in the mix is Trina Chu, Williams’ longtime friend and a law clerk for Brown. Chu was a 1982 refugee from Vietnam, and was herself a candidate for a 2nd Circuit judgeship in 2016.

According to Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Investigators, Brown’s law clerk (Chu) had downloaded documents to her own flash drives and e-mailed legal advice to Williams, and then forwarded some of that communication to Judge Brown via his Second Circuit court e-mail address.

Word of events surrounding the Williams appeal got to the Louisiana Supreme Court and on Sept. 27, 2018, the court’s chief justice banned Brown from the appeals court house. Brown submitted notice of his retirement the next day.

Williams is still fighting the judgement, reportedly with Henry Brown as her attorney.

Mercer v LA DOTD

A lawsuit filed last September seeking to annul another 2nd Circuit ruling that overturned a $20 million jury award also alleges “ill practices” similar to what is purported in the Houston succession case.

See here the document.

Mangham contractor Jeff Mercer won a $20 million award in 2015 over claims that the Louisiana Department of Transportation retaliated against him when he reported to higher-ups an attempted bribe by state inspectors.

A 2nd Circuit panel that included Henry Brown overturned that verdict in 2017. Brown wrote the opinion.

Mercer’s suit seeks a do-over, since documents concerning his case were allegedly found on Chu’s flash drive, along with the Houston case documents.

Mercer also alleges the other panel members never reviewed the case documents, and just rubber-stamped Brown’s opinion.

The latest development is an effort by the 2nd Circuit to cover up the issue by asking a district court in Monroe to seal all the case documents.

See here the document

A hearing on that motion was held in Monroe on November 21, but no ruling has been handed down.

With the recent retirement announcement of State Supreme Court Justice Marcus Clark of Monroe, expect several area judges to run for that job.

2nd Circuit Judge Jay McCallum has expressed interest, as have a couple of Monroe judges.

Here is some other reporting on the case:

Louisiana Record

12/29/2015 – $20 million bribery ruling against DOTD a sign that the state is tired of corruption – by Anna Aguillard
11/8/2019 – Hearing scheduled in case alleging corruption in Louisiana DOTD, state appeals court – by Anna Aguillard
11/13/2019 – We will expose all of this corruption,’ plaintiff in Louisiana DODT, Second Circuit case says – by Karen Kidd
11/16/2019 – Appeals court moves to seal docs in corruption case; ‘If the judge seals it, they’ll bury this,’ plaintiff says – by Karen Kidd

KTBS – TV3 Shreveport

6/8/2017 – Court: Highway inspectors were doing jobs, not harassing businessman – by Gary Hines
10/1/2018 – Judge retires after complaint about behavior toward colleagues – by Gary Hines
12/12/2019 – KTBS investigation reveals questions about judge and clerk’s conduct – by Jamie Ostroff & Gary Hines

Louisiana Voice

4/9/2014 – Contractor claims in lawsuit that DOTD official attempted ‘shake down’ for cash and equipment during Monroe work – by Tom Aswell
12/5/2015 – Story of attempted contractor shakedown broken 2 years ago by LouisianaVoice results in $20 million verdict against state – by Tom Aswell
6/17/2017 – How to overturn $20M verdict against DOTD: get appeals judge whose daddy worked for DOTD to write the decision – by Tom Aswell
9/28/2019 – The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal didn’t expect transparency to shine a light on widespread chicanery in Jeff Mercer case – by Tom Aswell
11/18/2019 – What price justice? Case of Mangham contractor taking on ugly face of a judicial conspiracy against individual rights – by Tom Aswell

Ouachita Citizen

6/14/2017 – Judge Rambo’s errors undo $20-million suit against DOTD – by Zach Parker
6/20/2017 – Judge’s recusal, new hearing sought in DOTD case – by Zach Parker
10/2/2019 – Contractor’s appeal sheds light on Second Circuit chief judge’s exit – by Zach Parker
12/4/2019 – Appeal court judge’s retirement figures in contractor’s suit – by Zach Parker

Last Meeting for Six Lincoln Police Jurors

12/11/2019

Six Lincoln Parish Police Jurors – Randy Roberson, Bobby Bennett, David Hammons, Walter Pullen, Jody Backus, and Nancy Wilson – met last night for the final meeting of 2019. All either were defeated or chose not to run for re-election.

Bennett, Wilson, and Roberson all said they were privileged to have served their constituents, and that they expected the jury to be sworn in January 2020 will serve Lincoln Parish well.

There will be some other new faces in the staff, also.

Treasurer Holly Lowry will be leaving in April to take a job in the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Tax/Accounting office. She has been the Treasurer since early in 2019, and served as interim since the summer of 2018.

Administrator Courtney Hall, who had earlier this year announced his retirement, said last night he would stay on until after the new jury was organized in January.

Also, Lincoln Parish Registrar of Voters Dianne Stone submitted her resignation last month and will be retiring effective 12/31. The registrar is not a jury employee, but is appointed by that body.

Look for lots of folks to apply for the job.

During the Public Works Committee meeting, there was a bit of discussion about some localized problems with parish roads.

District Eight’s Skip Russell said that a couple of roads in his district have been damaged by oilfield truck traffic.

“Chandler and Cheatwood Road – those big 18-wheelers that are hauling water that’s re-injected back into the soil – they have eaten those two roads up,” he said.

District Ten’s Nancy Wilson mentioned Water Tank Road, and District Six’s Walter Pullen cited the roads in the Crestview subdivision.

See here the three year plan.

During the full jury meeting, the final amended budget of 2019 was adopted, along with the proposed 2020 budget. Here are the documents:

2020 Budget Message
2019 Amended Budget Ordinance
2020 Proposed Budget Ordinance
2019/2020 Budget spreadsheet

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tomorrow

12/09/2019

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, December 10, Lincoln Parish Court House, third floor. Committee meetings begin at 6:00 PM.

Public Works Committee – 6:00 PM
Agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM
Agenda

Lincoln Schools Retirees to get new Health Plan

12/04/2019

Most retired employees of the Lincoln Parish School District will begining January 1 utilize Medicare as their primary health insurance, after the school board voted to adopt plan changes at last night’s meeting.

Medicare eligible individuals are those who are 65 or older and have paid into the program during their working careers.

Retirees who are not 65 or haven’t paid into the system will stay on the existing district retiree plan.

See here the memo and plan summary.

The board’s insurance consultant, David Charpentier, said that increasing costs necessitated the changes.

“Staring January 1st anybody who retires, will have to enroll in Medicare, A and B, in order to be eligible for any plan,” he said.

Several principals received salary increments for improved student performance. Those rewarded include:

Tony Antley – Choudrant High School
Dan Gressett – Ruston High School
Rusty Farrar – Simsboro High School
Angela Hoffman – Simsboro Elementary Director
John Young – Ruston Junior High School

Also, there was a presentation on the district’s French Language Immersion Program by a group of 4-year olds and their teachers. Language immersion is a technique used in bilingual language education in which two languages are used for instruction in a variety of topics

Program coordinator Corinne Nutt said the program was implemented this school year, and is the first program north of I-10 in Louisiana. Benefits are manyfold, Nutt said.

“A recent study of 85 thousand students in North Carolina showed that those who had immersion had higher overall reading and math scores. In some cases they scored two grades higher than their peers,” she said.

Two of the district’s four teachers are Belgian natives, one is from Canada, and one from France.

Streetscape Project for Monroe Street Corridor to begin

12/03/2019

A project to upgrade South Monroe Street in downtown Ruston got the go-ahead at last night’s meeting of the Ruston Board of Aldermen. Hunt, Guillot & Associates was tagged to provide plans, specifications, and bid documents for the project.

Monroe Street runs north/south parallel to and one block west of Trenton Street.

The project will consist of street and sidewalk upgrades, utilities relocation, street lighting, and landscaping. Portions of West Mississippi Avenue, Dan Reneau Drive, and South Homer Street are included in the project.

Mayor Ronny Walker noted that a $17 million federal grant will fund the project.

The council also approved annexation of 26.7 acres into the city, located on West Alabama north of its intersection with Maple Street.

School Board Meets Tonight

12/03/2019

The Lincoln Parish School Board will meet tonight, Tuesday, December 3, 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here’s the agenda.

Ruston City Council Tonight

12/02/2019

Ruston’s City Council will meet tonight (Monday, December 2), 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here’s the agenda.