Archive for the ‘City of Ruston’ Category

Bonton Trial Reset for March

09/26/2016

Brandon Bonton’s trial was continued this morning at Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston this morning, and reset for March 20, 2017. The motion was made by Assistant Attorney General Clifford Strider, III, who was standing in for AAG Mike Ruddick.

Bonton is charged with accessory to 2nd degree murder, accessory to burglary, possession of stolen things, theft of a firearm, and possession of controlled dangerous substances. Retired Grambling State University Professor Sue Hashway was found dead in her Paynter Drive home in Ruston in June, 2012, which had also been burgled.

No reason was given for the delay, but the presence in court of two other alleged actors in the crime spree indicate that some type of maneuvering for tactical courtroom advantage is ongoing.

In court also for trial were two individuals – Markeva Daye and Robert Demps – who testified against Cameron Mays in his April, 2016 trial for aggravated kidnapping and rape. That crime was committed earlier in the same week that Hashway’s death occurred, and took place on Robert Street, west of Louisiana Tech University.

Those two trials were also reset to the March date. They are charged with unauthorized use of a debit card, and possession of stolen things.

Daye and Demps, LPNO readers will recall, had arrest warrants issued against them when they failed to show for a February, 2016 hearing.

Standing in for all the defendant’s attorneys was public defender James Buckley.

Bonton’s attorney of record is Robert Noel, Demps is represented by Robert Earle of Farmerville, and Daye is represented by Ruston attorney Forrest Moegle.

Presiding was Division B Judge Tommy Rogers.

Bonton Trial Today

09/26/2016

Trial is set this morning at Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court in Ruston for Brandon Bonton, an alleged accomplice to Brandon Mays, the accused murderer of retired Grambling State University Professor Sue Hashway. Hashway was killed in an apparent home invasion/robbery in June, 2012, in the Cypress Springs/Lakeview neighborhood of Ruston.

Bonton is charged with accessory to 2nd degree murder, accessory to burglary, possession of stolen things, and theft of a firearm.

Last April, Mays was convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape, crimes that occurred at a house on Robert Street several days prior to the Hashway death.

Mays is currently serving two life sentences for the kidnapping and rape.

Prosecution is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Mike Ruddick, while Bonton’s defense attorney is Robert Noel of Monroe.

Still unresolved is the matter of another alleged accomplice of Mays, Kevin Owens.

Owens was scheduled to be a prosecution witness, but “dropped of the face of the earth” and couldn’t be located, Ruddick told the court at a February hearing.

Owens has never been charged in either case.

Ruston City Council to Meet Monday

09/11/2016

The City of Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, September 12, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

City of Ruston’s Executive Budget Continues to Grow

08/25/2016

The budget for the City of Ruston’s Executive Department continues to grow significantly, according to budget documents for the upcoming 2016-2017 budget year. The budget includes personnel, operating services, materials & supplies, and travel.

For the fiscal year beginning 10/1/16, the total budget is $2.059 million, compared to to an original budget for the fiscal year ending 6/30/16 of $1.787 million.

As recently as two years ago (fy 10/1/13-9/30/14), the amount budgeted was $1.517 million.

See here the documents.

Most of the increase appears to be in personnel salaries and the corresponding benefits (retirement, Social Security, insurance, etc).

For the year ending 9/30/16, the original budget was $915 thousand, compared to the new budgeted amount of $1.122 million. For the year ended 9/30/14, that amount was $676 thousand.

The detailed salary breakdown of the personnel shows five new hires for next year. See here the documents:

Direct salaries fy 10/1/15-9/30/16

Direct salaries fy 10/1/16-9/30/17

Here is the complete budget for the city for all departments:

2017 Budget

Significant Budget Boost for Ruston PD

08/16/2016

The Ruston Police Department (RPD) will receive a significant budget boost for the 2016-2017 budget year, Chief Steve Rogers told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) at last night’s Ruston City Council Meeting.

Rogers said the increase would be a little over $200 thousand, about a 5% increase over last year’s total of about $4 million.

Also, significant pay raises were included for the personnel, it was learned.

Said Ward 5 Alderman Bruce Siegmund, “I am glad to see the raise for policemen. I believe we should have the best police force around – part of that means they need to get paid for it. We’ve got some vacancies now – we need some new folks in there, and so I think that’ll help.”

The department has been short-handed LPNO had recently reported, and recently had to curtail vacations to keep sufficient manpower on patrol.

In other business, the council unanimously voted to rollback property tax rates to accommodate increase property valuations. The council also voted NOT to roll forward the rates to the maximum allowed.

This means, on average, a property owner should pay no more in property taxes than last year.

Property Tax Roll Forward on Ruston Council Agenda

08/14/2016

Taxpaying property owners in Ruston and Lincoln Parish have one more hurdle to clear if they are to escape higher taxes paid to local governments.

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will vote on increasing millages to 5.88 mils from the 5.24 that has been established as the “roll back” rate.

See here the proposed ordinances.

Last week, the Lincoln Parish Police Jury defeated a roll forward attempt on four of the six taxes it collects.

The Lincoln Parish School Board and the Lincoln Parish Sheriff did not properly advertise by July 15 their intention of raising property taxes, so they are barred by law from proposing a roll forward.

The meeting will be at 6:30 PM, Monday, August 15, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton, first floor courtroom/council chamber. The Personnel/Finance Committee will also meet.

Here are the agendas:

Council Meeting
Personnel/Finance Committee

How Not to Conduct Local Government Meetings

08/12/2016

Twice this month duly elected members of two local legislative bodies were denied their right to fully participate in a deliberative process.

Last week, at Ruston’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Jim Pierce (Ward 4), moved to amend an ordinance that was duly moved, seconded, and was open for discussion. The original ordinance as moved extended alcohol sales in Ruston to 2 AM, from Midnight, among other provisions. Pierce wanted to amend it and delete only the extended hours.

Mayor Ronny Walker, who was chairing the meeting, deferred to City Attorney Bill Carter, who ruled that since Pierce’s amendment wasn’t “friendly,” that it was out of order. A friendly amendment is defined as one that the original mover has no objection to.

Last Tuesday, Lincoln Parish Police Juror Randy Roberson’s (District 4) duly seconded amendment to a motion was ignored by Jury President Jody Backus (District 7). During the discussion, there was again talk about whether it was a “friendly amendment.”

In both these cases, the proposed amendments could have had profound effects upon pending legislation, and consequently upon taxpayers and citizens.

The issue of “friendly” is discussed in Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (11th Edition) thus:

Question 8: How do you deal with a “friendly amendment”?

Answer: On occasion, while a motion is being debated, someone will get up and offer what he or she terms a “friendly amendment” to the motion, the maker of the original motion will “accept” the amendment, and the chair will treat the motion as amended. This is wrong. Once a motion has been stated by the chair, it is no longer the property of the mover, but of the assembly. Any amendment, “friendly” or otherwise, must be adopted by the full body, either by a vote or by unanimous consent.

If it appears to the chair that an amendment (or any other motion) is uncontroversial, it is proper for the chair to ask if there is “any objection” to adopting the amendment. If no objection is made, the chair may declare the amendment adopted. If even one member objects, however, the amendment is subject to debate and vote like any other, regardless of whether its proposer calls it “friendly” and regardless of whether the maker of the original motion endorses its adoption.

This brings up another question. Under what parliamentary rules does the Ruston City Council and the Lincoln Parish Police Jury operate?

If the body wants it to be Robert’s, then it needs to be documented and put in writing. Many Louisiana parishes have done just that.

Otherwise, if there are no established rules, and the chair gets to make them up on the fly, then you get what happened in these two cases.

Edit 8/13/16 – Noon

We just found this pertinent ordinance for the City of Ruston

Sec. 2-123. – Rules of order.

The conduct of all board of aldermen meetings shall be governed by the most recent edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised to the extent such rules do not conflict with the provisions of R.S. 33:321—33:463 (the Lawrason Act).

(Ord. No. 1225, § 1, 4-15-1996; Ord. No. 1546, § 1, 12-3-2007)

Ruston Council Approves Liquor Expansion 3-2

08/02/2016

After significant public comment, and discussion from a couple of members, Ruston’s Board of Aldermen approved at last night’s meeting an ordinance that will extend hours for alcohol consumption in restaurants, and also will allow for open containers at approved public events, among other provisions.

It was also revealed at the meeting that authorities have historically been lenient on ongoing open container violations at Louisiana Tech University (LTU) Football Tailgaiting events. The open container revisions in the ordinance were designed to address the tailgating issue.

Voting for the ordinance were:

Jed Lewis (Ward 3)
Angela Mayfield (Ward 2)
Carolyn Cage (Ward 1)

Voting no were:

Bruce Siegmund (Ward 5)
Jim Pearce (Ward 4)

Here is the ordinance.

Former Lincoln Parish School Board member Ted McKinney spoke against the changes, saying the expanded liquor hours would place more of a burden on area first responders.

Initially, he was reluctant to speak out because, “the issue will already be resolved before that night comes to a vote anyway.”

McKinney’s wife, Mary, a former Dean of Student Services at Tech, also spoke against the ordinance, citing her experience with students and alcohol.

Ed Shell said, “Nothing really good happens after drinking until 2 o’clock in the morning,” and “If you’re selling alcohol from between Midnight and 2 AM, during that period, you’re not running a restaurant, you’re running a bar.”

Harriet Jones said she checked with the restaurants downtown, and found only two that were pushing the issue: Ponchatoula’s and Sundown.

Judy Copeland, speaking on behalf of the Ruston/Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, said the ordinance would enhance the restaurant business in Ruston, bringing in more tax revenue.

T. J. Cranford said that after midnight, people who want to drink can drive down the road just past Temple Baptist Church, and buy, so, “…we have to handle whatever the drunks are bringing back with them, so we might as well keep them here and get where we can get the tax dollars off of them.”

Chris Garriga, who owns Ponchatoula’s, said he understood the issue with young people, as he was a father of two. He said he would make sure extra security was in place to maintain order. He added that his businesses buy locally and help support the area economy.

Richard Lewis, of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that the organization’s membership was in favor of the ordinance.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Ronny Walker addressed several questions raised by Alderman Siegmund.

Walker said most Tech students were under 21, so only a small percentage would be affected. Louisiana’s drinking age is 21.

Walker then admitted that the city’s open container law hadn’t been enforced at Tech Tailgaiting events.

Said Walker, “One of my concerns with what we do now, is when we go to a football game and there’s tailgaiing, we have an open container law, and we’re telling basically – we’re not telling, it’s happened over the years – we’re being hypocrites like was mentioned earlier. Because our law says you can’t have a drink in a cup, but we were allowing it, our police – not just our police but the state police was turning their backs on it. This clarifies it and takes care of it.”

Alderman Pearce noted, “I have a real problem with the 2 o’clock. I don’t think its a positive for the community. The mayor’s doing a great job leading us in this Moving Ruston Forward. And then here we get something like this that divides us.” He added, “Tech is growing in leaps and bounds; they’re not coming because we may open our alcohol until 2 o’clock.”

Pearce tried unsuccessfully to amend the ordinance and eliminate the extended closing hours. When he made the motion, Walker, who chairs the council meetings, deferred to City Attorney Bill Carter.

Carter said that a motion on the table couldn’t be amended because the mover (Jedd Lewis) did not consent to the amendment.

Final Vote Monday on Ruston Liquor Hours

07/29/2016

Monday’ night’s meeting (8/1/16) of Ruston’s Board of Alderman will see a public hearing and final vote on whether restaurants that serve alcohol will be able to stay open until 2 AM, instead of the Midnight closing time that is now law.

The proposed ordinance would allow restaurants to serve drinks on the sidewalk adjacent to the establishment, and allow sale and consumption of drinks during “city approved public events.” Present law forbids “open containers” anywhere in public.

Also, the sole authority to issue permits will be transferred to the mayor’s office, bypassing the city council, who under existing law has a say in the matter.

See here the ordinance that is now in force.

See here the proposed ordinance.

The meeting is set for 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

Ruston PD “short-handed”, vacations curtailed

07/21/2016

The Ruston Police Department (RPD) is significantly understaffed, so much so that vacations scheduled after July 17 must be approved on a case-by-case basis, according to a memo sent to RPD officers July 5.

From the document sent by Deputy Chief Gerald Jenkins:

Due to recent manpower issues, all vacation requests scheduled to begin after July 17, 2016, will be reviewed and approved/denied on a case by case basis, regardless of the date the request was submitted.

See here the memo.

Another city official told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) that, “they are short-handed.”

Sources have told LPNO that several officers have gone to work for other area sheriff’s offices that pay more.

Last year, the RPD budget was cut about $20 thousand, while the city’s executive department enjoyed a $300 thousand boost.

2015 budget summary
2016 budget summary

Budget planning for fiscal year 2017 is underway now, sources say. The new budget is customarily adopted at the September meeting, and goes into effect October 1.