An attempt by the Lafayette Parish School System to correct salary inequities of its support staff backfired last week when the school board was presented with pay adjustments that would have resulted in what board member Mike Hefner described as a "windfall" for some employees. As a result, the board halted the plan, and employees protested that the raises promised to them were being delayed. The pay adjustments would have resulted in several employees getting raises of less than $1,000 a year, while at least one stood to gain $21,000 ' a 42 percent pay raise.
The board ordered the staff committee to rework the pay plan. According to Hefner, most of the drastic increases resulted from the committee's decision to factor in prior experience of employees before they joined the school system, which bumped many employees' salaries above standard levels. "I think the board did the right thing," Hefner says. "It was tough coming back and saying, 'Well, the money you thought you were going to get, you may not be getting.' I feel for the employees for putting them in this position but we have to fix this thing." ' Nathan Stubbs
MORE TROUBLE FOR STONE
The parties that issued bonds to Stone Energy in the past have sent the Lafayette company a series of noncompliance notices for failing to file reports and financial statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This comes fresh on the heels of Stone announcing it was being investigated by various entities for overestimating its natural gas reserves by $1.4 billion ' meaning the company reported overly generous and incorrect financial information to the federal government and investors ("Stone Cold," Feb. 8.)
In a press release, Stone says updated reports will be filed in mid-March, "which would resolve the issue" for its bond holders. Under an unlikely worst-case scenario, the bond holders could demand a lump sum payment from Stone, which could cause the company to sell assets or pursue other dire measures. ' Jeremy Alford
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR EVACUEES IN LAFAYETTE HOTELS
Evacuees living in Lafayette hotels and motels received a last-minute extension from FEMA last week that extended the March 1 deadline for FEMA hotel payments to March 15. An estimated 400-500 rooms are still occupied by evacuees, according to the latest survey conducted by the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission. LCVC's Gerald Breaux says the survey only covers the number of rooms occupied by evacuees, not the number of evacuees per room. If the March 15 deadline holds, a number of evacuee families could be homeless.
Acadiana Outreach Center has set up a housing hotline to try and connect evacuees with property owners. Landlords or families with rental properties should call Acadiana Outreach at 234-6993. ' Scott Jordan
ACADIANA C.A.R.E.S. AND ROSELAWN PROPERTIES LAWSUIT TRANSFERRED
Acadiana C.A.R.E.S.' eviction fears have been temporarily halted by a ruling from Judge Glennon Everett in the 15th Judicial District Court. C.A.R.E.S. filed a lawsuit in May 2005 asking for injunctive relief and damages against its landlord, Roselawn Properties Inc., owned by Kathy Ashworth, who threatened C.A.R.E.S. with eviction, claiming the nonprofit HIV/AIDS agency was in default of its lease ("Homeless for the Holidays," Dec. 29.). Roselawn filed a lawsuit to evict C.A.R.E.S. on Feb. 1. In the Feb. 21 hearing, Judge Everett refused to hear Roselawn's case, transferring the eviction proceedings to Judge Byron Hebert, who has already been assigned C.A.R.E.S.' damages suit. The ruling is a temporary victory for C.A.R.E.S.
"The judge gave us the relief that we requested ' having the eviction suit heard in the original lawsuit so that there weren't two different lawsuits," says C.A.R.E.S. attorney Charles Kreamer. Roselawn now must refile its eviction proceedings in Judge Hebert's court. Roselawn attorney Hank Perret declined to comment. ' Mary Tutwiler
VITTER CLEARS THE AIR
After Gov. Kathleen Blanco suggested that Louisiana's junior senator actively lobbied against her plan for a housing trust, Sen. David Vitter fired off a rebuttal. "This sort of partisan blame-throwing helps no one, least of all those still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Vitter wrote to Blanco. The "actual and precise facts" he offers are that he told a group of lawmakers the state plan wasn't "terribly important, but that the substance of the plan itself was."
Vitter also told the governor that details for the plan's footprint need to be determined soon, thus defining where rebuilding will and will not take place. Since he holds some of the highest approval ratings of any other elected official in the state, Vitter can make such bold statements to the state's CEO. Still, Vitter wrote in another letter to supporters last week that he won't be leaning on that popularity to make a bid against Blanco in next year's gubernatorial election. ' JA
THE FORGOTTEN COMMITTEE
If there were ever a time for a Select Committee on Coastal Restoration and Flood Control in the Legislature, it would be now. But the panel, created by Gov. Kathleen Blanco and others in 2004, hasn't met in roughly a year. Meanwhile, various lawmakers during the recent special session floated the idea of forming a new standing committee for homeland security and hurricane protection.
Sen. Reggie Dupre, D-Bourg, chairman of the Select Committee on Coastal Restoration, will propose a compromise in the regular session that convenes next month. Dupre wants to make the coastal committee permanent, folding in homeland security issues rather than forming yet another panel in the Legislature. "There's not enough room for another committee, and I'm willing to join forces," Dupre says.
There are political ramifications. By creating a new committee for these areas, oversight would have to be pulled from six separate chairmen in both chambers. "That'll be the tricky part," Dupre says. ' JA
National coverage of the recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita continues, with The New York Times and Washington Post providing the most regular (and aggressive) coverage of ongoing challenges in Louisiana. A special-edition Feb. 27 issue of U.S. News & World Report features a 31-page special report on New Orleans, and even some unlikely outlets are weighing in: Popular Mechanic's current issue features a controversial cover story that purports to debunk Katrina-related engineering myths. ' SJ
THE LAND GRAB BEGINS
The state took its first real step earlier this month toward the acquisition of land needed to start the rebuilding process. Through an executive order, Gov. Kathleen Blanco has called for the commandeering of private property around the 17th Street Canal, largely near Lake Pontchartrain. The order was requested and recommended by a slew of agencies, including the Corps of Engineers, Jefferson Parish and the Attorney General's Office. In the order, Blanco states the grab is in the "best interests of the citizens of the state."
Three plots are identified in the order, as are 10.2 acres of land extending north into Lake Pontchartrain; affected businesses include landmark restaurants Sid-Mar's and Brunings. The properties will be used for levee and floodwall construction. Owners will be "identified and compensated in accordance with the terms of the Cooperation Agreement between the United States of America and the Orleans Levee District," according to the order. ' JA
NEW DEMOCRATIC CHAIR PICKS UP THE PACE
Ever since Chris Whittington took over as the new chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, press releases and political hits have become more frequent and pointed. He's taking shots at Republican congressional candidates, poking holes in levee bills proposed by GOP lawmakers and of course sticking up for the party's embattled governor.
In the latest dispatch, Whittington applauds Gov. Kathleen Blanco for her "hardball tactics" in the fight for more federal hurricane money ' specifically, the additional $4.2 billion proposed for housing by President Bush. That stance is hogwash to Richard Baker supporters. (For a related story, read "The Man with the Plan" on P. 9.) ' JA
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
Security breach at White House; Bejing won't back down from protesters; pressure on third-graders and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 30, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.
The endorsements keep coming for District 9 LPSB candidate Jeremy Hidalgo, who picked up his fifth vow of support Thursday, this time from the Chamber’s political action committee.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be out knocking on doors this weekend with anti-abortion activists encouraging people to vote against his colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The ACLU of Louisiana has sued Abbeville's mayor and police chief over a policy barring police from any social media use showing the city in a bad light.
Prospective Republican presidential candidates are expected to promote "religious liberty" at home and abroad at a gathering of religious conservatives Friday, with anti-Obama speeches from the likes of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The American Zombie blog by New Orleans independent journalist Jason Berry has a photograph of U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier having dinner with Lafayette attorney Pat Juneau — yeah, that Pat Juneau, the BP claims administrator whose fate Barbier will soon decide.
But retirees and employees who face the higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs responded angrily, telling lawmakers that they shouldn't be held responsible for what they consider the Jindal administration's mismanagement of the Office of Group Benefits.
Indictment accuses ‘chef’ who claims to work for the needy of stealing from a disabled man in his care.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's top budget adviser says the state employee health insurance program will face a dire financial scenario without the heavily criticized changes planned by the administration.
Louisiana's last execution was in 2010, and plans for the next lethal injection have been put on hold amid an ongoing legal dispute about the drugs that would be used. More than 80 people are on death row, awaiting execution, in Louisiana.
If the Saints' defense hasn't corrected early season errors it could be in for a long Sunday night.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is traveling to the Citgo refinery near Lake Charles to highlight her successful stalling of a bill to impose sanctions against human-rights abusers in Venezuela's government.