Louisiana news briefs
Bar-closing hours before council
THIBODAUX — Lafourche Parish Council is considering whether later bar-closing hours on the weekend would provide an economic boost or a law enforcement problem.
The council will debate and ultimately vote later this month on a measure that would give Lafourche bars the option of staying open until 3 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Bars would still have to close at 2 a.m. Sundays through Fridays — the same time required throughout the week now.
The change would not apply to bars in the incorporated areas of the parish.
Work to strengthen Houma hospital
HOUMA — Repairs are underway to strengthen Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center against future hurricanes.
The work, which includes replacement of hospital freight elevators, windows and exterior walls, will be paid for with Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money and state infrastructure dollars.
Hospital officials said the projects will not result in parking or patient service disruptions.
The hospital has suffered damage from past storms. During Hurricane Gustav in 2008, the building’s exterior was damaged, and the cover was blown off the hospital’s elevator shaft, causing water damage.
Ex-officials plead not guilty again
MINDEN — Two former Cotton Valley fire department officials have pleaded not guilty again in state court in Webster Parish to amended charges stemming from their arrests last year.
The bills of information that spell out the formal charges against former Chief Dennis Meshell and Assistant Chief Adam Hurley were changed to reflect more specific information about the crimes of which they are accused
Meshell and Hurley were arrested in March on one count each of malfeasance, injuring public records and unauthorized use of an access card as theft.
Meshell resigned his position in April, but Hurley, a civil service employee, was placed on administrative leave until August when the fire board eliminated his position.
National Guard deployed for floods
CROWLEY — The Louisiana National Guard sent high-water trucks to Crowley and Marksville for evacuations, and says units are on standby statewide.
Staff Sgt. Denis Ricou says the 225th Engineer Brigade in Marksville and the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in Crowley each sent a truck and two soldiers.
He says the guard also brought about 50,000 empty sandbags Thursday to Livingston Parish.
In Crowley, Mayor Greg Jones says residents of about 10 houses asked for help. He estimates that water got into more than 20, mostly in wakes from big trucks driving through flooded streets.
Jones says streets were draining well Thursday afternoon, but some still had a foot of water.
Marksville police say the evacuation there was outside city limits. Avoyelles Parish officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
in B.R. fraud case
BATON ROUGE — A former Prairieville resident is accused of stealing more than $215,000 from workers compensation cases and a service firm that managed those cases for insurance companies.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cam T. Le said in a court filing Wednesday that Cynthia D. Windham intends to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud.
Windham was charged with bank fraud in a bill of information filed late Tuesday. Court records show Windham signed a waiver of her right to have a grand jury consider her case.
Windham’s felony charge alleges she altered 62 checks, worth $83,879 and issued to other people by her employer, Strategic Case Management LLC. After those checks were altered, the charge written by Le alleges, they were deposited in Windham’s personal bank account.
Proposals protect voters from ID theft
BATON ROUGE — The State Board of Election Supervisors has recommended changes in state election laws.
One of the proposals would make it a felony to copy or otherwise reproduce a completed voter registration application. The change would protect the confidentiality of such information as the individual’s full date of birth and Social Security number, which could be used for fraudulent purposes.
Another proposal approved Wednesday would require poll workers to sign affidavits that information contained in the precinct register will not be disclosed.
The precinct register contains such information as whether a voter needs assistance, the date of birth of the voter and the mother’s maiden name of the voter. The information could be used in identity theft.
Transocean makes initial apperance
NEW ORLEANS — Transocean Ltd. made an initial court appearance Wednesday for its plea agreement with the Justice Department over the company’s role in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
At a brief hearing before a federal magistrate in New Orleans, Transocean attorneys didn’t enter a plea on the company’s behalf to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act.
Transocean has agreed to pay $400 million in criminal penalties, plead guilty to the charge and pay $1 billion in civil penalties. It isn’t expected to enter the plea until next month.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo has scheduled a Feb. 14 hearing to decide whether to accept the criminal settlement. Milazzo only presides over the criminal settlement. A different judge will decide whether to accept Transocean’s civil settlement with the federal government.
Transocean can withdraw from its plea deal if Milazzo rejects it.
Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which sank after an explosion killed 11 workers and triggered the spill. BP PLC leased the rig from Transocean. The April 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, making it the nation’s worst offshore spill.
Much of the $1.4 billion that Transocean agreed to pay will fund environmental restoration projects and spill-prevention research and training.
BP PLC, which leased the rig from Transocean, separately has agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges related to the spill. The deal with BP doesn’t resolve the federal government’s civil claims against the London-based oil company.
From The Associated Press.