Louisiana news briefs
Man allegedly supplies
teens with drugs at party
HOUMA — Terrebonne Parish sheriff’s deputies say a 31-year-old Houma man opened his home and drug supply to a group of teens looking for a party spot.
Capt. Dawn Foret said deputies received a tip that there was underage drinking at the party about 1 a.m. Monday and discovered the drug use instead.
Foret say Ross Chauvin hosted about 60 people, whose ages ranged from 17 to 20.
Chauvin was booked with one count of letting a disorderly place. His bond was set at $500.
Deputies say seven other people at the party were arrested with drug related charges.
yearbook fees, but no book
BATON ROUGE — Southern University has been collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in student fees for a yearbook that hasn’t been produced for five years, according to an audit released Monday.
The report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office says Southern University collected $816,903 from July 2008 through June 2012 in student fees for a yearbook, with students paying $15 each fall and spring semester and $7.50 during summer semesters. During the same time, the university spent $233,699 from the account.
But the audit says the last Jaguar Yearbook issued was for the 2007-08 school year that ended before the nearly $817,000 in fees were collected. And that last yearbook wasn’t released until spring 2011.
Coroner: Girl, 3,
dies from heat stroke
SHREVEPORT — Shreveport police have identified the 3-year-old girl who was found dead inside of car Friday.
Authorities say the child, Sariah Delafosse, had been left in the car for as many as 19 hours before her mother came out as she was heading to work.
Caddo Parish Coroner Todd Thoma say the child died of a heat stroke. But, he has yet to rule if her death was accidental.
Gay pride flag
sparks debate in Lafayette
LAFAYETTE — For some, it was a symbol of progress in Acadiana when the flag of the gay community was raised last month in Girard Park.
But the flag was on Lafayette Consolidated Government property, and some residents weren’t too happy to see it.
“If they want to fly a flag, good. Stick up a flag pole in their front yard and let them fly. I could care less. But don’t do it on government property,” Green said.
Green, a 79-year-old Korean War veteran, was one of the constituents who called Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Andy Naquin about the flag. He wants to know who gave Acadiana Outspoken Alliance permission to raise their flag.
“I checked with Gerald Boudreaux at the Parks and Recreation Department and they did not have permission,” Green said.
But, Amanda Kelley, president of the alliance, said Green’s allegations the group did not have permission are not true. “We did have regular contact with Parks and Recreation Department to make sure we had their permission. They knew what the event was, they knew the meaning behind the flag and why we wanted to raise it.”
Naquin has asked for a legal opinion from the city attorney. He’s also considering barring from city-parish-owned flagpoles all flags except those of the United States, the state, LCG and possibly Mardi Gras flags.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, in a letter Monday to LCG attorney Mike Hebert, urged the Parish Council not to support such an ordinance that could run the risk of infringing on residents’ First Amendment rights.
DA’s former administrator seeks sentencing delay
LAFAYETTE — Barna Haynes, the former office administrator to District Attorney Mike Harson, wants a federal judge to delay her Aug. 8 sentencing date.
Haynes pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud for her role in an alleged bribery scheme involving drunk driving cases in the 15th Judicial District Court where she was employed.
Haynes’ attorney last week asked the court to delay her sentencing until after the trial of Robert Williamson, a Lafayette private investigator who was indicted in the bribery scheme and is the alleged mastermind.
Haynes has agreed to assist the government in its case against Williamson.
Four others, including two former workers in the District Attorney’s Office, pleaded guilty in the bribery scheme. None has been sentenced.
Lafayette sheriff’s office settles suit with deputy
LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office has settled a 2011 lawsuit filed by a deputy who said he was targeted within the department and demoted after reporting the head of the parish jail system had falsified a document.
The sheriff’s office has agreed to pay Matthew Thomassee $175,000 to settle the lawsuit. In return, Thomassee — a former Lafayette Parish Correction Center supervisor — agreed to resign and withdraw a complaint he made to the Louisiana Board of Ethics about the department, Sheriff Mike Neustrom and Director of Corrections Rob Reardon.
The settlement was reached in May but made public recently.
2013 Essence Fest wraps, work begins on 2014
NEW ORLEANS — The 19th annual Essence Festival is over, but planners for Essence and the city of New Orleans say they’ve already started work on the next one.
The festival’s contract with the city ends after the 2014 event, which will mark its 20th year. Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., said work on next year’s festival has already begun.
“It began about six weeks ago and we’re very excited,” Ebanks said at a news conference Monday alongside Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Joy Collins, Essence’s general manager. “It’s going to be hard to top this year’s festival and we will enjoy (the 19th) for just a little longer before we jump full force into next year.”
“Essence is coming back and hopefully it will be here forever,” said Landrieu who noted the current contract is in place through 2014.
The four-day festival set a record, drawing more than 540,000 visitors to the city to participate in its free daily empowerment seminars at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and nightly ticketed concerts at the Superdome.
From The Associated Press.
Last year, the festival added a fourth day and drew a total of 413,000 attendees with a lineup that included Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan and D’Angelo. That was down slightly from the 422,000 who gathered for the festival in 2011, when it ran for three days.
A sold-out performance by Beyonce closed this year’s festival, which also featured singers Charlie Wilson, Maxwell, New Edition, Jill Scott, Brandy, Trey Songz, Janelle Monae, Keyshia Cole and many others.
Landrieu said the festival also drew more than 55,000 to Woldenberg Park, along the bank of the Mississippi River, for its first-ever Family Reunion Day held on the 4th of July.
“Every year, it grows and grows. I don’t think they’re even close to reaching its potential in terms of size and what it could be,” Landrieu said.
Tourism officials estimated the economic impact at well over $100 million. Precise numbers were not available, but the mayor’s office said Monday that local hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions reported brisk business.
Drago’s restaurant, inside the Hilton, sold 37,000 of its signature charbroiled oysters, the mayor said.
“That’s a lot of oysters,” Landrieu said.
Hotel occupancy was at 97 percent for the weekend and Landrieu said the city’s airport reported that planes were near capacity Monday with 17,742 departures.
“That’s a good indication of how incredibly packed the city was,” Landrieu said.
Ebanks said they were “very pleased” with the attendance.
“This year’s record-breaking attendance is a testament to our purpose,” she said. “This is just an extraordinary experience for our magazine to come to life. We had a chance to bring those stories to life.”
Terrebonne Council proceeds on pedestrian bridge
HOUMA — The Terrebonne Parish Council plans to move forward with the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Bayou Terrebonne in downtown Houma.
During Monday night’s Budget and Finance Committee, the Parish Council unanimously approved a measure that calls for a public hearing on July 24.
The project, if approved at the public hearing, is expected to cost about $150,000.
State and federal grants are expected to cover the bill.
Parish President Michel Claudet said the bridge should help encourage more people to patronize downtown businesses by providing more convenient access.
Houma man accused of stealing bulldozer
BOURG (AP) — Lafourche Parish sheriff’s deputies say a 20-year-old Houma man was caught over the weekend driving a stolen bulldozer down a Bourg highway.
Jmikel Verdin was pulled over Saturday by Terrebonne Parish sheriff deputies as he rolled down La. Highway 24 in the construction vehicle.
Lafourche Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brennan Matherne says Verdin allegedly stole the bulldozer from a nearby home in Lafourche and had caused several thousand dollars in damage to it.
Verdin was booked with theft of a motor vehicle, criminal trespassing, felony simple criminal damage to property, resisting an officer and driving without a license.
Matherne says it is unknown why Verdin stole the bulldozer.
It was unclear whether Verdin has an attorney.