Archive for the ‘Louisiana Legislature’ Category

Bill to Divide Judicial District Deferred in Committee

05/22/2019

A bill that would have divided the Third Judicial District (Lincoln, Union Parishes) into two independent judicial districts was involuntarily deferred in a senate committee yesterday.

The vote was unanimous.

Senate Bill 202 would have created a new district attorney’s office for Union Parish only.

The bill provided for an election, and would require that the plan be approved by voters in both parishes prior to implementation.

Presently, Lincoln and Union Parishes share a district attorney and three judges.

The new district would have allocated one judge for the new district, and two for Lincoln Parish.

Senator Mike Walsworth (District 33) sponsored the bill, and spoke for it.

During the hearing, several committee members spoke against the bill, citing costs. Newly elected Judge Bruce Hampton was seen in the audience, but did not testify.

See here the video of the hearing.

The bill was considered immediately after the committee convened, so the pertinent testimony is at the beginning.

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Very Small Change in Sumlin Case

03/27/2019

Yesterday afternoon’s hearing on former Louisiana State Representative William Sumlin’s 3 1/2 year-old case of indecent behavior with juvenile(s) saw a slight change from the other many times the issue was delayed.

Sumlin’s attorney, Monroe’s LaValle Salomon said he was withdrawing a motion to strike that he had filed early in the case. He added that there were several other motions pending that needed resolution, and that once again he was requesting a delay.

Chief Felony Prosecutor Lewis Jones had no objection to the delay, and Division B Judge Tommy Rogers granted the request.

We will be at the next hearing to report what happens in the people’s Third Judicial District Court at 1:30 PM, June 25, 2019.

Turner wins Handily in House 12 Race

02/24/2019

Local LA House Race Finance Reports

02/20/2019

The campaign for Louisiana House District 12 has an interesting money angle.

One candidate has raised and spent over $75 thousand, while the other has raised less than $5 thousand, as of the last reporting period.

Chris Turner, a Ruston businessman, has filed three campaign finance reports as of this morning.

His 1/24/19 report showed contributions of about $52 thousand, with expenditures of around $9.6 thousand.

Among the significant contributors ($1 thousand or more) were:

Louisiana Bankers Association
NorthPac
B&C Archery, Ruston
Courtesy Automotive, Ruston
Steven Davison, Ruston
John Emory, Jr, Choudrant
Bill Hogan, Ruston
Kay Malone, Ruston
Duke Marcus, Ruston
William McConnell, Ruston
Ann Mills, Choudrant
Pamela Stewart, Ruston
The Lincoln Agency
Connie Turner, Ruston
William Turner, Ruston

The most significant expenditure for this report was $2600 with the Bautsch Group, a Baton Rouge political consultant.

Turner’s 2/12/19 report showed over $11 thousand in contributions, $25 thousand in personal contributions or loans from the candidate to the campaign, and just over $27 thousand in expenditures.

Significant contributions include:

Todd Davison, Ruston
Forestry Political Action Council
Danny Graham
LHBA Political Action Council

The pace of expenditures picked up on this report, to include:

Ben Christmas Catering
Facebook
Holbrook Multimedia
LHD Consulting
LR3 Consulting
Remington Research Group

A report filed today shows significant contributions from several political action committees:

ABC Pelican Pac
Bishop Pac
HOSPac
HOSTPac
LAMP
LOGPAC
Lousiana Realtors Pac

Jake Halley, the other candidate, reported on 1/24/19 $3500 in contributions and about $1400 in expenditures.

Halley is from Farmerville.

The one significant contribution was Bynes Mechanical of West Monroe.

The 2/13/19 report shows $600 in contributions and about $2500 in expenditures.

Significant expenditures include $1,188 to Associate Business Printing, and $1000 to Tommy Carr of Farmerville for event planning.

Interest Builds for House District 12 (Lincoln, Union)

10/17/2018

Interest is beginning to build for the upcoming special election for Louisiana House District 12, made up of Union Parish and Part of Lincoln Parish.

Ruston businessman Bill Elmore and local attorney Cary Brown both have told Lincoln Parish News Online that they are contemplating a run for that office.

Neither are strangers to politics.

Brown lost narrowly in November, 2014 to John Belton in the race for District Attorney, and Elmore lost to Ronny Walker for Mayor of Ruston.

Other names rumored, but not confirmed include Jason Bullock, who ran for the seat in 2011, Andy Halbrook, a local stockbroker, and Ayres Bradford, whose wife Connie was a member of the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The district was formerly represented by Rob Shadoin, who recently resigned to take a job with the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Commission. He was first elected in 2011, and was unopposed for re-election in 2015.

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, the election has been set for February 23, 2019, with a runoff (if needed) on March 30.

Qualifying is January 9 through January 11, 2019.

Court Hearing on DeSoto LACE Case

10/13/2018

DeSoto judge removes DA from investigation of possible LACE payroll abuse

By Vicki Welborn – KTBS TV3 Shreveport

DeSoto District Attorney Gary Evans and his staff are prohibited from investigating the sheriff and his deputies in connection with alleged abuses of an overtime ticket-writing program called LACE, a district judge ruled Friday following a five-hour court hearing fraught with legal wrangling.

District Judge Charles Adams based his decision on his belief District Attorney Gary Evans in the eyes of the public could not maintain the “independence and impartiality” that is required for the investigation. Adams said that was evidenced by what took place in the courtroom during the afternoon hearing.

At times contentious, the court session was punctuated by multiple but unsuccessful attempts to have the proceedings stopped and even throw Adams off the case. Motions were filed and procedures were argued before a courtroom filled with spectators.

Sheriff Jayson Richardson agreed with the ruling, saying afterwards he welcomes an investigation into “supposed wrongdoing” but wants it led by someone not associated with the district attorney’s office. Richardson contends Evans wanted to convene a grand jury weeks before next month’s special sheriff’s election in attempt to influence the outcome in favor of his preferred candidate.

Richardson and Mansfield Police Chief Gary Hobbs are vying for the remainder of the unexpired term of longtime Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle who retired earlier this year. The election is Nov. 6.

The back-and-forth about the LACE investigation sandwiched a separate but related matter that could lead to a fine or jail time for two employees of the district attorney’s office. Adams found Assistant District Attorney Cloyce Clark and chief investigator Kem Jones in contempt of court after witnesses testified seeing them taking photographs or videos in the courtroom Monday in violation of court rules.

Bailiff Brett Jones said at the judge’s order he reviewed Clark’s phone, which Clark handed to him and open to the photo album. Brett Jones said he saw four photos that had been taken of attorneys and sheriff’s office personnel inside the courtroom, but they had been recently deleted. Clark described them as “personal” pictures, and said he wasn’t aware it was wrong to take photographs in the courtroom when it was not in session.

Kem Jones refused to answer questions about the contents of his two phones, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. When he was on the stand later, Jones again refused to answer questions about the phones, which Adams has in his possession after they were returned from the Bossier City Marshal’s Office.

Clark and Jones will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Monday for the contempt of court.

Meanwhile, Assistant District Attorney Lea Hall told Adams they will appeal his ruling recusing Evans. The state Attorney General’s office will be notified about Evans’ recusal, Adams said, putting them in charge of any investigation.

Hall vigorously argued throughout the afternoon against the hearing even moving forward since at the beginning of it he filed a motion notifying the court Evans had voluntarily removed himself from any investigation of Richardson and the sheriff’s office as a whole.

But Richardson’s attorney, Michael Magner, pointed out that did not resolve the matter of the individual deputies. He maintained their belief Evans should not have any dealings with the LACE investigation, not only because of his alleged political involvement but also because his office also was part of an investigative audit involving alleged LACE payroll abuses.

At one point Hall said moving forward was “a disservice to the entire parish” and added on a personal note he considered the entire issue that’s putting the parish’s elected officials as odds as “ridicules.”

Richardson said in a court motion filed Oct. 5 that Evans was motivated by politics to present a case to the secret panel because of his friendship and support of Hobbs. Hall said during Friday’s hearing that’s an allegation Evans denies.

The motion was filed hours after Evans appeared before a group of state lawmakers in Baton Rouge who review audit findings. Evans was there to respond to findings concerning his office’s handling of LACE.

But Evans instead focused on the sheriff’s office and announced he was calling a grand jury for Oct. 8. He said theft was “rampant” in the sheriff’s office and he needed auditors to release an audit report that’s being conducted on the sheriff’s office’s LACE program.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera said he would not be pulled into politics surrounding the election and would only release the report when it’s completed, and it’s not.

A recording of Evans’ appearance before the panel was submitted during Friday’s hearing. While Evans was in the courtroom, he was not called to testify. Instead, the questions were posed to Kem Jones.

Kem Jones answered Magner’s questions about the audit findings and also reviewed copies of some of the deputies’ LACE time sheets. He said when Evans took over LACE administration he wanted more detailed time sheets. The D.A.’s office did not start paying the deputies who worked LACE until Evans began his diversion program, Jones said, adding Evans “never paid a penny to the sheriff’s office for LACE.”

The district attorney’s office does not consider itself a “victim” of LACE,” Hall noted.

LACE is a program that goes back decades that allows off-duty law enforcement officers to work traffic enforcement. Most of their time is spent on interstates targeting speeders.

Early in 2017, Evans began questioning the LACE set-up, he said after a DeSoto Parish police juror said the criminal court fund, one of the recipients of LACE ticket revenue, was losing money.

Arbuckle pulled his deputies off of LACE in June 2017. State troopers continue to work it – after a brief hiatus when the LSP commander called a halt to it to revise policies and procedures following payroll padding allegations among some troopers in South Louisiana. Evans also has a contract with the Mansfield Police Department.

Louisiana State Police Corruption Update

07/17/2018

State Police Commission delays action on Las Vegas ‘side trip’ discipline; troopers say they’ve been scapegoated

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

Three Louisiana State Police troopers disciplined last year for taking a lavish “side trip” to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon while driving to a law enforcement conference in California offered their first public remarks on the controversy during their appeal Monday before the State Police Commission.

At turns resentful and conciliatory, they said they had been scapegoated for a scandal that embarrassed the State Police and prompted the retirement last year of Mike Edmonson, the agency’s longest-serving superintendent.

The State Police Commission, after a full day of testimony Monday, deferred action on the appeal.

The commission, which acts as a civil service board for the State Police, emerged from executive session without a decision on whether to uphold, amend or overturn the demotion and the pay reduction that two of the troopers received after their taxpayer-funded excursion became public. A third trooper on the trip received a letter of reprimand but contends even that discipline was unfair.

The inaction means a decision will not be announced until next month at the earliest, when the commissioners are scheduled to meet in Monroe to hear another appeal.

The troopers insisted Edmonson not only signed off on the side trip but encouraged the troopers to take a scenic route to the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference. Edmonson initially said he had not approved the trip, but text messages and phone records show he stayed in touch with the group as they drove across the country in a State Police vehicle that Edmonson wanted to have at his disposal at the San Diego conference.

The circuitous journey took the troopers hundreds of miles out of their way and included an overnight stay at a Las Vegas casino resort and a visit to the Hoover Dam.

The side trip prompted two state investigations, including a legislative audit that found Edmonson abused his power and took repeated handouts during his years at the helm of State Police.

The state Legislative Auditor’s Office found the “side trip” resulted in at least $13,000 in unnecessary taxpayer expenditures.

One commissioner, Brian Crawford, the chief administrative officer of Shreveport, resembled a prosecutor at times during the four-day hearing, referring to Edmonson’s testimony as “contradictory” and grilling the troopers on their decisions.

“I blame Col. Edmonson for most of this mess,” Crawford said. “He didn’t do you any favors. But you guys have some individual responsibility.”

Louisiana State Police Update

07/12/2018

Edmonson subpoenaed to testify in hearing on Louisiana troopers’ Las Vegas ‘side trip’

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

Mike Edmonson, the former longtime State Police superintendent, has been subpoenaed to testify at a hearing this week in which three troopers are challenging the discipline they received for taking an expensive “side trip” to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon while driving to a law enforcement conference in California.

Edmonson was out of the country Wednesday as the troopers’ appeal began in Baton Rouge, but officials said they expected him to appear before the Louisiana State Police Commission on Friday.

Edmonson, who retired amid scandal last year, has been under federal investigation for months and could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

But his testimony could be the most critical part of the proceeding, as the troopers have maintained that Edmonson not only authorized the trip but kept in contact with them as they traversed the country in a State Police vehicle.

Two Sparta Meetings This Week

07/08/2018

Two meetings related to the Sparta Aquifer will be held this week – one in Ruston on Monday, and the other in Farmerville on Wednesday.

The Monday meeting is billed as a planning meeting and will reportedly have Louisiana Lt Governor Billy Nungesser as a guest.

Monday, July 9, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton, 3:00 PM
Agenda

The Wednesday meeting is the regular quarterly meeting of the Sparta Groundwater Commission.

Wednesday, July 11, Police Jury Meeting Room, 300 E. Water Street, Farmerville, 2:00 PM
Agenda

More LACE Hijinks

06/21/2018

DeSoto sheriff blocks release of personnel files to auditors; says not related to LACE

Gary Hines & Vickie Welborn – KTBS TV3, Shreveport

The state legislative auditor, who is investigating suspected abuse of a traffic-enforcement program in DeSoto Parish, is meeting resistance from the local sheriff, who has gone to court to block a subpoena in which the auditor seeks personnel records as part of a possible expanding probe of the sheriff’s department.

The legislative auditor — who is investigating whether a group of DeSoto deputies got paid for overtime hours they didn’t work — overstepped his authority by asking for unredacted personnel records, Sheriff Jayson Richardson said in a petition filed in DeSoto District Court on Tuesday.

The subpoena, issued last week, seeks copies of the personnel files of Richardson and 12 deputies – five of whom are retired and several others who are administrative employees. Only four now-former deputies have been publicly implicated in the traffic-enforcement probe.

The investigation involves a program called LACE — Local Agency Compensation Enforcement — which has been under fire on a statewide basis as separate investigations focus on state troopers in South Louisiana suspected of padding their paychecks. One trooper made more than $200,000.