Archive for June, 2020

US Fifth Circuit on Protests & Worship

06/19/2020

Yesterday, the U. S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit ruled that a lawsuit by Rev. Tony Spell against Louisiana Governor Bel Edwards was no longer relevant, because Edwards’ order prohibiting in-person worship services had expired.

Spell, Pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, LA, refused to abide by the order from the very start of the Covid-19 hysteria, and held in person worship services from then to this day.

Spell has been arrested, briefly jailed, and issued numerous summons. He sued in federal court in early May.

What is noteworthy in the unanimous ruling by the 3-judge panel is the concurring opinion written by James Ho.

He addresses the issue of how protests and worship services have been treated differently by authorities.

At the outset of the pandemic, public officials declared that the only way to prevent the spread of the virus was for everyone to stay home and away from each other. They ordered citizens to cease all public activities to the maximum possible extent—even the right to assemble to worship or to protest.

But circumstances have changed. In recent weeks, officials have not only tolerated protests—they have encouraged them as necessary and important expressions of outrage over abuses of government power.

It is common knowledge, and easily proved, that protestors do not comply with social distancing requirements. But instead of enforcing the Governor’s orders, officials are encouraging the protests — out of an admirable, if belated, respect for First Amendment rights. The Governor himself commended citizens for “appropriately expressing their concerns and exercising their First Amendment Rights.” If protests are exempt from social distancing requirements, then worship must be too.

None of this is to say that Pastor Spell and his parishioners should ignore the advice of health experts. But the same is true for the protestors. No doubt many other Louisianans would have protested too, but for the advice of health experts. The point here is that state and local officials gave them the choice. Those officials took no action when protestors chose to ignore health experts and violate social distancing rules. And that forbearance has consequences.

The First Amendment does not allow our leaders to decide which rights to honor and which to ignore. In these troubled times, nothing should unify the American people more than the principle that freedom for me, but not for thee, has no place under our Constitution.

See here the complete ruling.

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LPPJ Administrator Pay Settled

06/17/2020

The newly hired Lincoln Parish Police Jury Administrator will be paid $96,300/year, a correspondent has told Lincoln Parish News Online.

We are out of town and were unable to attend last night’s meeting.

The vote was 7 to 5.

Retiring Administrator Courtney Hall was initially hired at a starting pay of $77,200/year in 2009.

For 2018, Hall’s salary was $108,600/year, plus about $30 thousand in retirement and medical benefits.

LPPJ Special Meeting – Administrator Pay

06/15/2020

What: Lincoln Parish Police Jury Special Called Meeting
When: Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 6:00 PM
Where: Lincoln Parish Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton
Why: Parish Administrator Salary

Agenda

Dumpsters and Burners and Dogs, Oh My!

06/11/2020

There was other activity at Tuesday’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury, specifically the parish’s solid waste collection system, and what the future holds for it.

Solid Waste & Recycling Chair T. J. Cranford said during that committee’s meeting that issues with the parish’s dumpsters were one the top two complaints from constituents.

“We need to open up, discuss…about what are some of the possibilities, some ideas,” he said.

Glen Scriber asked about the possibility of adding another megasite somewhere in the parish. A megasite is a fenced and lighted location where several dumpsters are clustered.

David Green, a marketing rep for Republic Services told the committee that if the jury decided to adopt door-to-door pickup, it would cost between $13 to $15 per customer.

That company already serves Bienville Parish’s sold waste collection and disposal. A memo was distributed that describes how that parish is served.

Lincoln Parish H.E.L.P. Director Ronnie Dowling suggested that a budget study be done to determine an accurate cost.

Several jurors suggested a mail-out to parish residents describing how the existing system works, with phone numbers and suggestions on how best to use the facilities.

Also suggested was increasing the frequency of the dumpster pickups.

No formal action was taken by the committee.

Cranford told the committee about an ongoing problem with the contractor who handles the wood waste burning at the parish landfill off Highway 33.

In 2012, the jury hired Crochet Equipment Company to furnish equipment and personnel for that task, at a cost of $156 thousand/year.

It was estimated that Crochet has about 900 tons of unburned waste at the landfill. It was explained that the company lost it’s license to operate from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for several months, and has been unable to catch up.

The jury’s contract with Crochet stipulates that the unburned inventory shall not exceed 200 tons.

The committee voted to have the parish’s legal counsel send a letter to Crochet about the problems, and also voted to apply to the DEQ for a permit for the jury, with the intent of doing the wood waste burning with parish personnel.

During the public comments period, Grambling resident Gary Baldwin spoke about problems in the area with vicious dogs.

Earlier this year, former juror Nancy Wilson was severely injured by a dog that attacked her. Baldwin said that two weeks ago she was almost attacked again.

Baldwin said that when the sheriff’s office was notified, the deputies said they weren’t allowed to transport dogs in their vehicle, and that the animal control officer only worked weekdays.

Jury President Joe Henderson said the issue would be addressed.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Does Flip-Flop on Administrator

06/10/2020

After last week voting unanimously to recommend that Lincoln Parish GIS Information Technology Manager Tracy Calloway be appointed Parish Administrator, last night the group chose instead to appoint Douglas Postel to the position. Postel had most recently been Campus Director of the Louisiana Delta Community College.

The vote was 8-4. Yeas were Marvin Franks (District 3), TJ Cranford (District 4), Logan Hunt (District 5), Glen Scriber (District 6), Matt Pullin (District 7), Skip Russell (District 8), Joe Henderson (District 9), and Annette Straughter (District 12).

Voting no were Theresa Wyatt (District 1), Hazel Hunter (District 2), Milton Melton (District 10), and Sharyon Mayfield (District 11).

Making the motion to appoint Postel was Matt Pullin, with a second from Logan Hunt.

That vote was preceded by an unsuccessful motion to appoint Calloway to the position, which failed on a 6-6 tie vote. Joe Henderson and Annette Straughter joined Wyatt, Hunter, Melton, and Mayfield in support of Calloway.

Thirty minutes of public discussion – which almost wasn’t public – took place before the Calloway vote.

Sharyon Mayfield moved to amend the agenda to allow an executive session to discuss the appointment. The motion had a majority 9-3 vote, but failed since it had to be unanimous.

The discussion began with Theresa Wyatt saying that the process was broken, and that last week the jury unanimously recommended Calloway.

Said Wyatt, “We are the governing body of the parish and look at the example we have set. We used what some say is a flawed system to elect an administrator. The same ones used the same system for another employee we hired, and they said nothing about the instrument being flawed.”

Wyatt was referring to a score sheet used to rank the different applicants. That ranking system had been used earlier this year when a new parish Registrar of Voters was appointed.

Matt Pullen responded that the scoring system was flawed.

Said Pullen, “Our system for supposedly picking any applicant is so flawed that it was evident in the scores that it was stacked. I think there were better candidates as a leader of our parish.”

Skip Russell said from his perspective the scoring was not fair.

Sharyon Mayfield noted, “When we left out of the meeting that night (last week), we said that we were going with Tracy 100%. We said it. We went around the whole table and we said yes. For us to come here tonight, and say that we are doing something different is totally wrong.”

In the course of the discussion, several jurors blurted out that a verbal vote was taken among the jurors while in an executive session following the interviews last week, and that vote was 7 to 5 in favor of Calloway.

A frantic Lewis Jones interrupted each time to say that no such vote was taken, and that the jurors “can not” publicly discuss what went on in the executive session.

Jones is an assistant District Attorney and is the legal advisor to the jury.

Lincoln Parish News Online has since learned that Jones was in that executive session last week.

Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law addresses the issue of secret votes.

LA RS 42:14 Meetings of public bodies to be open to the public
A. Every meeting of any public body shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to R.S. 42:16, 17, or 18.
B. Each public body shall be prohibited from utilizing any manner of proxy voting procedure, secret balloting, or any other means to circumvent the intent of this Chapter.

06/10/2020

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Tuesday

06/08/2020

The regular monthly meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury will be Tuesday, June 9, Lincoln Parish Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton. Committee meetings begin at 5:30 PM.

Health & Welfare Committee – 5:30 PM

Agenda

Solid Waste & Recycling Committee – 6:00 PM

Agenda

Police Jury – 7:00 PM

Agenda

Supreme Court Race Gets Active

06/07/2020

A candidate for the Louisiana Supreme Court, Fourth District has begun extensive television advertising for the November 3 election.

Shannon Gremillion, a judge on the Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, based in Lake Charles, has also raised over $300 thousand to fund his campaign.

See here his campaign finance report.

The contributions, many from law firms, are mostly from the Alexandria and Lake Charles areas.

The Supreme Court’s Fourth District consists of the following parishes: Bienville, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, Claiborne, East Carroll, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Rapides, Richland, Tensas, Union, West Carroll and Winn.

Jay McCallum, a judge on Shreveport-based Court of Appeals, Second Circuit is the other announced candidate for the supreme court seat.

McCallum, prior to his election in 2018 to the circuit court, was a judge on the Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court. Prior to that, he was a state representative.

McCallum has raised little money for his campaign, according to his campaign finance report. He shows as of 5/26/20 having raised about $3.6 thousand.

McCallum is listed on Ballotpedia as independent, while Gremillion’s Ballotpedia page shows that he switched parties from Democrat to Republican earlier this year.

More “Essential Activity” in NOLA, Baton Rouge

06/04/2020

LSU president meets with protesters gathered on campus, offers support

Chick-fil-A on Siegen Lane closes as protesters gather nearby

Protesters make it onto highway in New Orleans for the second straight night

Blocking Interstate 10 Traffic in NOLA Deemed “Essential”

06/03/2020

New Orleans protesters take over I-10, stopping traffic for two hours

New Orleans, La. (WGNO) –

On Tuesday (June 2), a group of hundreds marched from Duncan Plaza to the Tulane Avenue on- ramp to I-10, and proceeded to walk on the interstate as far as the Esplanade Avenue exit to the east.

At about 8:30 pm, the NOPD tweeted that drivers should avoid the area, but allowed the protesters to march. Some stayed on one side of the interstate, while others crossed over the concrete median, blocking traffic in both directions.

At about 9 pm, the protesters were met by a line of law enforcement, including state troopers in regular uniforms, and NOPD officers, some carrying shields and some in tactical gear.

The protesters shouted slogans at the officers for about an hour, before walking down the interstate off-ramps. There were no reports of any violence or destruction of property, and NOPD Superintendent Sheaun Ferguson wants to keep it that way.