Archive for the ‘EssBee’ Category

Shreveport Police, Fire Departments Whacked

05/05/2020

How will Shreveport budget cuts impact you

By Erin McCarty – 710 KEEL

Belt tightening is starting at Shreveport City Hall. Chief Financial Officer Sherricka Fields Jones has sent a detailed proposal of cuts to members of the Shreveport City Council.

This plan would trim more than 19 million dollars in budget cuts to help offset a decline in sales tax revenues. Many of the large cuts include the elimination of positions that are currently vacant. These cutbacks are proposed for all city departments. Fields Jones says sales tax revenues for the city will likely be short by as much as 25 million dollars as a direct result of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Public safety will feel the pinch from these cuts. The police department will lose about $5 million dollars from it’s budget. Much of that is to eliminate funding for vacant positions. The fire department would lose $800,000.

SPAR would lose close to $2 million dollars under this proposal. More than $700,000 dollars involves cutting jobs that are not filled a the moment. This plan also would close all city pools for this summer.

Sportran would lose $4 million dollars in funding from the city, but this will be offset by a federal transit grant that was awarded to the city of Shreveport for public transportation.

See here the proposed cuts.

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

Caddo Parish Commissioner Indicted

04/26/2018

Caddo commissioner indicted on federal fraud charges

By Gary Hines – KTBS-TV3

Caddo Parish Commissioner Lynn Cawthorne was indicted Thursday on federal charges he diverted money from a federal summer feeding program program to himself.

Cawthorne, the president of a social-service agency that got federal money for the summer meal program, is accused of exaggerating the number of meals actually provided to low-income children. Federal prosecutors said more than $536,000 was involved.

Cawthorne, 51, was named in an eight-count indictment charging wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Also indicted was the social-service agency’s director, Belena Turner, 46, of Shreveport.

Cawthorne was president of United Citizens and Neighborhood, which received federal money to provide meals to low-income children when school is not in session.

Former Homer Mayor Pleads Guilty to Felony Malfeasance

07/06/2017

Former Homer mayor pleads to malfeasance

KTBS-TV3 Shreveport

Former Homer Mayor Alecia Smith has pleaded guilty to malfeasance charges that arose out of an investigation into the diversion of town funds for her personal use. She received a suspended prison sentence and was ordered to repay the town for what she took.

Smith pleaded guilty in Claiborne District Court to two felony counts of malfeasance in office. As part of a plea agreement with the state attorney general’s office, she was fined $1,000, ordered to make $6,647.51 in restitution within two years and placed on three years probation.

Smith — who lost a bid for re-election in December 2014 — was arrested earlier that year after a Louisiana State Police investigation. She was initially charged with six counts of malfeasance in office. Prosecutors dropped three of those charges as part of the plea agreement.

During her guilty plea, Smith answered the judge’s questions about her understanding of the proceedings and the guilty plea but did not make any additional statement.

Investigators who reviewed town records said Smith diverted town funds for her personal use from 2011 to 2013, including using the town credit card when she was on personal trips. Smith falsified public records to justify the expenses in order to get reimbursed, investigators said.

Investigators also said Smith used a town credit card to download non-work-related audio files and data to her personal computer. Smith also didn’t pay her town water bill, which at one point grew to more than $800.

Key Witness Dead in Former Bossier Sheriff Case

06/21/2016

Prosecutors have until month’s end to seek delay in Deen trial

By Gary Hines – KTBS TV3 Shreveport

Federal prosecutors have until June 30 to ask for a delay in the corruption trial of former Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen due to the death of a key government witness, a federal judge said.

Mary Jean McBroome, 60, of Shreveport, was found dead in her vehicle last week on an oilfield road off Keithville-Keatchie Road in south Caddo Parish. She had been shot.

Sheriff’s investigators said they are continuing to investigate but have found no evidence of foul play. The coroner has not stated if foul play was involved.

There was no suicide note, authorities said.

McBroome was a prosecution witness in the upcoming federal trial of Deen and two businessmen who own Blakey Auto Plex, where McBroome worked in the office.

Deen, along with Blakey owners Clifton Blakey and Clinton Blakey, is scheduled for trial Aug. 15 on charges he illegally profited from a sweetheart deal on the trade-in of a sport utility vehicle he once drove as sheriff. Deen and the Blakeys deny wrongdoing.

Caddo Commission Update

05/31/2016

May 30, 2016

Edward Teller, the physicist best known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb,” knew a lot about official secrecy. His work on the Manhattan Project fascinated me as a teen, as did details of how that World War II effort at the Los Alamos National Laboratory was kept secret. Years later, and in a broader context, he made a point I have never forgotten …

… “Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction.”

Given that we in Caddo Parish live in a time and place of government of, by and for government, we the people be damned, secrecy has become a disease. As it runs that government, the Caddo Parish Commission puts on a non-stop clinic in its use.

The primary crop planted for years by many at the Commission is abuse of taxpayers through illegal self-pay. It is a crop nurtured by official secrecy. Whether the old or “new” Commission, members and other bosses routinely devise, employ, and demonstrate an array of hidden, illicit practices to enrich themselves. Two crucially important examples now stand out.

1. A heavy dependence on bogus “executive sessions.”

Anytime they wish and thus vote, commissioners move their supposedly public meetings into a very non-public “executive session.” There, secrecy – and the typically resulting malfeasance – rules.

Specific laws exist to greatly limit what can be discussed in these funerals for good government, but their very nature means honest brokers are virtually never in the room. Zero official accountability is the goal … and near-guaranteed result.

The Caddo Commission’s most recent such attack on citizen protections was a recent session held to make sure their fix stays in on “CPERS” and other illegal commissioner self-pay (related article here).

But, for the first time in our battle against the Commission, multiple sources in attendance spoke with me afterward. We therefore know the session was run by attorney Tom Arceneaux, one of five staff or outside attorneys who are working to preserve the illegal “CPERS” take by many commissioners and top staff.

After the lawyers’ whip-cracking was over, Commissioner Mike Middleton’s attempt to force straight-up Commission votes on three related resolutions – in favor of public interests – was dead.

The three outside lawyers have cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 … money we paid them to specifically work against our interests. Neither has any one of them been deterred by either of the two written warnings against all of this by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. In fact, those are routinely referred to at the Commission as nothing but “one man’s opinion.”

Such speaks loudly of commissioners’ worship of self, and malice toward law.

To be certain all appropriate investigative and prosecutorial authorities have related facts before them, I have copied them on a letter to Commission Administrator Woody Wilson. My letter asks him to explain how the deliberate defeat of public will and interests in these “executive sessions” can be justified. (See letter here.)

2. Denial of “legal discovery” in litigation … official protection of Commission secrecy.

Somehow, the aforementioned lawyers have been able to use the legal process in our parish court to defeat even the most basic protections against governmental secrecy.*

In March 2015, I filed a lawsuit with the help of also-pro bono attorney Whitney Pesnell. We filed it to compel commissioners and top staff to return to public coffers the money netted by CPERS offenders. The suit was also intended to provide us “legal discovery,” mainly public records the Commission will not produce via Public Records Law requests.

To this day, no such “discovery” has been allowed. Not one document has been obtained. Not one question answered. No one with whom I have spoken can explain this. Given how the mystery necessarily forced us into appellate court, the goal of the Commission was achieved: the lawsuit was effectively halted, with guilty Commissioners further rewarded.

Yet again, Commission secrecy in opposition to public interests has been protected and preserved.

Another powerful point concerning government and secrecy is credited to Daniel Schorr, a CBS, and later NPR, journalist who experienced the damage explicitly traceable to such secrecy:

… “I have no doubt that the nation has suffered more from undue secrecy than from undue disclosure. The government takes good care of itself.”

To me, no truer words were ever spoken. Government, ever increasingly, is the enemy of honest people. Most Caddo Commissioners prove this as they diligently, and often illegally, serve themselves at our expense.

Elliott Stonecipher

* Since January 2015, I have written and published a series of highly detailed and sourced articles on the subject of the Caddo Parish Commission’s illegal retirement and other self-pay. Those and other related articles may be read on RealShreveport.com. Click first on “CPERS Timeline,” then begin reading the first article at the bottom of Page 2. Articles are chronologically arranged from there, forward.

Former DeSoto DA Gets a Pass

05/27/2016

Former DeSoto DA suspended, not disbarred from future law practice

By Vickie Welborn
NEW ORLEANS, La. (KTBS) –

Former DeSoto District Attorney Richard Johnson, who is serving a federal prison sentence for lying about his income taxes, will not have to give up his law license.

The Louisiana Supreme Court instead suspended the former prosecutor for three years, retroactive to Dec. 4, the date of his interim suspension.

Johnson faced disbarment and said he expected as much when he pleaded guilty in September for falsifying his 2011 tax return. At least one on the court’s panel agreed. Associate Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll dissented from the majority opinion and said she would disbar Johnson.

Prior to the filing of formal charges against Johnson, he and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel submitted a joint petition for consent discipline. The court agreed to accept the petition after review.

Johnson is inmate No. 18090-035 in a Marion, Ill., prison. He reported to the medium security federal prison in April. His release date is Feb. 15.

Caddo Parish Commission Update

05/24/2016

May 24, 2016*

How does an acronym come to trumpet – to mean – some very important thing? How is it possible that the first letters of any combination of words can name both the disease consuming a place, and its potential cure.

Here and now in Caddo Parish, the subject acronym is “CPERS” – referring to the Caddo Parish Employee Retirement System. “CPERS” is now code for systemic corruption in and surrounding the Caddo Parish Commission.

If the corruption embedded within it years ago by culpable parish officials is stomped out, “CPERS” might well come to refer to when and how Caddo Parish began its recovery.

Put the other way, if the corruption which is the subject of our CPERS battle wins, and the Caddo public is thus openly savaged by its very own government, there will be no hiding the fact that corruption owns this place.

For any who do not know, almost twenty years ago Caddo Parish Commissioners were permanently banned from receiving taxpayer-funded retirement benefits. The banning of such benefits to part-time elected officials – specifically including parish commissioners – went to a statewide constitutional amendment vote in the fall of 1996, with 69% of Caddoans and 70% of Louisianans voting to cease all such benefits, effective January 1, 1997.

Thus, the people spoke … but the Caddo Parish Commission did not give a hoot in hell.

Three years later, in March 2000, our Commission voted unanimously to give themselves that which was explicitly prohibited: retirement benefits, by putting themselves in CPERS.

That 2000 action was wildly illegal and wrong, but a change they voted themselves in March 2005 screamed malicious intent. That ordinance amendment supercharged their take of public money, rigging the annual taxpayer match rate as high as 16.75% in some years.

As it turned out, CPERS was the tip of the Commissioners’ self-pay iceberg. As far back as the early 1990s, we learned, they have voted or otherwise handed themselves many other categories of self-pay, each one of which is banned, also explicitly, by the Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter, our constitution.

The help we needed last year to make our case came, but was also officially ignored. Our Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s two reports to the Commission, each of which was intended to remedy all of this, have been completely, totally, utterly disregarded by the Commission and all other local authorities.

The lawsuit I filed against all of this early last year is stalled – not by us. But, that doesn’t matter. Commissioners & Friends can end all of this right now: give the public its money back. Put the now nearly $300,000 Commissioners gave themselves back in the Commission general fund. No court action is necessary. Each Commissioner holding CPERS payola need only give it back. It is ridiculous to proclaim, as Commissioner Matthew Linn recently, publicly did, that such cannot be done.

Commissioner Mike Middleton’s Try

Only one Caddo Parish Commissioner, newcomer Mike Middleton, has taken a stand against the corruption. I regret that this public “Thank You” will be held against him by many Commissioners and their outside handlers, but at least he knows to expect that.

Mr. Middleton’s effort last week to force an open vote on three CPERS-related Resolutions – #40, #41 and #42, included here – never made it to “GO,” much less past it. The parish attorney first urged him not to even try it, but he went ahead. Then, Commissioner John Atkins took the lead to effectively kill the effort by moving the discussion into the secrecy of an executive session where lawyers – lawyers WE PAY – run the show. The public and news media were shut out.

That executive session was direct action against public interests. Such never, ever happens when right is being done. Thus, when the conniving was finished, Commissioner Middleton’s resolutions were kaput … with no public discussion or vote.

Spin and smoke from the black hats notwithstanding, commissioners – except for Mr. Middleton – along with their attorneys (who we pay) and their outside sponsors, are hard at work against the law and the public.

… to be continued …

Elliott Stonecipher

* Since January 2015, I have written and published a series of highly detailed and sourced articles on the subject of the Caddo Parish Commission’s illegal retirement and other self-pay. Those and other related articles may be read on RealShreveport.com. Click first on “CPERS Timeline,” then begin reading the first article at the bottom of Page 2. Articles are chronologically arranged from there, forward.

North LA Local Governments Want More of Your Money

04/08/2016

Caddo Parish

Shall the Caddo-Bossier Parishes Port Commission (the “Commission”), acting under the authority of Article VI, Sections 30 and 32 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, as amended, and Chapter 37 of Title 34 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, as amended (the “Act”), and other constitutional and statutory authority, continue to levy a special tax of two and one-half (2-1/2) mills on all the property subject to taxation in the port area consisting of Caddo and Bossier Parishes (the “Port Area”), (an estimated $6,800,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) for a period of twenty-five (25) years, commencing with the year 2018, for the purpose of site acquisition and for constructing, acquiring, improving and equipping docks and wharves, transfer and storage facilities, commercial and industrial facilities and other port, transportation and infrastructure facilities and improvements within the Port Area, as more fully described in the Act, title to which shall be in the public, and for paying the Commission’s expenses of administering, maintaining, operating and marketing its facilities in the Port Area?

Shall Parishwide School District of Caddo Parish, Louisiana (the “District”), be authorized to levy a special tax of a twenty and eighteen hundredths (20.18) mills on all property subject to taxation within the District (an estimated $34,314,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2017 and ending with the year 2026, for the purpose of paying salaries and benefits for teachers and other personnel employed by the Caddo Parish School Board?

Shall Parishwide School District of Caddo Parish, Louisiana (the “District”), be authorized to levy a special tax of five and fifteen hundredths (5.15) mills on all property subject to taxation within the District (an estimated $8,757,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2017 and ending with the year 2026, for the purpose of paying the costs of renovation, repair and improvement of existing public school buildings and facilities in the District?

Shall Parishwide School District of Caddo Parish, Louisiana (the “District”), be authorized to levy a special tax of one and twenty-five hundredths (1.25) mills on all property subject to taxation within the District (an estimated $2,125,500 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2017 and ending with the year 2026, for the purpose of paying the costs of constructing, acquiring, renovating, improving, maintaining and/or operating computers, software and peripheral equipment, facilities and technological programs at public schools in Caddo Parish?

City of Ruston

Shall the City of Ruston, Louisiana (the “City”), under Article VI, Section 29 of the Constitution of the State of Louisiana of 1974, and other constitutional and statutory authority, be authorized to levy and collect a tax of three quarters of one percent (3/4%) (the “Tax”), upon the sale at retail, the use, the lease or rental, the consumption, and the storage for use or consumption, of tangible personal property and on sales of services in the City, all as defined by law, for 20 years commencing July 1, 2016, and ending June 30, 2036, collections from the Tax for the first year expected to be approximately $4,250,000, with the proceeds of the Tax (after paying costs of collection and administration), to be dedicated and used to construct, improve, maintain, and/or repair public streets, related drainage, and facilities for the provision of water and sewer services; for economic development; and to acquire, construct, maintain, operate and/or equip a multi-sports recreation complex, an animal shelter and related property, facilities and utilities, all within the corporate limits of the City, and for authority to fund a portion of the avails of the Tax into Bonds in the manner provided by law?

Ouachita Parish

Shall the East Ouachita Economic Development District (the “District”), be authorized to levy a tax of 1.39% (the “Tax”) for a period of twenty-five (25) years, commencing July 1, 2016, upon the sale at retail, the use, the lease or rental, the consumption, and the storage for use or consumption, of tangible personal property and on sales of services within the Parish as defined by law, (an estimated $2,650,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the Tax for an entire year), with the proceeds of the Tax (after paying costs of collecting the Tax) to be dedicated and used for the purposes of undertaking economic development projects consisting of road, drainage and related infrastructure improvements for the benefit of the District?

The election is tomorrow (Saturday, 4/9).

Former DeSoto DA Reports to Jail Today

04/04/2016

Former DeSoto DA scheduled to report to federal prison today

By Vickie Welborn

Former DeSoto Parish District Attorney Richard Johnson is scheduled to report to federal prison before 2 p.m. Monday.

Johnson was sentenced in February to a year and a day for lying on his 2011 income tax return.

Johnson, 59, of Mansfield, was also ordered to make $275,184 in restitution to the government.

Johnson faced up to three years in prison after pleading guilty last year to one count of filing a false federal income tax return. With credit for time served and good behavior, the former prosecutor can expect to spend about 10 months behind bars, U.S. District Judge Maurice Hicks said during Johnson’s sentencing hearing last month.

The government said Johnson did not pay his taxes from 2002 through 2013. The indictment was based on Johnson’s 2011 federal income tax return where he reported income of $126,197. But he had additional income totaling $78,717 that was not reported.