Archive for the ‘Jonesboro’ Category

Former Arcadia Town Clerk Convicted

09/26/2017

Arcadia town clerk suspended from office following theft conviction

Vickie Welborn – KTBS TV3

An Arcadia councilwoman may no longer participate in Town Council matters following her conviction last week for stealing money when she was the water clerk.

A Bienville Parish jury late Thursday night convicted Patricia Hampton of felony theft following a four-day trial. The six-person jury was unanimous in its decision.

Hampton was arrested in February 2011 after state Inspector General Stephen Street concluded she diverted more than $37,000 in water payments over a three-year period, starting in July 2007 and ending June 2010. An investigation started after auditors found discrepancies in the water department records.

Hampton’s job was to take payments, file reports on the collections and deposit the money. Reports were altered to hide the thefts, Street said in an investigative report.

District Attorney Danny Newell inherited the case when he took office in 2015.

“Assistant District Attorney Russell Davis has worked very hard on this case and did an excellent job of presenting the case to the jury,” Newell said in a news release. “Hampton is the last of two former employees of Arcadia to have either been found guilty or pled guilty to felony theft. The town will begin recovering these stolen funds through restitution payments from both defendants.”

That other former employee, Theresa Burris, testified in Hampton’s trial. She’s the former town clerk whose theft through altered checks took place during the same time frame as Hampton’s thievery. In addition to having to repay the town, Burris spent a year in prison.

Newell expressed appreciation to Street and his investigator Tom Boulton for their assistance in investigating the Hampton case.

Despite her pending criminal prosecution, Hampton was elected to the Town Council in the fall 2014 election. She took office Jan. 1, 2015, with her term set to expire Dec. 31, 2018.

However, Louisiana law dictates that Hampton, now a convicted felon, is automatically suspended from public office, and she will no longer receive the monthly Town Council compensation pending an appellate review. She’ll have to resign if the conviction is upheld.

Hampton will be sentenced Nov. 8.

On a related note, early in Hampton’s trial, Billie Smith, wife of Arcadia Mayor Eugene Smith, was banned from the courtroom. She reportedly was sharing testimony from the stand with her husband, who as a witness was not supposed to be privy to what others were saying nor talk about it with anyone outside of the courtroom.

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Newell to Review Case Before Deciding on Thompson Retrial

09/18/2017

Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson Parishes) District Attorney Danny Newell will have to “review the case files before making a decision” on whether to retry former Jonesboro Mayor Leslie Thompson on malfeasance.

The Louisiana Supreme Court today vacated Thompson’s three convictions, one for malfeasance, and two counts of misappropriation. The court remanded the case to the district court for a new trial on the malfeasance charge.

Newell noted that the trial was held four years ago, during the term of his predecessor Jonathan Stewart.

Newell made his comments late this afternoon to Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO).

An interesting concurring opinion by Chief Justice Bernette Johnson was part of today’s ruling.

She claimed that Thompson was first elected mayor in 2000. In fact, Thompson was first elected in 2006, took office on 1/1/07, then re-elected in 2010.

The late Ira Reeves was mayor in 2000.

See here the documents from the Louisiana Secretary of State.

Another specious claim from Johnson was that: “The evidence demonstrates that defendant did not create the town’s accounting issues, but rather inherited longstanding recordkeeping problems and a poorly-managed accounting structure.”

It was well-documented during our extensive coverage of the town’s finances that prior to Thompson’s term, the town for many years had no significant issues raised during the annual financial audit.

Former Jonesboro Mayor Thompson’s Convictions Overturned by LA Supreme Court

09/18/2017

Former Town of Jonesboro Mayor Leslie Thompson’s malfeasance convictions have been overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Writing for the majority was Justice John Weimer:

We granted certiorari in this case primarily to consider defendant’s contentions that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions on three counts of malfeasance in office, (2) the district court erred by permitting the state to introduce unduly prejudicial “other bad acts” evidence under La. C.E. art. 404(B) and the court of appeal compounded that error by applying a faulty “harmless error” analysis in assessing the effect of the erroneous admissions, and (3) the district court erred in denying his motion for a mandatory mistrial under La. C.Cr.P. art. 770 due to the prosecutor’s references to race.

After reviewing the evidence in this case from the perspective of a rational trier of fact who interprets that evidence as favorably to the prosecution as any rational trier of fact could, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as to Count I of the malfeasance in office charge; however, as to Counts II and III, we find that no rational trier of fact could have found defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Pretermitting all other assignments of error, we additionally find that the district court erred in denying defendant’s motion for a mandatory mistrial after the prosecutor directly referenced race in a comment before the jury that was neither material nor relevant and that could create prejudice against defendant in the minds of the jury members. Accordingly, we vacate defendant’s convictions and sentences, and remand this case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

See here the complete ruling.

Thompson was convicted by a Jackson Parish jury in September, 2013.

Hearing set in BR on Jackson Parish Hospital Lawsuit

08/21/2017

An August 30 hearing has been scheduled in 19th Judicial (East Baton Rouge Parish) District Court in Baton Rouge to rule on whether an injunction will be granted that would declare Act 171 unconstitutional. Originally, the hearing was set for 9:30 AM this morning.

The hearing will be in Judge Timothy Kelly’s courtroom.

See here the court documents.

The injunction would prevent the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) from appointing members to the Jackson Parish Parish Hospital Board of Directors in accordance with the act.

The legislation, signed by Governor John Bell Edwards last June, restructures the hospital’s governing board to five members from seven, and places qualifications on new appointees. Several new appointments have been made to the board, which recently met.

Plaintiffs claim in the suit that the legislation deprives them of equal protection of the law in violation of the U. S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Plaintiffs in the suit include Herbert Simmons and Windy Calahan; and two police jurors, Maxie Monroe and John McCarty.

Representing the plaintiffs is Baton Rouge attorney Ernest Johnson.

Defendants include Gov. Edwards and the Jackson Parish Police Jury.

Last week, the jury hired Alexandria law firm Gold Weems to represent them.

Four Appointments Made to Jackson Parish Hospital Board

07/18/2017

From the minutes of the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) meeting of Monday, July 17:

The president opened the floor for nominations for the appointment of an attorney that complied with the mandatory requirements of the board members as introduced for legislation by Senator Fannin.

Mr. Culpepper nominated attorney Chris Bowman.

Motion Mr. Culpepper seconded Ms. Monroe to appoint Chris Bowman to a full term on the Jackson Parish Hospital Board effective August 1, 2017 in accordance with Act 171 of the 2017 Regular Legislative Session. Motion carried.

Mr. Langston nominated Angela Curtis, Loan Officer of Barksdale Federal Credit Union to fill the required appointment of a bank owner or officer of a local bank. Ms. Magee asked the president if a Credit Union qualified as a bank. Mr. Langston stated that he had contacted Mr. Fannin, and was assured by the senator that the credit union met the requirements of the legislation.

Motion Mr. Treadway seconded Mr. Culpepper to appoint Angela Curtis to the Jackson Parish Hospital Board to a full term effective August 1, 2017 in accordance with Act 171. Motion carried.

Mr. Culpepper nominated Dr. Rebecca Crouch as the required practitioner for the hospital board.

Ms. Rowe nominated Heather Negrotto as the practitioner.

Voting for Dr. Rebecca Crouch were Mr. Treadway and Mr. Culpepper.
Voting for Ms. Heather Negrotto were Ms. Rowe, Ms. Monroe, Ms. Magee and Mr. Treadway.
Abstaining was Mr. McCarty.

Ms. Negrotto will assume membership effective August 1, 2017 for a full term on the hospital board as the required practitioner working at the Jackson Parish Hospital.

The president called for nominations for a member of management representing the pulp wood industries.

Mr. Treadway nominated Todd Pyles as the managerial member of the board. He stated that Mr. Pyles had been recommended by the West Rock Plant Manager for the vacancy.

Motion Mr. Culpepper seconded Ms. Monroe to table the appointment of the pulp wood industry member. Motion carried.

Motion Mr. Culpepper seconded Mr. McCarty to remove the appointment of the pulp wood industry from the table and consider nominations. Motion carried.

Mr. Treadway nominated Todd Pyles.
Ms. Magee nominated Cedric Garner.

Voting for Mr. Pyles: Mr. Treadway
Voting for Mr. Garner: Mr. Culpepper, Mr. Langston, Ms. Magee, Mr. McCarty and Ms. Monroe
Abstaining: Ms. Rowe

Mr. Garner will assume the appointment representing management of a pulp wood industry for a full term effective August 1, 2017.

This leaves the CPA/MBA member the only vacancy to fill prior to August 1.

JPPJ to Appoint New Hospital Board

07/16/2017

The Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) will tomorrow night move forward on the appointment of five new members to the Jackson Parish Hospital District Board of Directors.

The action is pursuant to new law (Act 171) enacted by the Louisiana Legislature earlier this year. The law requires the new members to have the following qualifications:

Officer or owner of a bank located in Jackson Parish
Licensed attorney who is not an assistant DA
Licensed health practitioner employed by the hospital
Certified pubic accountant or master of business administration graduate who practices in Jackson Parish
Individual with managerial experience at the Hodge, LA paper mill

The meeting is set for 5:30 PM, Monday, July 17, Dr. Charles H. Garrett Community Center, 182 Industrial Drive.

Here is the agenda.

Lincoln Jail, GNLCDC on Audit Noncompliance List

07/10/2017

Two North Louisiana agencies that we have reported upon have turned up on the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Non-Compliance List – The Lincoln Parish Detention Center and the Greater North Louisiana Community Development Corporation.

The agencies apparently did not submit their annual audits in a timely fashion.

According to Louisiana’s Revised Statutes (RS 39:72.1), state funds can be withheld for as long as they remain on the list.

A. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of law, no funds appropriated in the general appropriations act, the capital outlay act, or other appropriation act, shall be released or provided to any recipient of an appropriation if, when, and for as long as, the recipient fails or refuses to comply with the provisions of R.S. 24:513.

Jackson Parish Hospital Board Revamp Bill Signed by Gov

06/18/2017

A bill that will revamp the makeup of the Board of Directors for the Jackson Parish Hospital in Jonesboro is now the law of the land.

Act 171 was signed into law last Monday by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, according to information posted on the Louisiana Legislature’s bill info website. The bill was authored by Senator Jim Fannin (District 35).

The seven member board will be cut to five members, and must be made up by area resident voters who possess the following qualifications:

Officer or owner of a bank located in Jackson Parish
Licensed attorney who is not an assistant DA
Licensed health practitioner employed by the hospital
Certified pubic accountant or master of business administration graduate who practices in Jackson Parish
Individual with managerial experience at the Hodge, LA paper mill

The appointments must be made by the Jackson Parish Police Jury in time for the new board members to be in place by August 1, 2017.

Bill in LA Legislature to Change Jackson Hospital Board

05/24/2017

A bill that would change the makeup of the Jackson Parish Hospital Board of Directors is working its way through the Louisiana Legislature this session.

Senate Bill 219, authored by Senator Jim Fannin (District 35), has passed the Louisiana Senate unanimously, and was favorably reported out of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Health and Welfare. It is currently pending final House passage.

The bill would reduce the number of board members from seven to five, and would require certain minimum qualifications to be a board member. The members would serve six year terms.

From the bill:

…who shall be qualified voters and residents of the parish and shall possess the following qualifications: one commission member who shall possess financial expertise as the officer or owner of a bank or group of banks in the parish, one commission member who shall possess legal expertise as a licensed attorney in good standing in the parish who shall not be employed by the district attorney’s office, one commission member who shall possess medical expertise and is a licensed practitioner at the hospital service district hospital in the parish, one commission member who shall possess business or accounting expertise and is a licensed certified public accountant or who holds a master’s degree in business administration and practices in the parish, and one commission member who shall have managerial expertise and is employed by a manufacturer located in the parish of products made from pulp wood or other fibrous substances with more than two hundred employees.

The appointments would be made by the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ), and would take office August 1, 2017.

The present law pertaining to the makeup of the board specifies no minimum qualifications to serve.

Jonesboro Bookkeeping Amiss, Once Again

03/27/2017

A just-released audit of the Town of Jonesboro’s finances reveal that sloppy bookkeeping has once again become a problem. Several years ago, the condition became so severe that auditors were unable to give an opinion on the town’s finances.

Among the issues cited:

Improper Treatment of Town Vehicles

This finding was first reported in 2012. While efforts were made to improve procedures, activity logs were not maintained for all Town vehicles as required by the Town’s Ordinance.

Police Tickets Not Adequately Tracked

This finding was first reported in 2015. In 2015, we reported that records for police tickets did not provide a sufficient audit trail to ensure that all ticket numbers are accounted for and receipts for fines are deposited and properly posted.

Cash Receipt Books Not Properly Maintained

This finding was first reported in 2015. In 2015, pre-numbered cash receipts were not used in order. During the year ended June 30, 2016, new ticket books were purchased and clerks were instructed to use them in order. We were better able to perform a test to account for receipt numbers. However, we noted eight receipt numbers that we could not account for. We selected twenty-five receipt numbers and attempted to trace them to deposits. We were only able to trace nine out of twenty-five receipts to deposits posted in the accounting system. We were unable to complete the test because the deposit summary does not list individual receipts. The deposit summary lists totals for each type of collection such as fines.

Noncompliance with Public Bid Law

This finding was first reported in 2015. During our fiscal year 2015 test of disbursements, we noted one disbursement out of twenty-five disbursements that appeared to have required compliance with the Public Bid Law. The disbursement was for fuel. We noted no bids obtained. The Town spent over $50,000 for fuel during the fiscal year. No bid was obtained for fiscal year 2016 purchases either.

During 2016, the Town purchased a pickup truck for $38,858 for the fire department. The board minutes of August 11, 2015 indicated approval to cash a certificate of deposit to purchase a vehicle to pull fire equipment. The bid specification included “Ford F-250 Super Duty, 2015 SRW 4×4 crew cab XL 156″ WB style side, 6.7L Power Stroke V8 Diesel 6-speed Auto Trans., Exterior shall be Silver Metallic, Interior shall be Cloth” and other detailed specifications. It did not include a statement such as “specifications are used only to denote the quality standard of product desired and that they do not restrict bidders to the specific brand, make, manufacturer, or specification named.” Also, there was no entry in the minutes that indicated that there was only one bid received, the details of the bid, or that the bid was accepted.

The payment of overtime appears to be excessive.

During fiscal year 2016, the Town paid employees for overtime hours a total of $151,838 versus $109,059 in fiscal year 2015. The following is a summary by department of those costs:

Due to the significant amount of overtime pay, we analyzed the cost by employee. Some employees received nearly as much in overtime pay as they did in regular pay. For example, one water department employee received $27,715 in regular pay, including paid time off, and $25,805 in overtime pay. One administrative employee received $39,236 in regular pay, including paid time off, and $13,263 in overtime pay. One street department employee received $30,191 in regular pay, including paid time off, and $10,942 in overtime pay.

Failure to Publish Minutes

The Town did not publish board minutes in the official journal for a period of several months. The June 2015 minutes were published July 23, 2015. We noted no other minutes published from July 23, 2015 through June 30, 2016.

See here the complete report for fiscal year 7/1/15-6/30/16.