Louisiana news briefs
Most school districts achieve technology readiness goal
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Wondering how your child’s public school measures up in computer access for its students?
The state education department released a district-by-district snapshot Wednesday that shows about one-third of school districts are falling short.
Of Louisiana’s 69 school districts, the report says 47 have reached the desired ratio of seven students to every one computer, including 906 of 1,180 schools. That covers 76 percent of students.
Three districts — Cameron, St. Helena and St. James parishes — have reached a one-to-one ratio of students to computers.
The issue of technology has received increased scrutiny because of new online testing tied to the Common Core educational standards that are being phased in to Louisiana schools.
The report, with information by district and by individual school, is available online at: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/schools/public-schools/digital-schools .
firefighter arrested for arson
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A former volunteer firefighter faces four counts of simple arson in connection with fires that investigators say were intentionally set in a wooded area just south of DeRidder in 2012 and 2013.
Beauregard Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested 26-year-old Brandon Harris, of Longville, Tuesday after a month-long investigation by the district attorney’s office and the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Investigators say Harris admitted that while working with the Beauregard Parish District 2 Broad Land Substation he set four wildfires for the purpose of receiving money for fire call outs and for the thrill of fighting fires.
Authorities say 17 acres and an estimated $12,500 worth of timber were damaged by the fires.
Harris was booked into the Beauregard Parish Jail. Bond was set at $60,000.
Business group has
new Louisiana leader
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The National Federation of Independent Business, which lobbies on behalf of small businesses, has named a new state director in Louisiana.
The organization announced Wednesday that Dawn Starns, who has been a Baton Rouge lobbyist, was chosen for the Louisiana position.
Starns was most recently the executive director of the Capital Region Legislative Delegation, an organization of Baton Rouge-area state lawmakers. She also managed a legislative charity fund that raises money for nonprofit organizations.
NFIB says it is the largest small business organization in Louisiana, with 4,300 dues-paying members.
Boomtown Casino’s hotel
on schedule for July open
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Boomtown Casino New Orleans says it’s on schedule to open its $20 million expansion that includes a 150-room hotel and conference space in July.
The company marked the project’s halfway point this week.
Harold C. Rowland, Boomtown’s vice president and general manager, said the investment will allow the company to better serve regional guests and expand the property’s amenities.
The expansion will also include a fitness center and 200 additional parking spaces.
Boomtown New Orleans, located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, is about 15 minutes from the French Quarter. It opened in 1994 and features a 30,000-square-foot casino with more than 1,400 slot machines and 32 table games, including a live poker room and high limit slots and tables.
Man pleads guilty to possessing child pornography
LAFAYETTE (AP) — An Evangeline Parish man who already had been convicted of molestation of a juvenile now has pleaded guilty in federal court in Lafayette to possession of child pornography.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley says 53-year-old Ricky Johnson, of Chataignier, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik.
Finley says evidence entered at the guilty plea showed that a computer Johnson used had child pornography downloaded from a file-sharing network. In September 2010, the computer and other electronic devices of Johnson’s were searched, where images and videos of child pornography were found.
Johnson faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release. Johnson’s sentencing date wasn’t released.
Police called to Lafayette school board meeting
LAFAYETTE (AP) — Police were called to the Lafayette Parish School System office Wednesday night after school board member Tehmi Chassion accused Superintendent Pat Cooper of grabbing him during a meeting.
Cooper denied the allegations.
Chassion filed an official complaint with three Lafayette Police Department officers who responded to the central office.
The board went into a small conference room adjacent to the main board room for an executive session to discuss a letter from Tikia Consulting demanding that the district pay $200,000 for services provided last year during the search for a health claims administrator.
At one point, shouting could be heard from the conference room, but it was unclear who was speaking or what was being said.
Cooper said he was surprised police were called.
Port Allen pushing
for increased transparency
PORT ALLEN (AP) — The Port Allen City Council is exploring administrative changes that members say will establish better hiring protocols and increase transparency in city government.
The changes would be ushered in through the adoption of several ordinances Councilman Garry Hubble offered up for discussion with city leaders Wednesday night during the City Council’s committee meetings.
Hubble asked council members to modify the city’s hiring practices, authorize the interim mayor to hire a law firm to update the employee handbook and expand the job duties of the city’s payroll clerk into a human resources director.
Hubble also proposed requiring two administrative signatures on all checks issued on the city’s bank accounts.
The proposals come in the wake of the council’s frequent clashes with former Mayor Demetric Slaughter over several of her administrative decisions during her 11-month tenure. Slaughter was recalled from office on Nov. 16.
The council will consider the introduction of the proposed ordinances at its Feb. 12 meeting.
“We had a number of hires last year that were not advertised and protocol not followed,” Hubble told council members at Wednesday night’s meetings.
He accused Slaughter of making several hires during her administration that weren’t approved by the council or properly advertised to the public.
“I felt that ordinance needed some more teeth in it,” Hubble said. “I want to introduce language in our current ordinance that would make a hire invalid if the hiring protocols are not followed.”
Hubble also said an ordinance requiring two signatures on checks would provide better oversight.