Lincoln School Board Tuesday

02/06/2017

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) will meet Tuesday, February 7, 10:30 AM, Lincoln Parish Early Childhood Center, 801 East Mississippi.

Here is the agenda.

Ruston Board of Aldermen to Meet Monday

02/05/2017

Ruston’s Board of Aldermen will meet Monday, February 6, 5:30 PM, Ruston City Hall, 401 North Trenton.

Here is the agenda.

Former NLU Prez Vines Tells How to Handle Protests

02/04/2017

Former Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana at Monroe) President Dwight Vines once had to deal with a significant protest on campus in 1978, he tells in a email message sent out yesterday:

Almost every day the news media exposes another university that has lost control of their students and other agitators. I worked for universities for 38 years. but I never remember hearing about even one university losing control of group activities on its campus.

In 1978, Northeast Louisiana University invited a representative of the Shah of Iran to speak on the campus. Iranian students and their friends enrolled in USA universities were not pleased and planned to prevent the talk at NLU. After they began recruiting students to come to NLU to protest, we learned about their plan.

I discussed the matter with NLU officials and we decided that we would not let off-campus students disrupt the speaker. I met with local law enforcement officials from Monroe, West Monroe and Ouachita Parish. asking them to help NLU develop a plan for the situation.

When the time arrived, students attempted to interrupt the speaker. They were twice told not to interrupt by Dean of Students, Tom Murphy. On the third interruption, we asked law enforcement to clear Brown Auditorium.

When the smoke cleared, there were about 70 demonstrators in local jails. The protesters refused to give their names, so they were booked as John Does. After about two weeks, a local Muslim doctor paid a fine for each of them and they were released after signing a commitment not to return to NLU.

This was the biggest story NLU ever had in the news media in Europe and the Middle East.

I rest my case.

LPPJ Committee Assignments – 2017

01/25/2017

2017-committee-list

OPPJ, Continued

01/24/2017

Last night’s meeting of the Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) began calmly enough, with a solicitation from Monroe bond attorney Bill Boles, Jr., who asked that his firm be considered as counsel when the jury sold bonds to be financed by the prospective sales tax.

Said Boles, “We would like the opportunity to work with you on that tax. We are a local option, with all due all due respect to the folks in the New Orleans firm that has been doing that.”

A couple of the jurors promised that Boles’ firm would be considered.

The jury convened as a committee of the whole (East Ouachita Economic Development District) to consider the resolution calling for the tax hike election. Once the motion was made and seconded, things began to unravel.

District E’s Shane Smiley questioned whether sufficient support had been lined up to support the new tax.

Said Smiley, “I have to ask, we have a number of groups in the parish that have a lot of good leadership. But in a matter like this – something that is crucial – they were completely silent. And I’d really like to hear from the OBA (Ouachita Business Alliance) and other groups – I’d like for them to let me know that they’re going to step forward and really put their necks out and let folks know how important this tax is.”

Jury President Scotty Robinson (District A) said that future road construction on the west side might encourage support for the tax, but he had doubts about an April vote.

“My personal opinion, and I’m just one vote, I still thinks it’s a little early,” he said. “I think a few more months, then the fall elections – December would be better,” he added.

That’s when the roof fell in.

Pat Moore (District F): “We have two police jurors who are not here tonight. Would it be a problem if we tabled and give them an opportunity to have a voice?”

Jury Attorney Jay Mitchell noted that to meet the legal notice requirements for an April vote, a decision would have to be made immediately.

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website, the two available election dates for this fall are Saturday, October 14 and Saturday, November 18.

With that, the jury adjourned the committee meeting, reconvened the jury meeting, and took care of some other routine matters. They reconvened the committee and took the vote we reported last night – a 2-2 tie. Motions with tie votes fail.

Earlier in the meeting two road projects for the west side were discussed, and further work was authorized.

A $1.4 million bid for the rebuild of Slocum Road was approved, and authorization to bid a project for Caples Road was given. Estimated budget for that project is $1.75 million.

Also discussed was application for capital outlay money from the state to repair the outflow drain pipes of the River Styx Pump Station. That structure is located on Horseshoe Bend Road, just west of Ouachita Christian School. Water is pumped from River Styx into the Ouachita River.

However, local matching funds for that project might not be available if the planned tax is not passed.

Likely, we will be hearing a lot about this tax throughout the rest of the year.

Tax Call Defeated @ OPPJ

01/23/2017

A Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) resolution that would have called for a 4/29/17 special tax election for that part of Ouachita Parish east of the river was defeated at tonight’s meeting on a 2-2 tie vote. The proposed 1.39% sales tax increase would have been dedicated for roads and drainage.

A similar tax for the western part of the parish passed last April by 16 votes.

Here’s the vote breakdown.

District A Scotty Robinson – No
District B Jack Clampit – Yes
District C Walt Caldwell – Absent
District D Ollibeth Reddix – Absent
District E Shane Smiley – No
District F Pat Moore – Yes

We will have additional reporting tomorrow on how it happened, plus the other business conducted at the meeting.

DA Asset Forfeiture Account Pilfered

01/23/2017

Almost $200,000 in Seized Cash Assets Never Deposited into District Attorney’s Forfeiture Account

An investigative audit has found that $194,900 in seized cash assets that should have been deposited into the Special Asset Forfeiture account held by the District Attorney’s Office for the 15th Judicial District never made into the account, the Legislative Auditor said in a report released today.

The 15th Judicial District encompasses Acadia, Lafayette, and Vermilion parishes.

The assets were seized by Acadia Parish law enforcement agencies between January 2003 and February 2016. A former Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy was responsible for receiving the cash assets and depositing the funds into the Special Asset Forfeiture account.

The money was discovered missing in April 2016 when the District Attorney’s Office found that several cash asset seizures given to the deputy had not been deposited. The deputy admitted taking the money and using it for personal purposes. She was charged with felony theft. The case is pending.

Here is the complete report.

OPPJ to Try East Ouachita Sales Tax Hike Again

01/22/2017

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will try again to hike the sales tax in Ouachita Parish east of the Ouachita River. The call for a Saturday, April 29 election to increase sales taxes by 1.39% is set for a vote of the jury at tomorrow night’s (Monday, 1/23/17, 5:30 PM) meeting at the Ouachita Parish Court House, second floor.

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, 2017, 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?

Last April, voters defeated the same proposal 701 to 625. A similar tax for the western half of the parish was approved by those voters.

Here is the complete agenda.

IRS Files Claim on Monroe City School Board Prez

01/19/2017

MCSB president owes $101,000 in unpaid taxes

By Zach Parker zach@ouachitacitizen.com

The Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien against Monroe City School Board President Rodney McFarland last month for some $101,000 in unpaid taxes, according to court documents obtained by The Ouachita Citizen.

The lien, prepared and signed by the IRS on Dec. 13, 2016, was filed at the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s office.

The federal tax lien notice details six unpaid balances on 1040 taxes totaling $101,708.11. The unpaid balances were assessed on tax periods from December 2010 to December 2015. Each of the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 tax periods recorded unpaid balances of some $16,000 to some $22,000.

Previously, McFarland received a notice of tax lien from the state Department of Revenue for $42,612.74 in unpaid sales taxes in February 2015, as first reported by The Ouachita Citizen. He also received a notice of tax lien for $71,468.48 in unpaid corporate and sales taxes in April 2010 from the state.

Former Parish Fire Chief Loses Suit for Comp Pay, Benefits

01/18/2017

Former Lincoln Parish Fire District No. 1 Fire Chief Dennis Ford is not entitled to comp time pay and paid medical benefits, a Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Court judge has ruled.

Wrote Division A Judge Cynthia Woodard in a ruling filed 1/13/27:

As a result, the Court finds that the Plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proof on his claims for compensatory time, post-retirement health insurance coverage, and his claim under the Louisiana Wage Payment Act. Therefore, the Court denies all claims asserted by the Plaintiff against the Defendant for the aforesaid reasons.

Woodard noted that “Mr. Ford was an executive, administrative, or professional employee, who is exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) or payment of any comp time.”

Also, “…the Court further notes that there were no writings memorializing any such agreement as to the comp time. Any conversations Mr. Ford had with Mr. Thompson (former Board Chair Tom Thompson) about comp time do not appear to have been considered or approved by the Board.”

Regarding the medical benefits, Woodard wrote, “Mr. Ford was aware that the retiree class was a closed class before the policy was accepted, well before his retirement. He was also aware that no other retiree since Mr. Kirkland has been allowed to remain on the insurance.”

See here the complete Reasons for Ruling.

Ford had originally sued in September, 2014 and had demanded nearly half a million dollars in comp time.

See here the original lawsuit.

The bench trial (as opposed to a jury trial) was held last October at the Lincoln Parish Court House in Ruston.

Ford’s attorney was Daniel Street. Representing the district was Shreveport Attorney Michael Lowe.