Gannet’s Alexandria Town Town/Opelousas Daily World to Curtail Print Editions

03/09/2017

A letter to our readers
By Judi Terzotis, The Town Talk President 5:04 p.m. CT March 8, 2017

The Town Talk is making a strategic change that further builds upon our digital-first approach by strengthening the direction of its exceptional seven-days-a-week newsroom and combining the best of its seven-day-a-week print product into three great editions — Wednesday, Friday and Sunday — beginning April 5, 2017.

While the frequency of the print edition is changing, our commitment to covering the news, sports, events, and stories that define our community remains a 24/7 priority for our staff and journalists. As you know, improving Central Louisiana’s quality of life is our passion, and 2016 was no exception.

A letter to our readers

Judi Terzotis, President, Daily World Published 5:04 p.m. CT March 8, 2017

The Daily World is making a strategic change that further builds upon our digital-first approach by strengthening the direction of its exceptional seven-day-a-week newsroom, and combining the best of its six-day-a-week print product into three great editions – Wednesday, Friday.

While the frequency of the print edition is changing, our commitment to covering the news, sports, events, and stories that define our community remains a 24/7 priority for our staff and journalists.and Sunday – beginning April 5, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Despite Money Woes, LPSB Gives Supt $10K/Yr Raise

03/08/2017

Mere minutes after Business Manager George Murphy cited severe revenue shortfalls facing the Lincoln Parish School District the School Board voted unanimously at last night’s meeting to award Superintendent Mike Milstead a four-year extension to his contract, along with a $10 thousand/year salary sweetener.

Milstead’s salary will go from $137 thousand/year to $147 thousand. Additionally, he receives, yearly, $7 thousand in medical benefits, $37.6 thousand in retirement contributions, and about $10 thousand in travel benefits.

See here the 2015-2016 audit, pg 161.

The Board’s Executive Committee – Lynda Henderson, District 9; Curtis Dowling, District 3; Danny Hancock, District 5 – recommended the raise.

Earlier, Murphy notified the board that for the 2017-2018 school year, the state’s Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) funding would be reduced some $5.4 million for the 2017-2018 school year.

Said Murphy, “For 17-18, reduction in MFP of $5.4 million. For the time being, we’re OK. Y’all need to know that it could be tough times for the next couple of years.”

Also, Murphy noted that local sales tax collections are down significantly less that last year. For the first eight months of the current fiscal year (7/1/16-6/30/17), sales tax collections are $3.8 million lower than the same period for the previous fiscal year.

See here the sales tax report.

Murphy opined that the July salary supplement (14th check) should be okay for now.

Not so the district’s medical plan. Murphy said that they may soon have to deal with the increase in retiree medical costs.

“It may not be where everybody’s happy about it out there with the retirees,” Murphy said. “We have a responsibility to make sure this thing stays solvent. We will come to you, and there’s probably some tough decisions to be made,” he added.

In other business, Milstead said he would be asking the board soon to approve redrawing Ruston School District elementary attendance zones for next school year.

Presently, some elementary students on the east side of the Ruston School District are bussed across town to attend either Glenview or Cypress Springs. The new proposal would make US Hwy 167 the approximate dividing line. Elementary students west of the highway would go to Glenview and Cypress Springs, while those on the east side would go to Ruston Elementary or Hillcrest.

Provision would be made so that students newly enrolled in a school for Kindergarten or first grade could stay there if desired, or could move a newly assigned school.

Finally, there was a bit of discussion about the recent Louisiana School Board Convention annual convention in New Orleans, and whether it was worth the expense to attend.

Asked how much the taxpayers were on the hook for, Murphy said “about $11 thousand.”

Tarbutton Interchange Construction Seen Soon

03/07/2017

The long-delayed interchange at Tarbutton Road and Interstate 20 should see construction starting by late summer, City of Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO) at last night’s meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen. Construction will last up to three years, Walker said.

The council approved a resolution to employ Beast Engineering of Benton to oversee inspection of the project.

Also approved was a resolution added to the agenda that authorized supplemental funding for the project.

During discussion of that resolution, Walker said that the bids had come in over budget, and that the city would make up some of the overage. Bids

Said Walker, “We had $14 million on state funds, $4 million on federal funds. The bid came in $7 million and change above that. The state called and said if we can split this, we can come up with some money. Fortunately, we had already put a little over $4 million in the budget from the TID funds that we just bonded out – the $34 million – so we had funds available.”

Another project that received the go-ahead was replacement of the Colvin Creek bridge on East Kentucky Avenue.

That project is set to begin with the next month or so, with the actual bridge construction during the summer. Kentucky Avenue will be closed for about 5 weeks, but should be open for traffic before schools start in August.

Cost of the project is about $1.35 million.

Lincoln Parish School Board Meets Tuesday

03/06/2017

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet Tuesday, March 7, 6:00 PM, Central Office, 410 South Farmerville Street.

Here is the agenda.

Notable retirements announced include Assistant Superintendent Mary Null and Testing/Accountability Coordinator Donna Doss. Both are set to retire effective 6/30/17.

City to Purchase More Rec Property

03/05/2017

Ruston’s City Council will be asked to approve the purchase of more land for the planned sports complex on South Farmerville Street. United Methodist Children’s Home owns the 13.14 acre parcel (no. 36183167001) just south of the Lifecare Specialty Hospital.

According to the resolution, the purchase price will be for “an amount not exceeding the appraised value, assemblage value, use value or just compensation value.”

See here the resolution.

Also, a new ordinance will be introduced that will outlaw the use of “airguns, air rifles, and blowguns” within the city limits.

From the proposed ordinance:

The use, firing, shooting and explosion of airgun, air rifles and blowguns within the city are declared to be a nuisance, and it shall be unlawful for any person to use, fire, shoot or explode airguns, air rifles or blowguns within the city limits.

The council meeting is set for 5:30 PM, Monday, March 6 at Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

Ouachita Parish Court Coverup Update

03/01/2017

Appeal court doubts law clerk’s immunity

By Zach Parker zach@ouachitacitizen.com

BATON ROUGE — Whether a “non-lawyer law clerk” at Fourth Judicial District Court in Monroe can be sued for destroying court documents was at the heart of questions discussed by a panel of judges at the First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge last week.

The three-judge panel, including Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple as well as judges John Michael Guidry and Page McClendon, was assigned to preside over last week’s hearing in Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky III’s lawsuit against Fourth Judicial District Court officials.

Palowsky’s July 2015 lawsuit accused law clerk Allyson Campbell of concealing or destroying court documents he filed with the court in a separate lawsuit against his former business partner, Brandon Cork. Palowsky sued Fourth Judicial District Court judges Fred Amman, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp, Stephens Winters and retired Judge Ben Jones, who now serves as the court’s administrator. According to Palowsky’s lawsuit, the five judges conspired to cover up Campbell’s activities.

“Is it a function of a law clerk to destroy pleadings?” said Guidry, of the First Circuit, while discussing the propriety of a “non-lawyer law clerk” enjoying the same judicial immunity as a judge. “Is that a function of judges to destroy public records?”

During last week’s hearing, the judges asked for parties to distinguish or whether a law clerk should enjoy the same protection from lawsuits as judges under the standard of judicial immunity.

Roller Sentenced to Jail, Must pay Restitution

02/27/2017

Former Jackson Parish Ward Four Fire Protection District Chief Curtis Roller was two weeks ago sentenced to a two year jail sentence, and will have to make restitution of over $400 thousand, according to a press release from the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport. Roller had pled guilty last May.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 17, 2017

Jonesboro man sentenced to 24 months in prison for FEMA fraud

SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Jonesboro man was sentenced Monday to 24 months in prison for obtaining FEMA grants for a fire department so that he could then sell his company’s products to it.

Curtis Roller, 60, of Jonesboro, La., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. on one count of wire fraud after illegally obtaining Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants and making false statements on worker compensation forms. He also was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $403,355 restitution. According the guilty plea, Roller submitted false information on a grant application on May 9, 2009 to FEMA so that the Jackson Parish Ward 3 Fire Protection District was eligible to receive federal funds, which could be used to purchase equipment from his company, Louisiana Firefighting Services. It is against FEMA rules and policies for a grant writer to financially benefit from money awarded.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Service-Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl M. Campbell prosecuted the case.

Here are some pertinent documents:

Judgement

Plea Agreement – May, 2016

Court Minutes – Sentencing

Agreed Upon Factual Basis

Roller was originally indicted in 2010, and then in 2013, a superseding indictment was returned.

Grand Jury Indictment

Representing Roller were Shreveport attorneys Ansel Stroud III, and Nicole Buckle. He is required to report on 3/28/17.

Kennedy Says Edmonson Should Quit

02/25/2017

Zurik: Kennedy calls for State Police head’s resignation

Written by: Lee Zurik, Chief Investigative Reporter
Contributor: Tom Wright, Investigative Producer

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) –

U.S. Senator John Kennedy says the superintendent of State Police needs to resign. The former state treasurer says he doubts the investigations into State Police will be a serious one.

This follows our investigation that detailed a pricey conference trip that included a stay in the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas for four troopers.

“I like the superintendent,” Kennedy tells FOX 8. “But he has demonstrated that he is intent on being the tallest hog at the trough. And this is all taxpayer money.”

Edmonson brought 17 state employees to San Diego – and some of them brought their spouses or girlfriends. The trip included a conference and an awards ceremony where the International Chiefs of Police gave Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson a lifetime achievement award. When you calculate salaries, overtime, hotel, flights and meals, the trip cost taxpayers about $70,000.

“He took 17 of his top people and said, y’all come at taxpayers’ expense to San Diego to watch me get an award,” Kennedy says, “and listen, let’s go spend $70,000 on a nice little vacation here, when the state’s running deficits. But this wasn’t a conference to learn something. This was 17 of his friends from State Police, all of whom, the big muckety-mucks making the hundred grand a year-plus, who went out there and had a little vacation to watch him get an award.”

Sumlin Trial Rescheduled for April

02/22/2017

The March 20 trial for William Sumlin was rescheduled for April 24, Division B Judge Tommy Rogers ruled yesterday in Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) in Ruston. Yesterday’s hearing on a Motion to Strike was also rescheduled, to March 14, 1:30 PM.

Sumlin’s attorney, Lavalle Salomon, claimed his wife was scheduled for surgery the week of the March trial dates.

Sumlin was arrested in October, 2015 of indecent behavior with a juvenile. In December, 2015 a Grand Jury returned a Bill of Indictment on the charges.

Representing the state was Assistant District Attorney Lewis Jones.

State Police Road Trip Update

02/21/2017

Zurik: Edmonson may have signed off on troopers’ Vegas stop

Written by: Lee Zurik, Chief Investigative Reporter
Contributor: Tom Wright, Investigative Producer

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But for four employees of Louisiana State Police, the trip from Point A to Point B comes with a 350-mile detour, via Sin City.

Now signatures on internal documents, approving the travel on your dime, may have serious implications for the public staff involved.

In October 2016, during the state’s budget crunch, LSP sent 17 people to a four-day conference in San Diego for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. When you calculate salaries, overtime, meals, flights and hotels, the total cost comes to around $70,000.

While the Louisiana State Police Superintendent Michael Edmonson claims he didn’t know about the trip until last week, it appears he signed off on at least one expense report in late December – essentially approving one employee’s side trip through the Grand Canyon and Vegas, paid for with your money.