Louisiana news briefs
Union leader criticizes omission from tenure talk
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The leader of a statewide teacher union said Friday that her organization has been excluded from the Jindal administration’s talks about tweaks to Louisiana’s teacher tenure law.
Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, said omitting her group from those discussions would make it more difficult for Gov. Bobby Jindal to reach a compromise with the education community.
“He is absolutely leaving out a strong force with the educators in the state and that’s going to be a problem,” she said.
After The Associated Press questioned the omission Friday, the LAE received a call from Jindal’s office to set up a meeting date.
Jindal has signaled he’s willing to make changes to his 2012 law that made it tougher for teachers to reach the job protection status and that reworked the process for appealing firing decisions.
2 more kids die of flu
in Louisiana; 4 this season
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two more children have died of the flu in Louisiana, bringing the total this season to four pediatric deaths, state health officials said Friday.
One child died in Southwest Louisiana and the other in the southeast, Department of Health and Hospitals Ken Pastorick said in a news release. One death was in early January but was only reported to the state this week, he said.
The earlier pediatric deaths were in southeast and northwest Louisiana. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define pediatric deaths as those of children less than 18 years old.
The state health department says tests have confirmed at least 53 deaths from influenza statewide since Oct. 1. But officials say that’s low, because hundreds die in Louisiana each year of the flu or conditions made worse by influenza without a flu diagnosis.
The CDC estimates that as many as 600 people may have died in the state since Oct. 1, with up to 520,000 cases and 5,200 hospitalizations.
2 whooping cranes shot in La.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Someone shot a pair of endangered whooping cranes that had been building practice nests in southwest Louisiana, killing the female and seriously injuring the male, state wildlife officials said Friday.
They were the only birds that had formed a mating bond last year, though they were too young to produce eggs, said Robert Love of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
“They were some of our older birds and our best chance for having a more successful nest this year,” said Love, the coastal and nongame resources division administrator.
“It’s just sickening,” he said.
Whooping cranes are among the world’s largest and rarest birds, with only about 600 alive today — all descended from 15 that lived in coastal Texas in the 1940s. They are protected under state and federal laws.
Rail proposal nearing completion
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A report outlining how to get a passenger train rolling from Baton Rouge to New Orleans is expected to be released later this month.
A company hired by groups in both cities completed the final draft of a 35-page feasibility study by a Feb. 1 deadline.
John Basilica Jr., vice president of HNTB, the Baton Rouge engineering and planning firm hired by groups in both cities, says the report will include a business and implementation plan, as well as suggested funding sources.
The total cost of implementing the new plans is an estimated $250 million for infrastructure and about $7 million a year for operation.
HNTB took on the project at the behest of the Capital Region Planning Commission, Baton Rouge Area Foundation and New Orleans Regional Planning Commission.
“There has been a tremendous amount of support of it,” Basilica said.
Railroads haven’t made any firm commitments, he said, but they’ve been involved throughout the process.
Kansas City Southern owns most of the rail along the route, and Canadian National owns a small segment.
Llorens out as Southern University chancellor
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The Southern University Board of Supervisors has voted to not renew the contract of Chancellor James Llorens, who has led the Baton Rouge campus for three years.
The 9-6 vote means Llorens’ last day leading Southern’s flagship campus will be June 30. Llorens took the top job in July 2011. He received a $270,000 annual pay package.
The chancellor’s job status came down to a recommendation from Southern System President Ronald Mason, who endorsed keeping Llorens for an additional year.
But Mason’s recommendation came with the caveat that Llorens work with the system office to assess how the Baton Rouge campus is being run and furthermore help the president come up with a plan to make “necessary financial and organizational changes.”
The board rejected Mason’s plan and chose to cut ties with Llorens when his contract ends.
Sorrento police chief
retires amid federal probe
SORRENTO (AP) — Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theriot Jr., who abruptly retired last week, faces federal charges filed in a bill of information accusing him of lying to an FBI agent about an alleged sexual assault of a heavily intoxicated woman last year.
Theriot quit Friday, two days after the bill of information was filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge.
The alleged charges were first made public in a federal civil damages lawsuit filed Jan. 17. Two attorneys said Friday it appears, based on how prosecutors charged Theriot and the dual hearings planned Monday, that Theriot will enter a guilty plea.
iPads replace laptops
in sheriff’s patrol cars
HOUMA (AP) — Expensive and outdated computer equipment in the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office’s patrol cars has been replaced with cheaper, more modern technology.
The program, which began last year, replaced all of the cars’ laptop computers with iPads.
The previous computer systems cost about $3,000 per vehicle.
The new system, which includes the tablets, Bluetooth keyboards and heavy duty cases, cost about $500 per car.
Sheriff Jerry Larpenter said the iPads are also easier to maintain.
Woman suspected of selling ex-boyfriend’s home
STERLINGTON (AP) — Union Parish sheriff’s deputies say Sterlington woman allegedly tore down her ex-boyfriend’s mobile home, selling it for scrap iron.
Susie Lynette Cain, 39, was booked into the parish detention center on theft charges Thursday. Her bond was set at $5,000.
Sheriff Dusty Gates says the ex-boyfriend, Marvin Middleton of West Sterlington, filed the complaint while he was incarcerated in Concordia Parish.
Detectives say Middleton had purchased the 12-foot by 60-foot mobile home for $500. Witnesses at the mobile home park told deputies that Cain allegedly partially tore down the trailer and then had the rest hauled off to sell as scrap iron.
From The Associated Press.