Louisiana news briefs
PSC to question Cleco CEO about possible sale
PINEVILLE (AP) — Cleco Corp.’s top executive and several board members are expected to appear at Wednesday’s meeting of the Louisiana Public Service Commission to answer questions related to a possible sale of the Pineville-based utility.
In June, Cleco officials confirmed media reports that several parties had expressed interest in acquiring the company.
Officials have said no decision on a potential sale had been made.
Cleco officials are expected to be asked whether they fully informed commissioners about the sale interest before the PSC voted to extend Cleco’s Formula Rate Plan on June 18. Analysts pegged the four-year extension as a boost to Cleco’s sale value, since it could provide potential buyers with confidence in the company’s revenues and stability going forward.
Fire marshal named
leader of national group
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana’s top fire marshal is leading a group of senior fire officials across the country.
State Fire Marshal Butch Browning’s office announced Monday that he was elected to serve a two-year term as president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals. Browning’s been on the organization’s board of directors since 2010.
Browning says he’ll use the position to work on ways to improve public safety across the nation.
Browning has been Louisiana’s state fire marshal since 2008, appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Cellphones could return
to Lafayette schools
LAFAYETTE (AP) — A policy that allows Lafayette Parish School System high school students to use their cellphones on campus is back on the school board’s table this week.
The policy was on the board’s agenda last month as an introduction item with a minor tweak that no longer gives high school students permission to use phones during their lunch break.
The board will consider the revised policy at its Wednesday meeting.
For the past few years, phones have been banned from campus and students who violate the policy have had their phones confiscated and may have received disciplinary action for repeat violations.
Audit: $760K stolen from
New Orleans Traffic Court
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A state audit finds a former accountant accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from New Orleans Traffic Court may have taken more than previously believed.
Federal authorities accused Vandale Thomas of pilfering $684,000 in a 12-count indictment filed last fall.
The audit says Thomas was able to bilk the court of closer to $760,000, primarily by submitting bogus invoices for accounting work between 2008 and 2011.
Accusations that Thomas committed fraud have been outlined in previous reports, notably a 2011 probe by the Office of the Investigator General, which was the first to delve into his lucrative Traffic Court business.
Thomas’ trial is scheduled for Oct. 6.
Judge tosses Baton Rouge annexation lawsuit
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A state judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the recent, high-profile annexation of the Mall of Louisiana and Baton Rouge General Medical Center-Bluebonnet into the city of Baton Rouge.
Judge Janice Clark ruled Monday the plaintiff lacked legal standing required to file the suit.
Clark agreed after more than three hours of testimony that plaintiff Woody Jenkins, a conservative activist and former legislator, lacks a “real and actual interest” in the annexations.
Jenkins is a resident of the city of Baton Rouge, but he does not live in the recently annexed area.
After the ruling, Jenkins said he intends to file an appeal and felt confident the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal will validate him.
Audits reveal discrepancies in grant funding in Lafourche
THIBODAUX (AP) — An audit released by the state found that one Lafourche agency overpaid some grant recipients. Other local agencies were cited for minor procedural errors.
In Lafourche, the independent audit sampled 25 Community Service Block Grant payments and found 17 errors, including three overpayments and more than 10 with documentation errors.
The grant money provides one-time help for residents who have suffered a setback to help them get back on their feet. Clients apply through Community Action case managers, who submit their recommendations to the office’s director for approval.
Parish officials said they have outlined goals and capped amounts for future grants to keep this from happening again.
Former Gov. Roemer recovering from ‘small stroke’
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Former Gov. Buddy Roemer suffered a “small stroke” about four weeks ago, but is back at work and recovering.
That’s according to the former governor’s son, Chas Roemer, who is president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Chas Roemer told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday that his father is “doing quite well.” He says the stroke caused weakness in his father’s right hand and impacted his speech, but Chas Roemer says the doctors expect the former governor to make a full recovery.
Buddy Roemer, a Republican who is president of a Baton Rouge-based bank, served one term as governor from 1988 to 1992. Before that, he was a congressman from 1980 to 1988. He made an unsuccessful attempt at a third-party candidacy for president in 2012.
Explosion leads to fire at plant
NORCO (AP) — Officials with the Diamond Green Diesel say an investigation is under way into the cause of an explosion and fire at their Norco plant that processes used cooking oil and other material into renewable diesel fuel. No one was injured.
The St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center says fire crews responded to an explosion around 9:30 p.m. Sunday. They say the production unit involved has been shut down. Officials let the fire burn itself out.
Authorities said air monitoring crews in the area found nothing detectable, and no safety precautions were needed.
Diamond Green Diesel is a joint venture between a subsidiary of Valero Energy Corp. and Darling International Inc.