Archive for December, 2020

Library Board Accepts Director’s Retirement

12/31/2020

After a contentious 75 minute discussion of Lincoln Parish Library Director Vivian McCain’s character and professional competence, the library’s Board of Control voted unanimously to accept her letter of retirement, effective at the close of business today. The board met in a special called meeting late yesterday afternoon at the Library Events Center.

As the meeting began, a motion was made to amend the agenda and remove the character/competence language from the discussion, but it failed when board member Charles Penuell voted no. Unanimous approval is required to amend public meeting agendas in Louisiana.

McCain plainly wanted the discussion to be held, asking, “You only want to discuss the letter of retirment – you do not want to tell me even today why this is happening?” Board member David Gullatt said that was correct. Penuell added that he voted against the motion so that the discussion would be carried out.

A second agenda item was added to discuss/take action on McCain’s letter.

Harriet Jones made a public comment at this point, saying she was a frequent library patron, and that the controversy was badly handled by the board.

Said Jones, “When I heard she was resigning, I just had to express my opinion.” She added, “I would hope this board would respectfully decline Mrs. McCain’s resignation.”

A motion and second was made to go into executive session, and was passed. However, McCain said she wanted the discussion public.

Board Chair Augusta Clark listed four points that were problem areas with McCain’s performance: board relations, fiscal responsibility, staffing issues, and planning issues. Clark noted that McCain was an “at will” employee, and never had a contract.

Clark charged McCain with creating a “toxic relationship” with the board.

“She appears to do as she wishes, with no intention of making the board part of the operational process,” she said.

McCain replied, “Mrs. Jones, you were quite right – I will be dragged through the mud with some very harsh statements that are completely bald-faced lies.”

One major point of contention was a request for recent meeting minutes. Clark and Gullatt both alleged that when they asked for the minutes of the November and December meetings, McCain refused to provide them.

Said Gullatt, “We asked for all these minutes that she has not done to be formulated. When Dr. Clark asked for the minutes, Vivian’s reply was ‘you’re not getting them.'”

McCain replied vociferously, “You are lying!”

Penuell was the only board member to defend McCain.

He said he had received many calls supporting McCain. “One constituent said that we should be honoring her with a Vivian McCain award in excellence in leadership.”

Penuell continued, saying that the board interfered with McCain’s operation of the library. “She has been treated abominably by members of the board,” he said.

With that, Penuell left the meeting and said he would see them at the January meeting. Asked to stay by Clark, he said, “I’m not interested in staying in this environment.”

Another issue mentioned was excessive personnel turnover. No actual statistics were cited, but Gullatt opined that 10 to 15 staff had left within the past year.

Board member Deborah Holliman was also critical of McCain.

She said, “This year, we’ve gone off the rails. We have seen a marked difference in our ability to work with Vivian.”

Library Director On Board Agenda

12/29/2020

A special called meeting of the Lincoln Parish Library’s Board of Control has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 30, Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

The single action agenda item is listed thus: “Discuss the character and professional competence of the Lincoln Parish Library Director and take action, if necessary.”

The meeting begins at 4:00 PM.

Canterbury Appointed to Library Board

12/16/2020

On a unanimous vote of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury, retired Lincoln Schools Librarian Jan Canterbury was appointed to the Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control at last night’s meeting.

Canterbury thanked the jurors for the appointment and promised to do her best for all concerned.

“I will be very respectful of the police jury, the library board, and the residents, the people of this parish,” she said. “I’ll be fair, I’ll be faithful, I’m going to put some common sense into it. I want it to work,” Canterbury added.

Earlier in the meeting, during the public comments period, a discomfited Dr. Augusta Clark questioned the appointment procedure. Clark is president of the library board.

Said Clark, “Board members have not met the replacement, nor have we had the opportunity to interview her before the appointment.” She added, “One cannot help but think that the trust of the public, and the police jury, and the library board is eroded when the saga continues.”

Clark went on to say the appointment process should be formally modified, so that any new appointments would be approved by the other sitting board members.

The jury also called a public hearing for the January 2021 meeting date to allow public input for the jury’s 2021 budget. This will include the library budget that agency proposed Monday night.

The jury’s Personnel/Benefits Committee met earlier to discuss the Tracy Calloway complaint against Parish Administrator Doug Postel. The hour and fifteen minute executive session took no action, and committee chair Hazel Hunter said that no further discussion or action was likely.

Library Budget Trimmed For Second Time

12/15/2020

Yesterday’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control was the second special meeting in less than a week, with both of them enacting budget cuts. This, after the 12/4/20 defeat of the library’s main source of funding, a 5.85 mil parishwide property tax.

Last Wednesday, the board cut about 8%, and yesterday another 9% was trimmed.

Prior to the election, the library had planned on spending about $2.47 million for 2021, a $200 thousand increase over the 2020 figure of $2.27 million.

See that budget document.

Last Wednesday, the proposed 2021 spending was pared back to $2.27 million, and yesterday another $270 thousand was cut, to a total of just over $2.0 million. Slightly more than half of that reduction was in the salaries and wages category.

See here the document.

Parish Treasurer Chris Hyde said they had input from several board members, and that the wage/salary reductions would be accomplished by not filling vacancies.

Said Hyde, “We’re not going to cut anybody. We can work around staffing our library without filling those vacated positions.”

The revised budget will be considered at tonight’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury.

Library Payroll Detailed

12/13/2020

There are thirty-three employees on the Lincoln Parish Library payroll, Lincoln Parish News Online has learned. This, according to documents obtained via a public records request late last week.

See here the document.

The 2020 hourly pay scale ranges from the Library Director @ $43.92/hr to Shelver @ $8.67/hr. Those pay rates do not include retirement benefits and insurance paid on the employee’s behalf.

According to budget documents dated 11/23/2020, the amended, or final, budget for 2020 showed salaries and wages totaling about $963 thousand. Retirement benefits were about $93 thousand, and health/dental insurance premiums paid for the employees were about $296 thousand.

The total benefits of $389 thousand is about 29% of the total $1.35 million in employee compensation.

Most of the employees are full-time, it appears.

The total of the hourly rates is $502.45. Multiplying that figure times the number of working hours in a year (52 wks x 40 hrs/wk = 2080) results in a total of $1.05 million, a number that is only about 9% greater than the actual $963 thousand listed in the budget.

The amended 2020 expenditures total about $2.27 million for all library expenses.

Library Board Special Meeting Monday

12/12/2020

The Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control will have a special called meeting Monday, December 14, 4:00 PM, Lincoln Parish Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

The single item listed is “Revise and Approve 2021 Library Budget for Police Jury.” This, after last Wednesday’s special meeting of the library board where that very item was discussed and voted upon, according to Friday’s Ruston Daily Leader Caleb Daniel article.

It is not clear why the board is meeting again on the same item, but we’ll be there to see why.

Special Police Jury Meeting Next Tuesday

12/11/2020

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet in special session next Tuesday (12/15) at the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton.

Here are the agendas.

At 5:30 PM, the Personnel/Benefits Committee will meet for “consideration of complaint.” Presumably, this is the issue that was brought up earlier this week regarding Tracey Calowell’s allegation of harassment by Parish Administrator Doug Postel.

The full jury will meet at 6:30 PM, and on their agenda is appointment of Jan Canterbury to the Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control.

Also, the jury will consider adopting for tax year 2020 a .55 mil property tax for the library. This is the portion of the tax that pays for the building’s construction bonds. The jury’s 2020 amended and 2021 proposed budgets are on the agenda, too.

Jurors “Evaluate” Administrator, Treasurer

12/09/2020

Last night’s meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury was one of the more unusual we’ve seen in the 11 1/2 years of covering the parish’s governing body. Parish Administrator Doug Postel and Parish Treasurer Chris Hyde were publicly critiqued, rather than the normal practice of doing so in an executive session. The discussion was to assess their job performance after six months on the job, an aim that was expressed when they were first hired.

Several of the jurors wanted to go into executive session, but the formal written notice to Postel and Hyde neglected to advise the two of their right to have the discussion in public, per Louisiana’s Open Meeting Law. A motion was made to table the matter until the next jury meeting, but Postel said he preferred the discussion be public.

“I believe we should do everything in an open meeting, unless it puts us in a bad legal situation,” Postel said. Hyde echoed that sentiment. The jurors had been sent evaluation forms to be completed and placed into the personnel file of the individual.

Postel’s review was tepid, but most jurors seemed willing to overlook mistakes that they said probably were a result of inexperience. Postel said as much, saying that his “political skills” needed honing.

Most critical were Hazel Hunter (District 2) and Sharyon Mayfield (District 11).

Said Mayfield, “You just mess up. Sometimes you just need to hear somebody else’s advice.”

Mayfield brought up the issue of the FEMA grant controversy of a couple of months ago, and a complaint letter sent to jurors from parish GIS Director Tracey Calloway that alleged “harassment” by Postel against himself.

After about 20 minutes of debate between Mayfield and Postel, jury President Joe Henderson (District 9) managed to quell the discussion. He had briefly conferred outside the meeting room with T. J. Cranford (District 4) and Matt Pullin (District 7).

Annette Straughter (District 12) was much more forgiving. “My interactions have been very positive with you. It’s tough walking that role being in leadership,” she said.

Hyde’s review was more mellow. Almost all the jurors said he either achieved or exceeded expectations.

New juror Richard Durrett (District 3) was the most complimentary. “I’ve had a lot of interaction with Mr. Hyde on a daily basis. I can tell you he’s very competent, very accommodating, and very thorough… I think he’s doing a good job,” he said. Durrett chairs the jury’s Finance Committee.

The jury voted to appoint Amy Miller to the Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control, and Jan Canterbury was recommended as a replacement for David Gullatt, who recently resigned.

Canterbury was a librarian in the Lincoln Parish School District, and would if appointed represent the Simsboro area on the board.

An appointment to Waterworks District No. 1 was made, but is likely invalid. The jury voted to appoint Ronnie Rodrigues to that body, but he was not at the meeting. The jury’s policy is that the prospective appointee be present at the meeting when the appointment is made.

The jury’s Public Works Commitee earlier voted unanimously to approve the road and bridge capital improvement program for 2021, 2022, 2023.

See here the document.

City Tax Collections Up From Last Year

12/08/2020

City of Ruston Treasurer Julie Speir told last night’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen that the city’s sales tax collections had increased over last year.

“Total sales tax collected was approximately $1,662,000, an increase $165,000, or 11%, from October of prior year,” she said. “Our sales tax numbers are still holding strong – hopefully we’ll carry that out for the rest of the year,” she added.

Speir noted that the Hotel/Restaurant take for October was $165 thousand, 4 thousand over the same period last year. Also, she said the city was still pursuing FEMA monies for last year’s tornado and Hurrican Laura this year.

In response to a query from Ward Four’s Jim Pearce, Speir said that total year-to-date sales tax revenue was about the same as last year, but that the Hotel/Restaurant portion was slightly less than last year.

Earlier in the meeting, the board adopted an ordinance designating the date, time, and place for next year’s council meetings.

See here the ordinance.

Police Jury Tomorrow

12/07/2020

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury will meet Tuesday, December 8, Library Events Center, 910 North Trenton. The Public Works Committee will meet at 6:15 PM, followed by the full jury at 7:00 PM.

Here are the agendas.