Friday, January 29, 2010

Is Louisiana continuing to pay Indicted and Convicted Reservoir Felons millions ?

Is Louisiana continuing to pay Indicted and Convicted Felons millions of dollars while facing budget shortfalls and a struggling economy ?

Michael L. Thompson a convicted felon and Reservoir Consultant Contractor was convicted of a Federal Crime on Jan 20, 2010 involving corruption at Poverty Point Reservoir.

Thompson is usually paid $100,000 dollars a year per Reservoir under previous contracts with D.O.T.D and political subdivisions of Washington, Allen, and many other Parish Reservoir Commissions.

The WPRC says, "Thompson's contract was terminated in 2008 at his request", but official documents from the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission is not currently available. Why would they want to keep this information a secret for over a year ?

There seems to be no official documentation available from Allen or any other Reservoir Commissions that Thompson is no longer being paid. State D.O.T.D responsible for paying Thompson seems to be uninterested in confirming or denying if Thompson continues to be paid.
It seems the Sunshine Law's light has dimmed, and Reservoir information is a dark secret.

Mike Thompson is the Brother of Sen. Francis C. Thompson Creator of Reservoirs in many Parishes and Legislation (ACT 523 in 2001) allowing sale of Land taken by Eminent Domain at Reservoirs. Legislator Developer Sen. Francis Thompson is selling Lakefront lots as CYPRESS COVE AT POVERTY POINT LLC.

Mike Thompson and Reservoir Engineer Terry Denmon of Denmon Engineering face more Federal Indictments of corruption involving Property and mail fraud at Poverty Point Reservoir. Denmon Engineering also continues to receive millions from Reservoirs in La.

Why did Sen. Nevers promote Thompson as man for the job in Washington Parish ?
Was Sen. Nevers and Commission misled by the Thompsons, or have other reasons for his selection ?
Does the relentless pursuit by the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission for a permit involve other reasons ?
Should the State continue to spend millions for Unwanted and Unneeded Reservoirs ?

Indicted - Convicted felons should not continue to be paid by Reservoir Commissions or the State.

Authority to debar or suspend - Causes include the following:
Conviction under state or federal statutes of embezzlement, theft, or any other offense indicating a lack of business integrity or business honesty which currently, seriously, and directly affects responsibility as a state contractor.

To stop paying Thompson would be a lengthy process requiring notification and a right to appeal.

However, Under R.S. 39:1554E Political subdivisions may choose to opt into all or part of the Law and continue to pay Thompson.

I contacted the State D.O.T.D Concerning Contracts and Distribution of funds to Reservoir Consultant Mike Thompson on January 22, 2010. I have not received a reply to deny or confirm that Thompson continues to be paid. After Thompson's Sentencing on May 24 will the state mail his checks to Federal Prison ?

In light of recent developments, and as a show of good faith Sen. Nevers and other Legislators creating Reservoirs should stop wasting State Money, dissolve the Reservoir Commissions and repeal Legislation creating the Reservoirs.

A complete Investigation and Audit of all Reservoirs and Commissions the Thompsons were involved with is needed.

I want to know, Is the State still paying "Indicted and Convicted Felons" millions of dollars to run a Reservoir scam ?

Letter to Editor of Era Leader

James Moore


Monday, January 25, 2010

Washington Parish reservoir official found guilty in case involving another reservoir

The Daily News
-- Published/Last Modified on Monday, January 25, 2010 8:52 AM CST

MONROE (AP) - Mike Thompson, the former executive director of Poverty Point Reservoir District, has been found guilty of extorting state resources for his personal benefit.

Thompson also serves as a paid consultant to the Washington Parish Reservoir District - formed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2003 to build a reservoir in Washington Parish. The Washington Parish Reservoir Commission voted to maintain its working arrangement with Thompson following his indictments. It’s unclear how Thompson’s conviction will affect his job with the local reservoir project.

A jury deliberated for nearly four hours Wednesday before convicting Thompson on one count of violating the Hobbs Act, a law created to combat racketeering and frequently used in cases involving public corruption.

The act carries a fine, a maximum sentence of 20 years or both.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 24.

Joe Cleveland, a former district handyman, testified that he did work for Thompson that was billed to the state-funded reservoir district.

The alleged work included installing appliances, building sidewalks, sheds and fences.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Reservoir Commission members not required to disclose personal finances : Ethics board

The Daily News - By Jacob Brooks - Published/Last Modified on Monday, January 11, 2010 9:21 AM

The Washington Parish Reservoir Commission members do not have to file annual personal financial disclosure statements, the Louisiana Ethics Board decided last month.

In a letter from the board to E.B. "Ted" Dittmer II, the board concluded that reservoir commission members are not subject to a state law that "requires financial disclosure for each member and designee of a board or commission which has the authority to expend, disburse or invest $10,000 or more of funds in a fiscal year."

While the commission has been allocated more than $3 million in state funds in the past, any expenses have to be approved at a higher level, according to wording in the letter to Dittmer.
"Prior to entering into contracts, the Commission must obtain permission from the Louisiana Department of Transportation to enter into the contract. Then, the Commission must submit another request for funds to pay for the contractual services. You (Dittmer) stated that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has the authority to deny the release of funds as requested by the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission," according to the letter.

Further, it read: "Although the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission was created by statute, based on the facts provided, it does not appear the Commission has the authority to expend $10,000 or more in funds. Therefore, the Commission members are not required to file annual personal financial disclosure statements."

Dittmer, the attorney for the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission, said he had filed a request seeking the Ethics Board’s opinion on the matter after being asked to do so by Commission President Huey Pierce.


Monday, June 30, 2008

Reservoir indictments raise concerns

The Daily News - -
Published/Last Modified on Monday, June 30, 2008 2:17 PM CDT

Our View

There were three indictments handed down last week by a federal grand jury in Shreveport and two of them should cause more than eyebrows to rise among members of the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission.

Terry Denmon, engineer for the district, and Mike Thompson, consultant for the district, were charged along with Fifth District Attorney Billy Coenen with conspiring to personally enrich themselves through the concealed purchase of property associated with Poverty Point Reservoir in north Louisiana. They also are each charged with eight counts of mail fraud.

Thompson was indicted in Lafayette a year ago alleging he illegally obtained Poverty Point funds to which he was not entitled.

Following that indictment, members of the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission voted to continue its relationship with Thompson.

We believe the time has come to cut bait on Thompson and Denmon. While there is always the presumption of innocence, the Washington Parish project is controversial enough without any additional lightning rods being attached - and Messrs. Thompson and Denmon are lightning rods.

This is not about the pros and cons of the proposed reservoir, but rather a call to provide the opportunity for the pros and cons to be debated and discussed without the inclusion of whether or not someone connected to the project broke the law.

Even with the presumption of innocence, the continued connection of individuals indicted for alleged illegal activities on a similar project raises unnecessary concerns regarding the Washington Parish Reservoir.

Only when the reservoir project can be debated on its own merits will we be able to truly investigate its need and viability and we think that can only happen sans Messrs. Thompson and Denmon.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Federal grand jury indicts district attorney Coenen, Denmon, Thompson

The Ouachita Citizen - by Michael DeVault - posted Monroe businessman and engineer Terry Denmon was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Shreveport on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud involving a land deal at Poverty Point Reservoir in Richland Parish.

Also indicted were 5th District Attorney Billy Coenen and Poverty Point Reservoir District executive director Mike Thompson.

Thompson, brother of state Sen. Francis Thompson, was previously indicted by a federal grand jury over charges stemming from a federal investigation of Poverty Point Reservoir.

According to a copy of the indictment obtained by The Ouachita Citizen, beginning in 1995, Coenen, Denmon and Thompson conspired to purchase land near the reservoir and then used public equipment and money to make improvements to the land before selling it for some $250,000.

Denmon worked as a contractor for PPRD to provide engineering services. Coenen performed legal services for the reservoir district at the 3,000 acre lake. Both men were paid for those services by the PPRD, a state agency, according to the indictment.

In February, 1995, the group purchased a five-acre tract of land in the reservoir district for $16,800, the indictment said.

Because the three men each had interests in the reservoir district's management, they purchased the property through an unnamed agent, according to the indictment.

In July, 1998, Thompson ordered PPRD employees to remove a stand of trees on the property, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, it was the first of many improvements Thompson would make on the property before the group subdivided the tract into 5 lots in 2000.

Eventually, the group sold all five lots and pocketed some $250,000, according to the indictment.

"This prosecution is wrongheaded and frankly represents federal government overreaching at its absolute worst," said Mike Small, a noted defense attorney from Alexandria.

"This assistant U.S. attorney has taken an alleged violation of the state code of ethics, which never occurred, and parlayed it into a federal criminal case," Small said, referring to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mignonne Griffing, who is a native of Sicily Island.

"It is a sad example of a very disturbing trend on the part of federal prosecutors to meddle into purely state matters where they have no business whatsoever," Small continued. "We'll clean their clock in court and clearly show that Billy Coenen is absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing.

"Unfortunately, the publicity surrounding this indictment will have already besmirched the reputation of a decent man who has tirelessly devoted the last 30 years of his life to aggressively prosecuting real criminals in the jurisdiction where he lives and serves as district attorney."

The indictment cites Louisiana Revised Statute 42:1112, which states, "no public servant...shall participate in a transaction in which he has a personal substantial economic interest of which he may be reasonably expected to know involving the governmental entity."

The indictment contends that, because each of the three men worked as consultants for PPRD, they were forbidden from profiting from land deals therein.


Coenen, Thompson and Denmon Indicted for Land Deals on Poverty Point Reservoir

KNOE Chanel 8 News - June 26, 2008 4:04 PM Updated: July 2, 2008 12:32 PM

MONROE, La. (AP) - A northeastern Louisiana district attorney, the former head of a reservoir district and the president of an engineering company have been accused of enriching themselves by hiding interest in land next to a public project.

A federal grand indicted Fifth District Attorney William R."Billy" Coenen Jr., former Poverty Point Reservoir District executive director Michael Thompson and Denmon Engineering president Terry Denmon.

Each is charged with eight counts of mail fraud and one of conspiring to enrich himself by hiding the purchase of land that is now worth much more because of work paid for by the reservoir district.

Defense attorney Michael Small of Alexandria says Coenen is absolutely innocent.

U.S. Attorney Donald Washington says the three are accused of hiding their interest in five acres of land bought before the reservoir was created, next to where the reservoir was planned. He says they paid $16,800 for five acres - and that six of eight lotsthere have sold for a total of $250,000.

( The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reservoir consultant accused of improperly enriching himself

Allen Parish group to state: Terminate reservoir projects

BATON ROUGE — Opponents of state-funded reservoir projects are pushing lawmakers to get Louisiana out of the lakebuilding business following last week’s indictment of lake consultant Michael Thompson.

James Moore of Grant, a member of the Community Preservation Alliance, Allen Parish’s reservoir opposition group, sent letters to state lawmakers on Monday asking them to pass a resolution that would stop reservoir spending.

CPA members want Thompson to resign as consultant on reservoir projects in Allen, Washington, Morehouse, Ouachita, Caldwell and LaSalle parishes.

Thompson, 58, is accused of improperly enriching himself when he was chief of the Poverty Point Reservoir District in Richland Parish, in northeast Louisiana, from 1997 to 2002.

He is a former mayor of Delhi and the brother of state Rep. Francis Thompson, DDelhi. The proposed 3,700-acre Allen reservoir and others are modeled after Poverty Point Reservoir.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, through press secretary Marie Centanni, commented to the American Press about the charges Thompson faces.

“Every citizen is innocent until proven guilty, and this is a matter for the courts to decide. In the meantime, Mr. Thompson has taken a voluntary leave of absence from the Commerce and Industry Board,” Centanni wrote.

Blanco has backed the statewide projects, saying they enhance economic development.

The CPA has maintained that even before Thompson’s indictment he and other lake officials made sweetheart deals and misused legislative connections to line their pockets.

“Should DOTD continue to pay Thompson $100,000 a year per lake for a half-dozen reservoirs? Thompson should resign as director of all current reservoirs,” reads Moore’s letter. “Since Thompson has been indicted by the FBI for illegally taking Louisiana taxpayers’ money, what will the state of Louisiana also do about this matter?”

In 2004, Thompson and others proposed that a lake be built in the Six and Ten Mile communities — a project that would have claimed many homes. A second site, Mill Creek in western Allen Parish, was ultimately favored since it affects no homeowners. Still, CPA aggressively opposes it.

Moore operates a Web site devoted to the CPA’s claims against Thompson, Francis Thompson and lake engineer Terry Denmon, among others.

Michael Thompson and Francis Thompson have denied any wrongdoing.

Last week, through his attorney, Michael Thompson issued a statement saying he is “absolutely innocent” of the charges against him. He will be arraigned in Monroe on June 29 in federal court. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison or a $250,000 fine or both.

Francis Thompson, whose House district includes Poverty Point Reservoir, is a member of the Louisiana Political Museum’s Hall of Fame and one of the Legislature’s longest-serving members. He was elected in 1974.

He was instrumental in creating the reservoir and park and has steered tens of millions of state dollars into the reservoir and surrounding projects.

In 2002, Francis Thompson, along with Sen. Don Hines, DBunkie, and Rep. Herman Ray Hill, D-Dry Creek, sponsored legislation for the Allen Parish Reservoir.

Allen Parish Reservoir Committee member Buddy Farris reported in April that the permitting process for the reservoir was inching forward after being delayed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Farris and four others — Phil Beard, Matthew R. Hollins, Gary Pelican and Billy Reeves — make up the committee. Beard serves as chairman.

This legislative session, $800,000 has been allocated in House Bill 2 as Priority 1 general obligation bonds for the Allen project for land acquisition, rights of way, utilities, equipment and construction.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Indictment of Reservoir Official fuels questions

The Daily News BY JOHN H. WALKER Published/Last Modified on Friday, June 15, 2007 11:22 AM

BOGALUSA - The indictment of the man who serves as consultant to the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission has raised concerns among commission members and given new life to opponents to the project.

Michael Thompson, 58. of Delhi, who served as executive director of the Poverty Point Reservoir District and is a paid consultant on at least a half-dozen reservoirs proposed for construction around the state, was indicted by a federal grand jury alleging he illegally took money from the district while acting as director.

The indictment is based on the Hobbs Act and was returned in Lafayette on Tuesday.
It alleges that between Sept. 26, 1997, and June 20, 2002, Thompson obtained funds of Poverty Point Reservoir District to which he wasn't entitled while acting in his official capacity. The maximum penalty could be 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Reservoir commission member Bill Jenkins of Angie said late Thursday that he had been in communication with commission chairman Huey Pierce, who is out-of-state on vacation, and that Pierce was aware of the indictment.

"We're not real sure how it might affect us," Jenkins said. "We're aware of the indictment based on the news article, but we need to figure out what we need to do."

Jenkins said the commission would have to get together and see what action they needed to take.

"We've had (commission) members we've had to ask to step down in the past," Jenkins said, "but this looks like it may be a little more serious. We know there will be a lot of questions to answer ... we'll have to post and hold a public meeting and sit down and put together everything we've paid to him."
He said the commission had just been audited and that commissioners had just recently met and reviewed the audit.

For members of the Pete Pittman family, as well as others who live in the area targeted to become lake bottom, it substantiates their concerns over misuse of public funds.

Family members said Pete Pittman, currently hospitalized with a fractured vertebrae in his neck following a fall, "expressed relief" that someone had taken note of what they called "the wrongdoing that was apparently going on with the reservoirs across our state."

His daughter, Jalon Pittman Beech, said "Those of us who have been crying foul are not surprised at the indictment of the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission's very well paid consultant, Michael Thompson.
We expect more indictments to follow, possibly in our parish as well. We welcome the presence of the FBI in our parish."

Her brother, Winford, asked, "Should Thompson continue to get paid $100,000 per lake for six lakes while he is under indictment? Shouldn't he be dismissed and his pay cut off until the charges against him are cleared or he is found guilty?
Would you continue to pay or keep one of your employees in the same predicament?"

Thompson's indictment is the second in quick succession connected to Poverty Point. The first involved Kathy Cleveland, a former executive assistant for the district, who pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $150,000 from November 2000 until September 2005.

Cleveland, 55, of Epps, forged the name of the district's president on checks she wrote to petty cash, her husband and to herself for alleged reimbursement for mileage, meals, office supplies and other expenses to which she was not entitled, federal prosecutors said.

Michael Thompson is a former mayor of Delhi and brother of state Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, who authored the legislation allowing the creation of reservoir districts and ultimately created work for his brother.

Michael Thompson is "absolutely innocent," his lawyer, J. Michael Small, declared in a faxed statement.Small said the main witness against Thompson, Joe Cleveland, is trying to bargain for a light sentence for his wife, Kathy.

What is the Hobbs Act?

The Hobbs Act (18 U.S.C. ¤ 1951) prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Although the Hobbs Act was enacted as a statute to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes, the statute is frequently used in connection with cases involving public corruption, commercial disputes and corruption directed at members of labor unions.

INDICTMENT: Document in pdf format

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pressure Rising for Man-Made Lakes

State Lawmakers Want Poverty Point-Style Reservoirs for Their Districts
Source: Advocate; Baton Rouge, La. By MARSHA SHULER

Leaders of many communities want their own version of Poverty Point Reservoir, the $48.5 million lake and golf course development that state taxpayers built in rural northeastern Louisiana.

The project has prompted more than a dozen funding requests from lawmakers around the state who see the potential for similar man- made lakes in their districts.

The Poverty Point development's prime sponsor, state Rep. Francis Thompson, has a home on a peninsula in what he calls "my lake," the centerpiece of Poverty Point State Park. Thompson, D-Delhi, has bought and sold other lots in the only private subdivision that lies within a state park.

Thompson's brother Mike, who also was involved in Poverty Point's development, has become the consultant for five other state-funded reservoir projects. Denmon Engineering of Monroe, Poverty Point's engineer, also is handling development work on those other projects.

Denmon and Mike Thompson have made a total of nearly $7 million in state money from the reservoir projects in recent years, state transportation department records show.

Proponents promote the reservoirs as a source of future drinking water and a way to create a recreation economy for rural parishes.

Critics call the reservoirs a waste of public money. The man- made lakes aren't needed as water supplies and can't be justified for recreation, they say.

Environmentalists and some community activists criticize the lakes because creating them floods cemeteries, natural habitat and old family homesteads.

And troubling many is the lack of a master plan that could answer a basic question: How many reservoirs does the state need?

"We cannot afford to build all the reservoir projects everyone could dream up," said Jerry Jones, the state's construction manager.

The state has spent $91.2 million on 10 reservoir projects around Louisiana in the past decade and half, state records show.

Most of the money went to Poverty Point Reservoir and to Grand Bayou Dam and Reservoir in Red River Parish. Eight other projects got tax dollars for feasibility studies, land purchases and other work.

State construction funding requests are in for a total of 15 reservoir projects. The amount so far requested for next year's construction budget is $63.4 million.

Poverty Point model
Poverty Point State Park is fueling the recent reservoir push. Built around a 2,700-acre man-made lake in Richland Parish, the park sports a marina, a golf course, cabins, an RV park and the private subdivision where Rep. Thompson owns a home.

"We are in the poorest area of the whole state. It was devoid of any kind of development," Thompson said. "It's a very important project to our area because it's brought in a lot of traffic.

Between 67,000 and 70,000 people visit the area each year, he said.

The reservoir, a dream of Thompson's since the 1970s, opened in 2003. Thompson said it both drives the local economy and provides a water resource for the future.

Thompson bought 15 lots on a man-made peninsula of the lake and called it Cypress Cove at Poverty Point. He said he's been selling the lots to family and friends, including some involved in lake development.

When asked about his personal investment in a project he got the state to fund, Thompson said: "I've worked 30 years on this. Does it show very much interest if I don't buy enough to build a house on the lake?"

Thompson has hosted delegations of business, civic and political leaders from other parts of the state to see the finished product. His legislation creating the Poverty Point Reservoir District has been copied by other communities.

Other lawmakers are "trying to take care of their own districts" after they see Poverty Point and like it, he added.

"I'm not a part of putting lakes all over this state. My single purpose was to build one in my area," said Thompson, a state representative for 32 years.

State contracts
While Thompson promotes Poverty Point, his brother Mike has made $1.5 million so far as a project coordinator-administrator for other reservoir projects, according to state records. Some years he has made more than $350,000.

Mike Thompson works with parish governments and specially created entities that pursue reservoir development in their areas. He has had contracts in Allen, Morehouse, Ouachita, Caldwell, LaSalle and Washington parishes.

He also worked on Poverty Point Phase II, which includes a golf course.

Mike Thompson declined requests for an interview about the reservoir developments. Francis Thompson said his brother, a former mayor of Delhi, got the work because of his experience as Poverty Point's executive director during the lake's development. "He was sought out (because) he did a good job for us," Francis Thompson said.

Denmon Engineering, which handled preparation work for Poverty Point, has received $5.3 million from the state doing other reservoir jobs, state transportation records show.

The firm has contracts for site selection, feasibility studies and the environmental analysis needed for approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for projects affecting waterways and wetlands.

Denmon Engineering executive Terry Denmon said his experience with Poverty Point helped his firm beat out others competing for work on the reservoir projects.

"There are not a lot of engineering companies around that practice in this specialty-type field," said Denmon, who used to work for the Corps of Engineers. "Your average civil engineering firm would not have experience in doing water-resource work."

Plans draw opponents
Some people whose land would be flooded by new reservoirs say the situation reeks of politics.

"It's a big racket, with my family being a victim to it," said Jalon Pittman Beech of Bogalusa, whose parents' homestead would be taken for a proposed reservoir in Washington Parish.

"Francis Thompson's got it all sewn up. It's almost like the 'reservoir Mafia,'" Beech said. "We need more land, not water."

Francis Thompson said it's not him but his brother who is involved in projects outside his area. Mike Thompson and Denmon have contracts for the Washington Parish project.

James Moore of Pitkin, who opposes the Allen Parish project, founded the Community Preservation Alliance and started a Web site "to inform the public and make them aware of the tremendous amount of money that's being wasted."

Beech and Moore said Mike Thompson and Denmon are getting paid for projects that are not needed.

But Denmon said two safeguards in the process ensure reservoirs can't be railroaded through: approval from the Corps of Engineers and funding from state lawmakers.
"You have to have both," he said.

The Bayou DeChene Reservoir, near Columbia in Caldwell Parish, has Corps of Engineers approval. Permit applications for the Allen and Washington parish projects are under review by the agency. The Corps' analysis can take a year or more.

Sierra Club Delta chapter chairwoman Leslie March said that even if the projects don't get built, Mike Thompson and Denmon Engineering will profit handsomely from the work they have already done under multiyear, state-funded contracts.

And if they do get built, that will mean more money for years to come, she said.

New rules, no plan
State spending on reservoirs is haphazard and needs a master plan, said Randy Lanctot, president of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, a conservation group.

"It should not be a pork-barrel deal," he said. "We need to be building them in the right places, not because someone has some nice land."

The state first should look at suitable sites for any water- supply needs, then consider recreation, he said.

"Let's evaluate these things before throwing money at them," Lanctot said.

Jones, the state construction manager, said his agency has new criteria for reservoir selection. They were developed by the state Department of Transportation and Development's water resources division. No project has yet been assessed using the new criteria, he said.

Under the rules, future projects must be in areas that rely on one of three major underground water systems - the Sparta, Chicot and Southeast Louisiana (also known as Southern Hills) aquifers.

Priority will go to projects approved by the Corps of Engineers. And a reservoir can't be built unless supporters can show it would fill a water-supply need.

"We don't want to throw up reservoirs to have water-recreation or retirement communities," Jones said. Jones called the new criteria a good first step but said more must be done.

The Ground Water Resources Division of the state Office of Conservation has begun a long-range study of Louisiana's underground water supplies at the direction of the Legislature, said director Anthony Duplechin.

Duplechin said the study won't look at the surface water situation - but it should. When talking about water needs, he said, "you really cannot separate the two."

"Reservoirs are not always a solution," he added.

(c) 2007 Advocate; Baton Rouge, La.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Louisiana Eminent Domain Corruption

Watch a 10 minute video: Toye Taylor the Reckless Politician.

"I agree, you shouldn't turn expropriation powers over to anyone who is not elected".
Problems: If Dialup internet, or Pausing: Continue playing & use slide bar to start over.

As a resident and voter in Washington Parish, I wish to go on record in opposition to Senate Bill 639 sponsored by Sen. Ben Nevers that will create to Washington Parish Economic Development District.

Senate bill 639 creates yet another Political Subdivision much like the Washington Parish Reservoir District with a board of appointed Commissioners that are not accountable to the people of Washington Parish, but shall wield enormous powers of Expropriation of Private property. This power is in the name of Economic Development.

Every property owner in Washington Parish has cause to be very concerned about this bill. This Legislation was not put to a vote by the voters in Washington Parish. It is yet another stealth bill designed to circumvent the voting process.

If this Economic Development District is so good for the people and Land Owners of Washington Parish why not let us decide for ourselves by giving us a chance to vote on the bill. The landowners in the unincorporated areas of Washington parish will have no representation on the proposed Economic Development District or the Commissioners if this bill is passed.

Over 200 years ago our forefathers fought the revolutionary war over taxation without representation. Now the landowners of Washington Parish face expropriation without representation by a gang of 7 appointed Commissioners who may decide our say with their pockets if this bill is passed.

Please return the democratic process to Washington Parish and allow the votes or Washington Parish to have a say in our future. As voters we elected you to represent our interest.

We are not opposed to Economic Development; we simply believe it should remain in the private sector where buyers and sellers work out their own agreement.
Government should be in the business of governing and not in the business of Expropriation of private property for the Economic Development of others.

Mary Ettel

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Economic development discussions get under way

BY JOHN H. WALKER The Daily News

FRANKLINTON - Washington Parish President M.E. "Toye" Taylor confirmed Monday night he would ask parish council to approve a resolution of support for former bill SB 639.

SB 639, which was pulled last year when a vote of support failed 4-3 over wording that included powers of expropriation in the makeup of the Washington Parish Economic Development Commission it would have created.

But Taylor did a poor job of "playing dumb" when council member Kenneth Wheat told a full house, "I'll vote for it (economic development) as long as the language that created all the uncertainty (expropriation) is taken out. Taking that out will not change or alter a thing ... if there's uncertainty, leave it out."

Taylor then put both arms up in the air, looked at Wheat, who sits closest to him at the council table, and asked, "What's the language? What's questionable?" in what might be described as a sarcastic tone.

"Out of respect for the people," I'll stand my ground," Wheat said, "even against economic development" to a round of applause from the audience.

Wheat was the swing vote last year when the vote of non-support was cast, forcing Taylor to request SB 639 be pulled.

Discussion of economic development was opened by parish resident Winford Pittman, who presented council members and Taylor with a version of an economic development bill remarkably similar to SB 639.

It wasn't, however, a clone.

"There are some differences," Pittman, who was one of a number of vocal opponents of SB 639 said, reading them aloud.

The differences, he said, include the following:

  • The commission would have "no governing power over the parish, only over the property which it has bought."
  • The Washington Parish Council would have "sole authority to grant or deny expropriation for economic development inside the rural boundaries of Washington Parish." Expropriation could only be approved by a unanimous vote of the council after a public hearing.
  • A redirection of monies in the commission's general fund would support road construction, repairs and upkeep of roads the commission requires and would also put money into the school systems.
  • A parish industrial park would be created and include a farmer's co-op.

    During his comments, Taylor pointed out several times that expropriation was a part of the U.S. Constitution - a point he made during the initial arguments a year ago, even to the extent of pulling out a pocket edition of the document and slapping it against his open hand.

    "This commission's not going to take your property. It can't take property unless this council approves it," he said, adding that the argument over expropriation was unfounded.

    Yet, when Wheat said he would support economic development legislation if expropriation were removed, Taylor balked.

  • Wednesday, January 31, 2007

    Taylor begins lobbying effort for commission

    BY JOHN H. WALKER The Daily News

    BOGALUSA - While it remains to be seen if a bill creating an economic development commission in Washington Parish will be filed prior to the legislature convening on Monday, April 30, Washington Parish President M.L. "Toye" Taylor has begun a lobbying effort in support of such a bill.

    Last Thursday, following Washington Economic Development Foundation President Mickey Murphy's closing remarks, he asked if anyone had anything they wanted "to share with the group."

    Taylor asked the group to support and push for another bill similar to SB 639 and to use whatever influence they may have to help get it passed. Taylor said the lack of such a commission "puts us behind our neighbors" in St, Tammany and Tangipahoa parishes.

    Murphy agreed, saying it was important that the parish have such a tool to help facilitate economic development with WEDF and the Franklinton Area Economic Development Foundation.

    Taylor told the gathering of about 75 persons that the lack of foresight by the Washington Parish Council when it cast a 4-3 vote of non-support for SB 639 last summer put the parish in a situation where it did not have the economic development tools to compete.

    Last May 22, council members Clinton Miley, Relton Sumrall, Marvin Thomas and Kenneth Wheat voted against SB 639 with Wheat casting the deciding vote.

    On Thursday, Taylor was again critical of that vote, prompting Sumrall, who was sitting two tables behind Taylor, to shake his head from side to side. Miley, who is now council chairman, was also seated behind Taylor but showed no visible reaction.

    The problem the four had with SB 639 was that it established powers of expropriation for the commission, a point that was vehemently opposed by a number of residents of the parish who feared the tool would be used improperly.

    Despite Taylor's best efforts to assure the citizen's group - and his council - that that would not be the case, he failed - and the bill was pulled.

    At the time, Taylor took the council to task for what he called "the worst vote I've seen this council take in my time" as he gave his president's report.

    He said despite support from both the Washington Economic Development Foundation and the Franklinton Area Economic Development Commission and despite support from mayors of all four incorporated areas in the parish, the council chose to take away a tool of economic development that he said could help the parish move forward.

    The board's action, he said, allowed a few to come into council chambers and make fear of expropriation an issue.

    At the board's next meeting, Winford Pittman, one of SB 639's more vocal opponents, gave Taylor and council members a copy of a draft of what he said was a "proposal for an economic development commission."

    Pittman told council members he was not against economic development.

    "I've talked to you before about this (economic development)," he said. "We need it, but we don't need it where folks' property can be taken."

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Reservoir backers ready for permitting process to begin

    Lake Charles American Press article about Allen and Washington Parish Reservoir. Click here.

    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Scared to move to Washington Parish

    I've been reading about the efforts of the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission for the last year or more and finally feel I must write this letter. I just cannot remain silent any more. After having a dream of owning my own land for the last 25 years, I was finally able to save up enough money to have sufficient down payment to secure a loan and buy a parcel of land in Washington Parish in 2003. My intention was to work and improve the land, plant trees, build a retirement home there, get back to nature, etc.

    I subscribe to the Era Leader in an attempt to integrate myself into the community before I move there and also to stay abreast of current events in Washington Parish. Even though I don't currently live in Washington Parish, I spend considerable amounts of money there on gasoline, supplies, contract labor, equipment rental, etc. I know my "to be" neighbors and find them friendly and good, decent folks.

    I currently work in New Orleans for a major international oil company and look forward to a less stressful life when I am able to quit commuting. The issues relating to the Washington Parish Reservoir Commission and the methods that are being used to make decisions regarding the appropriation of land from property owners scares me.

    I am also scared and concerned because I hate to continue investing money in property that may be taken from me because of what I see as greed and self-serving interests that don't seem to care about the issues being raised by families that have lived on the land for generations. Based on my limited knowledge, most of these families seem to be fairly poor or without political connections, but have a passion for the land. I can identify with this passion for the land and have worked long and hard to be able to finally get my own, even though it's only a small parcel.

    The commission doesn't seem to care about families that will have to move or about loved ones dug up from graves that they chose to be buried in. What is the real issue behind what this commission wants to do? Do I really want to move into such a community? If so, what might happen to me and my land?

    I belong to a hunting club in Washington Parish that was forced to sell land for a State Park that is to be built along the Bogue Chitto River in Washington Parish. Thousands of acres of wetlands that flood every year were purchased in the name of Economic Development and the dollars that the State Park would bring.

    How many more of these projects are out there in the wings waiting to appropriate more land. When will we see these dollars and will they be more than the dollars we would have had otherwise? Are these dollars worth sacrificing our neighbors for?

    Whose land will it be next and who will be benefiting from it? Now I see there is an effort to pass another bill called SB 639 which will create an economic development district with another "commission" empowered like the Reservoir Commission was. Do you have any idea of whose land will be next?

    Are you ok with it as long as it isn't yours? What if it's your neighbors or your son or daughter's? What if it's your Mom or Dad or Grandparent's or Aunt or Uncle's?

    Will you be proud to have stood in silence while this is allowed to happen? I am very disappointed there has not been more outrage expressed by the citizens in Washington Parish on this issue.

    How can you sit by and let this happen? Will you act this same way when they come to take my land? What about when they take your neighbor's land or you or your relatives land? I understand and support appropriation of land when necessary for a school or housing for the poor or a hospital, etc. and no other suitable land can be found. These are certainly valid needs in some cases. The problem is, this is not for a school or for housing for the poor and other suitable land can be found and other landowners might be more willing to sell. Why not go that route? I don't know the folks in Oak Grove or the other small communities that will be affected and I also do not know Mr. Toye Taylor or his Reservoir Commission members.

    What I do know as a Christian is that we are our brother's keeper and there is a God above that must be frowning right now. Why do I not see more outcries from fellow Christians who currently live in Washington Parish? Most of the letter's I see are from people who stand to lose the land they've held for generations or who stand to lose the graveyards their relatives are still buried in. I'm 53 years old and thinking "where do I want to be buried when I die?" Now I have to weigh that decision with the fact that in Washington Parish, just because you choose to be buried somewhere doesn't mean you'll stay buried there.

    Washington Parish is full of Christians. I like that and I like the serenity and nature which is one of the reasons I chose to buy land and retire there. What I don't like is what you are allowing to take place. Why are you letting a handful of individuals take land from your neighbors in the name of progress when you know there are alternatives? If it was your land, would you be satisfied with the lack of support from your neighbors?

    I read the advertisements in the papers by the Reservoir Commission and laugh. A water shortage they say. Let's be serious, I say. How many wells do you have that are drying up? Let's face it folks, you only have to go down less than 200' to hit good, quality drinking water in Washington Parish. The real number is probably 110' but I'm going to give the 200' number to be conservative. Think about it. Which way does all the surface water drain in the USA? The answer, for the most part, is North to South. That's why the Mississippi River caries so much water. It doesn't originate in Louisiana. The soil is very similar.

    When we drill wells in the oilfield, we look for rock that has permeability because that allows the oil and gas to "travel" through the "rock" to the wellbore so we can transport it to the surface. What's the most permeable "rock" out there? It's sandstone or something you and I call "Sand". Is there much sandy soil in Washington Parish? Why, yes, there is. That's one reason why we don't have a water shortage in Washington Parish. We have water traveling via gravity from up North through sandy soil and we drill water wells into this sandy soil in Washington Parish. We typically have problems with our water wells when we have screen failures, pump failures, etc., not because we're running out of water.

    Some of you probably know of "live" or artesian wells that don't even require the use of pumps. Even if we were running out of water, why on God's Green Earth would we build a Reservoir that sits on top of land that is so close to the Choctaw disposal pits? If we want water for that area, a smarter solution would be to drill 2-3 water wells north of that disposal site and pipe the clean water to the locations desired.

    When I share the concepts of "running out of water" with my Geoscientists, Geologists, etc. at work, they laugh and want to know who came up with this "story". They assume it's from people who have a vested economic interest rather than on science. I tend to agree with them, but even if I didn't, I would ask "Why there"? Why take land that people don't want to sell? Washington Parish is a big Parish. How about moving the reservoir to an area that is willing to sell? Laying pipeline from that point would be easy and also would stimulate the Washington Parish economy with pipe laying jobs, right of way fees, sales of pipe and valves, etc.

    While I'm on the subject, who will benefit from the proposed project? Who owns the adjacent lands that might become "Lakefront"? Who owns the companies that will be doing the construction work and selling the supplies that will be used? Why aren't these funds being used to build housing for the disadvantaged or to help pay medical bills for the elderly and the poor or give your schoolteachers and public works people more pay? Are the schools in Washington Parish without needs? Is there no value in addressing those issues?

    Who decided a Reservoir is more important than these opportunities? Answer these questions and you might get a little closer to the real issue, which is why some of our neighbors aren't crying foul about this effort. It may not be because they have a vested interest in the dollars the project may generate; it may be because the issue doesn't affect them personally or perhaps they are busy with work and school and life.

    It's good to be busy, to have property, to make money, to have a business that prospers, to create jobs, etc. It's just a question of if it's good to do all those things on the backs of those who don't have the resources to fight back or who don't have the political connections or who happened to grow up in a certain community.

    Is it ok to do these things even if it tramples on the backs and rights of our neighbors and the poor?
    There is a God above and there will be a judgment for us all one day.

    Kim Barbin Mandeville, LA.

    Thursday, August 24, 2006

    Unchristian desecration of Cemeteries and taking of homes

    While Allen Parish Legislators and Reservoir Commission members have shown Christianity and Concern for desecration of Cemeteries and taking of homes, Sen. Nevers and his appointed Reservoir Commission has shown none. There has been no attempt to locate an alternate site for their pleasure lake.

    Sen. Ben Nevers and his Reservoir Commission remain steadfast in their unchristian effort to desecrate Cemeteries and take homes to build a Reservoir in Washington Parish.

    Senate Bill 639, Nevers attempt to expand Eminent Domain abuse to take Homes and Property of Residents Parish-wide was opposed by members of the Parish Council.

    The use of Eminent Domain, desecration of Cemeteries, and taking of family homes and family land in America for recreation, Reservoirs, and Golf courses is placing an undue hardship on some for the pleasure and gain of others. This is America, not a Communist country where the state owns everything.

    Oak Grove Community residents intend to fight for their Cemeteries, homes, heritage, streams, wildlife, ecosystem and way of life. This is a violation of their civil rights, the right to happiness and their right to continue voting in the same area.

    The residents don't want to sell their land at any price. This is their home, their heritage, where they have lived all their life. There is no just compensation, and money is not the answer. In reality, it's the problem.

    Without our heritage, our family land, our homes, our way of life, we can never be happy again. The state doesn't have enough money to compensate us in this matter. Again, money is not the answer.

    To those who say, ''This matter does not concern us,'' I say, ''Wake up, this concerns us all, and will affect us all.''

    I pray for help in this matter, and for the ones who want to do this.

    Please have a conscience as many people can justify the wrong that they do to others, and many can convince themselves that what they are doing is right.

    Please choose another site. Look inside your heart, and stop coveting thy neighbor's house.

    Thompson, almost ready for Reservoir Permit

    In Allen Parish, a rare occurrence of a public notice in a Newspaper states there will be a meeting of the Reservoir Commission in Oberlin, La. on Wed August 23 at 5:30pm.

    Michael Thompson, the $100,000 a year Consultant, and his buddy Randy Denmon the $800,000 a year engineer are present. Thompson said, "we are almost ready to start talking with the Corp of Engineers about applying for a permit."

    In the last 14 months while still getting paid, not much has been done, but Thompson says, there were Hurricanes and the Corp seemed to be very busy.

    Thompson starts to spin, when asked by Commission Chairman Phil Beard how long will it take, and when will you apply for the permit? Thompson says, need to locate property owners, do a 1000-acre mitigation on wetlands, everything is a lengthy process, and therefore never gives an answer.

    Randy Denmon says, we have done more tests, and Mill Creek is a perfect site for the Reservoir. The water quality is great, and will produce 30 million gallons a day. Commission member Rollin Hollins said, we made the right choice after all.

    Sept 23, 2004 at Commission site selection, Randy Denmon's father Terry Denmon said, his "reputation was on the line" and this was not his first lake study, and the 3,700-acre Mill Creek site is the perfect site. The commissioners also approved to start the application process with the Army Corps of Engineers.

    On Sept 9, 2004 the Community Preservation Alliance Alleges Wrong-doing of Rep. Francis C. Thompson, Mike Thompson, and Terry Denmon creating 14 Reservoirs statewide. The Alliance, consisting of residents of 3 of the 4 sites have said they were concerned that Mill Creek was contaminated years ago by a paper mill and unfit to serve as a feeder for a Reservoir.

    On July 1, 2004, at a Emotionally charged Reservoir meeting, Roland Hollins also Police Jury Vice President said, it is in my heart, these are my people, and it's not right to take the homes of the residents of my district for a pleasure lake or fishing hole.

    Hollins attempt to eliminate all other sites except Mill Creek failed, but a motion was passed to see if Denmon could raise the height of the Dam to achieve an average water depth of 8 feet and make Mill Creek a feasible site.

    Rep. Herman Ray Hill and Sen. Don Hines urged the Reservoir Commission not to approve a site that would claim scenic rivers or homes, and said, "We should abandon the project if anything other than Mill Creek was selected." Mill Creek, located in the center of the West Bay Game Preserve, is the only site where homes would not be compromised.

    Commission member Gary Pelican said, I am concerned that we are still on the same page, and the site will not take any homes or Cemeteries, and is there a detailed map of Dam location and property owners available? Thompson says no, but Randy should be able to draw one up. Secretary Adagria Haddock, paid $9,000.00 a year to keep the minutes was not present.

    What a Waste, Money continues to flow like water year after year for unwanted and unneeded foolish pork barrel reservoirs to make Politicians, their brothers, family, and friends wealthy?

    Also see: We saw that Allen Parish Reservoir hi-jinx
    and We saw that
    reservoir series links page

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    DOTD tax money wasted on Reservoirs

    Higher Gasoline prices at the pumps, and more taxes for all Louisiana Residents. Louisiana is wanting an increase in gasoline taxes to pay for Roads, Bridges, and more Reservoirs.
    The Following is a letter sent to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

    Dear Will Sentell,

    Concerning your article DOTD says funds lag needed fixes to roads published in the Advocate on Aug 2, 2006.

    Please be advised that Mrs. Jalon Pittman Beech has appeared twice before the Louisiana Bond Commission, and talked with them about wasting our DOTD tax money intended for roads and bridges on Reservoirs.

    An Article By Michelle Millhollon "Commission hears concerns on reservoir project" was published in the advocate concerning the Bond Commission Meeting on July 22, 2005. At the Louisiana Bond Commission Meeting Mrs. Beech told the Bond Commission.

    This is our D.O.T.D. tax money that would be used for ROADS. Should taxpayers spend 40 to 50 million to make a select few wealthy? The reservoir money is badly needed in education, health care, road construction, law enforcement and programs for the poor and elderly.

    An article in the Advocate News reported a speech by Transportation Secretary John Bradbury stating. State officials have begun talks on ways to raise new dollars to improve Louisiana roads and bridges. Options include higher gasoline taxes, tolls, fees, permits and private/public partnerships. I have a cure for a portion of our state’s budget crisis. Stop wasting taxpayers’ money on unneeded and unwanted reservoir projects. Spend DOTD money on roads and bridges as it was intended.

    The complete text of Jalon Pittman Beech's speech, Reservoir Concerns our Tax Money along with audio recordings is available on the blog.

    Mrs. Beech appeared again before the Louisiana Bond Commission on Oct 20, 2005 and spoke. The complete text of her speech posted on the oak grove community blog is titled La Bond commission $45 million pork barrel.

    At the July 22,nd Bond Commission meeting, my father, Nevels Pittman and I testified before you regarding our objections to the funding of the proposed Washington Parish Reservoir.

    You are approving money for reservoirs that is designated for our Department of Transportation projects. I don’t believe that the average taxpaying citizen of this state would appreciate DOTD funds being diverted from our roads, bridges, and other much needed infrastructure to unneeded reservoirs so that a select few can make some huge deposits in their bank accounts.

    This commission has the opportunity and obligation to rescind funding for controversial and unneeded reservoir projects that send our state spiraling into debt. The state of Louisiana has to accept the charity of other states and the federal government just to pay our basic necessities.

    If you tightened Louisiana’s purse strings and put a stop to the self-serving legislators who have been wooed by cunning real estate developers to go along with reservoir projects, our state could stand on its on.

    You would at the very least, have another billion dollars to budget to worthwhile projects such as infrastructure, levee systems for our coast line, pay raises for state employees, hospitals, and I could go on and on.

    Louisiana is wealthy with resources, but these resources are commonly exploited and misused. Louisiana consistently proves to the world that we are incapable of handling business without the appearance of impropriety.

    The buck literally can be stopped here today, and what a proud day this would be for the citizens of Louisiana.


    Mr. James Moore

    Quoted commentary by: Mrs. Jalon Pittman Beech
    Oak Grove Community, Washington Parish

    Also see: We Saw That DOTD Tax Money wasted on Reservoirs

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    Washington Parish Council Awards

    Community Preservation Awards were presented Monday night to Councilmen Ken Wheat, Marv Thomas, Relton Sumrall, and Clinton Miley for their service in preserving the community. These men saw through the spin of SB 639 and voted to protect the residents from the potential of further abuse of the Eminent Domain Law.

    Had Sen. Ben Nevers SB 639 land grab scheme passed through the legislature, Washington Parish would have been underneath the power of another appointed commission with dangerous expropriation powers.

    Sen. Ben Nevers and Rep. Francis Thompson are already abusing Eminent Domain by creating Reservoirs in a statewide land grab scheme.

    Mrs. Beth Mizell read the following statement after presentation of the awards Monday night July 24.

    Ken Wheat, Marv Thomas, Relton Sumrall, and Clinton Miley.

    Ladies and gentlemen, it is very rare that the spirit of our nation's fore fathers gets to shine through the smoke and mirrors of today's political systems. On the 22nd of May, it shown brightly through a single vote of these four men.

    Through the smoke and mirrors they saw what could have been potential problems for the people of this parish, and they heard their cries.

    The councilmen's vote of none support on May 22nd, sent a clear message to the people of Washington Parish, the state, and all of their political machines, that even in times when we need economic development, the rights and freedoms of the people of this parish will be protected. Also, that the spirit of our nation's fore fathers, though maybe dead in most places, lives on here in Washington Parish.

    Please accept this small token of our appreciation for the work you have done to help protect our homes, communities, and parish. We hope that your light, and that of our nation's fore fathers, will lead others in the same direction. Please notice that the eagle has been chosen because itis the symbol of America's spirit, her freedom, her morals, and her people's rights. Let it soar above you and live in your hearts.

    Whenever you are in doubt, let it lead you. Follow it and you will never go wrong. Please continue to listen to the people who put their trust in you, for they are the communities that you serve and protect.

    Gentlemen, for your efforts and service to this parish,
    we applaud you.

    Also see: We saw that
    Washington Parish Council thanked

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    Council says 'no' to SB 639

    BY JOHN H. WALKER The Daily News

    FRANKLINTON - By a 4-3 vote, Washington Parish Council members went against the wishes of the parish president and refused to pass a resolution of support for SB 639, which would create the Washington Parish Economic Development District.

    In a roll call vote, council members Charles Nassauer, Rodney Brown and Darwin Sharp voted in favor of a resolution of support while Clinton Miley, Relton Sumrall, Marvin Thomas and Kenneth Wheat voted against it. Wheat cast the deciding vote.

    Following the vote, council chairman Sharp said, "Senate Bill 639 is dead" and instructed president Toye Taylor to call the bill's author, State Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) and ask him to withdraw the bill.

    "I will call the senator and ask him to withdraw the bill," Taylor said, adding, "and I will withhold my comments."

    But Taylor didn't stay quiet long, taking the council to task for what he called "the worst vote I've seen this council take in my time" as he gave his president's report.

    Taylor said despite support from both the Washington Economic Development Foundation and the Franklinton Area Economic Development Commission and despite support from mayors of all four incorporated areas in the parish, the council chose to take away a tool of economic development that he said could help the parish move forward.

    The board's action, he said, allowed a few to come into council chambers and make fear of expropriation an issue.

    "The masses have not come into this room (in opposition to SB 639)," he said. "We're stuck in the 20th century."

    While Taylor said "the masses" did not show up in opposition to the bill, no one appeared before the council to speak on behalf of the bill at any of the meetings when the issue was discussed.

    The issue that doomed SB 639 was wording giving powers of expropriation to the commission it would have created. Even though final say would have rested with the council, based on interpretation of the wording in the bill, the threat of expropriation was enough for the council majority.

    Despite agreeing to call Nevers and requesting the bill be pulled, as directed by his council chairman, Taylor proceeded to ask the council to reconsider its action.

    "I told you I'd be persistent," he said as the board set in silence and moved on to other comments.

    Later, as the meeting was drawing to a close, Taylor made yet another pitch.

    "I guess you're not going to reconsider?" he asked.

    Silence. "Perhaps a special called meeting?"

    More silence, this time followed by a motion to adjourn the meeting.

    Also see: We Saw That council-says-no-to-sb-639

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Louisiana Eminent Domain Abuse

    In Louisiana, private property can be taken and transferred to another owner. Louisiana calls this Expropriation, which means to take without asking .

    In 2001, Self-serving Legislation, House Bill 1136 by Rep. Francis C. Thompson allowed sale of land taken by Eminent Domain to Third Party without first offering to sell back to original owner. Thompson is currently selling lakefront lots for personal gain.

    Thompson’s buddy, Sen. Ben Nevers creator of the Washington Parish Reservoir is proposing the taking of Cemeteries, Churches, and Ancestral homes.

    Sen. Nevers also seems to be a two faced supporter of Senate Bill 1, Legislation preventing property from being taken for Economic Development, and has proposed legislation to the contrary.

    Sen. Nevers is proposing Senate Bill 639 creating the Washington Parish Economic Development Commission with Expropriation Powers to take and sell property taken by his appointed members.

    The broad taxing authority granted in this Legislation is essentially "taxation without representation" with an appointed commission able to obtain Millions in Bond Money.

    James Moore

    Letter to the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee

    Dear Senator Fields:

    As a citizen of Washington Parish, I wish to let all of you know that I and many others in my parish oppose SB 639 in its current form. The abuse of Eminent Domain is alive and well in Washington Parish in regards to the Washington Parish reservoir, and the 13 other reservoir districts with expropriation powers in our state.

    To create an Economic Development District with expropriation powers will only perpetuate the problem of the abuse that currently exists. I believe that economic development can occur without trampling on the property rights of our citizens.

    The citizens of Washington Parish are not opposed to economic development and growth; however, we are opposed to the use of Eminent Domain for economic development, and unnecessary purposes.

    Regretfully, there are those who abuse the Eminent Domain law. SB 639 in its current form will give unlimited expropriation powers to an appointed commission. SB 639 is in direct conflict with SB 1 that is currently before a committee.

    The property owners of Washington Parish might as well consider themselves the same as citizens of Cuba, China or some other communist country where you can have use of your property until someone else wants to take it from you.

    I promise you that the majority of the citizens of Washington Parish do not know that this bill gives expropriation powers to a commission. I'm sure Senator Nevers posted a legal notice; however, he didn't mention the use of Eminent Domain in the notice.

    Please take the time to read this dangerous bill, and put yourselves in the shoes of those who it will affect.

    I ask that you amend SB 639 by removing the expropriation powers, and to give the voters of Washington Parish the opportunity to select their own commissioners by ballot. I believe this is a reasonable request.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Jalon Pittman Beech

    Sunday, April 02, 2006

    The Joke of Louisiana Political Profiteering

    By Christopher Tidmore

    As she opened the regular legislative session, Governor Blanco went off the official text--released to the press and originally published here on
    When discussing the state purchase of land in North Louisiana, Blanco added, "Before you jump to a conclusion, let me assure you Francis Thompson does not own the land."

    That line, as columnist Charlie Davis has observed, "brought down the house". It did so with good reason. Rep. Francis Thompson has created a multimillion dollar business regarding state purchases of rural land--and converting that land into artificial lakes. From profiting on property sales on land that the State Representative owns and converting into new lakes to collecting large consulting fees for the construction of the artificial reservoirs, his family has financially benefited off this state program.

    For example as the Monroe News Star pointed out, Rep. Thompson's brother Michael receives a consulting fee of $100,000 per year per lake for the construction of the artificial reservoirs in rural areas--paid for by the state.

    According to news sources, Mike Thompson is the Reservoir governmental consultant for Allen, Washington, Morehouse, Caldwell, and LaSalle parishes, and proposed Reservoir projects in western Ouachita, Jackson, and Lincoln parishes. Thanks mainly to the intervention of his legislator brother, the state approved $41,975,000 approved for 12 new reservoirs in 2004.

    Moreover, Francis Thompson seems to be helping his brother and close political ally Terry Denmon of Denmon Engineering by creating Reservoirs in Richland, Ouachita, Allen, Caldwell, Morehouse, promoting them in Washington, and other Parishes.

    Currently, there are thirty lakes, fourteen of them artificial, supported in the legislature by Thompson, as economic development projects. They certainly have helped the Thompson family.

    As the News Star and talkshow host Moon Griffon have pointed out, the most famous Poverty Point Reservoir, created in 1992 by Rep. Francis Thompson, was built by political ally Terry Denmon with Michael Thompson as project Director, and now as the well paid director of the Golf Course. The keyed gate entry began by Legislator Developers as private enterprise has cost taxpayers $40 Million approved for 2005.

    An Audit in 2002, reported by the newspaper, shows Taxpayers paid $1.2 million to develop the island lots at Poverty Point Reservoir sold for $621,200 dollars to Thompson´s neighbor. Audit also shows Taxpayers paid $2.2 Million for keyed gate entry private road to the lots, and $.3 million for an office protection system or burglar alarm. Legislator Developer Thompson's CYPRESS COVE AT POVERTY POINT-LLC, and his next-door neighbor are realizing personal gain selling Lakefront lots.

    (Interestingly, Rep. Thompson passed House Bill 1136 in 2001 allowing sale of land taken by Eminent Domain to Third Party without first offering to sell back to original owner, a matter in part under debate in this current session.)

    Desire to protect his profitable side venture may have led Thompson to a quid pro quo with Francis Heitmeier over the maneuvers to kill the unified Levee Board, in fact.

    In the closing days of the Special Session, Senator Francis Heitmeier attempted countless parliamentary procedures to amend, undermine, and even kill Senator Walter Boasso's unified regional levee board. While a two board solution did emerge, thanks in large part to the West Bank Democrat, attempts to undermine the required appointment of qualified engineers and hydrologists to the panels was not as successful.

    Heitmeier's hostility to the single levee board surprised few in the media. Members of the Senator's own family received multi-million dollar contracts from the Orleans Levee District, not to mention the largess enjoyed Heitmeier's friends and political allies.

    Less well observed was the alliance of Heitmeier's friend in the House, Rep. Francis Thompson, in every corresponding parliamentary maneuver to kill the single board. The North Louisiana legislator had seemingly little to gain from the change in Levee construction oversight.

    However, Thompson was almost as vigilant as Heitmeier at times. Insiders, who asked not to be named, tell that the reason was simple. They say the North Louisianan owed the West Bank Orleanian for the latter's aid in building artificial lakes across rural Louisiana

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    The Waste of Money

    Washington Parish Reservoir

    13-Minute Video: High speed Internet 100k DSL Download
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    Wednesday, December 28, 2005


    by Washington Parish Reservoir Commission

    meeting Dec 14, 2005

    The intimidation tactics started at the front door. Through the glass of the front door of the Washington Economic Development Foundation building, you could see a man removing the chairs from the meeting room. This is the same thing that took place on January 5, 2005 when the meeting was held for the reservoir site selection. There were quite a few seniors that needed a place to sit. Normally, when meetings are about to take place, people add chairs to a meeting room to accommodate the attendees.

    We were told that we would have to sign in and provide our address. If we wanted to speak, there was another form to complete that listed the rules. The public had to limit their comments to 2 minutes and could only comment on the advertised agenda. We were not allowed to ask questions of the commission. There were 6 speakers, including me that completed the forms. Jim Stokes donated his 2 minutes to me and asked if I could speak for the group. I was required by the chairman to go to the secretary and retrieve the form, then list 5 people and their addresses. Huey Pierce (commission chairman) asked individual people on my list to raise their hand before he allowed me to begin. I suppose he wanted to make sure all the people on my list were in attendance.

    Huey Pierce went over the rules with us and demonstrated his little timing device.

    After the meeting, Huey Pierce came over to me and grabbed my arm, and told me that he took exception to me saying that he rejected my brother's certified mail. Mr. Pierce caught me off guard when he grabbed my arm. It was totally inappropriate. I told him that I took exception to the fact that he demanded that we submit requests in writing, and then when we do, he rejects it. I also told him how wrong it was to not answer the public's questions in a public forum. I didn't want to make a scene, so I quietly jerked away from him and told him some of my exceptions. He didn't hurt me physically, but I felt that he was trying to captivate and intimidate me by holding on to my arm. I have become accustomed to greeting and shaking hands with politicians (even if they are on the other side of the fence) as a cordial gesture, but this was not cordial.

    There were other people who dared to speak and endure the intense scrutiny at the reservoir commission meeting. Their names are Win Pittman, Fate Ferrell, Joel Miller, and Senator Nevers. Senator Nevers even appeared to be somewhat intimidated since Huey Pierce was timing him also.

    Mr. Pierce reminded me that I must submit my questions in writing, and that is when I confronted him about his rejection of my brother's certified mail.

    Prepared statement for Reservoir Commission:

    The Washington Parish Reservoir Commission has placed a dark cloud of uncertainty and controversy over the residents of Oak Grove Community. Since our community was selected as the site for the proposed reservoir, we have been in a living nightmare. Mr. Pierce has said that emotions don't affect his decisions regarding the reservoir, but it affects me greatly when I see my mother and father break down in tears. They have been broken and feel like castaways in their own parish. They don't deserve this and neither do their neighbors deserve such treatment.

    The residents of Washington Parish have been sold out by our elected and appointed officials so that their own wishes may be gratified under the false allure of economic development and the unproven need for potable water. It doesn't matter to this commission that the property rights of honest, hardworking citizens have been trampled upon. It doesn't matter that existing residents will be displaced and the burial places of our loved ones are disrupted. …and for what? You are making empty promises to the people of this parish by saying a reservoir will bring prosperity when in reality, it will bring more poverty and disappointment as with past failed projects.

    Not only is it incorrigible that you would destroy the face of an entire historic community and dig up our loved ones for a pleasure lake, it is incomprehensible that this commission would allow a site to be selected that would place the highest concentration of the people of Washington Parish at risk of dam failure. The monstrous earthen dam that will strain to hold back the billions of gallons of water is fallible. As we saw in the New Orleans area, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under scrutiny for poor design. I shudder to think what would have happened if your reservoir would have been completed when Hurricane Katrina passed over us. We would have had a tragedy beyond comprehension-a man-made Tsunami that would have wiped out everything from Ben's Ford to the Pearl River. In Act 71 and the recent amendments, there is no provision for those residents who reside below the proposed dam in the event of a dam failure. There will be more powerful hurricanes in our future. Think about what you are subjecting us to.

    The reservoir "lets make a deal" scheme to expropriate private property across the state of Louisiana is the epitome of the ABUSE OF EMINENT DOMAIN LAW.

    Eminent Domain was to be used for public use such as roads and bridges-not to expropriate property for recreation and possible economic development. I was amazed to see Representative Bryant Hammett sitting on the Louisiana Bond Commission knowing that his company was the contracted company to survey for the reservoir commission. Do you believe he voted to allocate funds for the unneeded Washington Parish Reservoir because he thought it was a needed project, or because it would affect his paycheck if he voted against it? You tell me.

    Since you must obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build this unneeded lake, you have determined now that we need potable water. This commission or anyone else for that matter has not produced any scientific evidence that potable water is needed. It is also ridiculous to put a potable water lake next to landfill runoff. It doesn't fly with anybody.

    People have been conned in to believing that the reservoir is a done deal, but that is very far from the truth.

    I will close with a question that I would like at least one of you to answer. It should be a simple yes or no response.

    Do you believe in your heart that it is moral to build an economic development/recreational/potable water lake so that people can go boating and water ski over our loved ones' place of burial? If cemeteries don't have any value, then why do we dedicate and place our deceased loved ones in a cemetery?

    Jalon Pittman Beech

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Washington Parish Reservoir Commission

    meeting Dec 14, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Franklinton, Era-Leader, official journal for parish, Dec 7 public notice lists Washington Parish Reservoir Commission meeting on Dec 14, 2005 at 4:30 pm.

    Louisiana’s open meeting law requires notification of public meetings. Commission was sued in Mar 2005 for denying public comment, and failing to comply with law at meeting on Jan 5, 2005

    Purposes of meeting as stated in the paper is to recieve audit report and take action, and also review officer’s report and take action. Residents believe Commission may be ready to apply for Army Corps of Engineers permit to build the Reservoir.

    Will Corps approve recreational Reservoir destroying Oak Grove Community, creating more homeless, taking Ancestral homes, and Cemeteries to build a 90-foot high earthen dam capable of catastrophic failure taking lives and destroying Cities?

    Residents report, Rep. Bryant Hammett surveying business BRYANT HAMMETT & ASSOC was completing land survey necessary for permit. Rep. Hammett, Chairman of Ways and Means Committee sits on Bond Commission that approved the $1.7 million for Reservoir at highly criticized Oct 20 meeting.

    Prior to Hurricanes, millions was spent on Reservoir, but due to current budget problems, it is foolish to continue waste of more money that could be prevented before construction begins.

    Sen. Ben Nevers creator of Reservoir said, "If we don’t approve the money then we acknowledge to the rest of the world that we’re not going to continue on". The $45 million bond approval shows Louisiana will continue on with foolish wasteful spending, and isn’t trying to help itself. Louisiana's bond rating has been lowered, and borrowing money for foolish pork barrel projects will cost even more

    Oak Grove Community Website shows Sen. Nevers, and Reservoir Commission members list of corporations may personally gain from construction of Reservoir. Rep. Ritchie's funeral business may profit from digging up graves of Cemeteries.

    _____ Pete Pittman _____

    Jalon Pittman Beech, and her father Pete Pittman spoke at Bond Commission. Jalon requested Commission reconsider decision to fund pork barrel projects such as Washington Parish Reservoir, especially when our state is overwhelmed with crisis and debt. Pete Pittman said, take the money and use it where it is more appropriate, and help the people suffering from the Hurricanes.

    Residents collected thousands of signatures on a petition to save their community, prevent homes from being taken, and their Cemeteries destroyed. Residents are requesting help, and ask everyone to contact Politicians and Reservoir Commission members to voice their opposition.

    The UNCHRISTIAN ACT of taking peoples homes, and destroying their cemeteries is something no Politician or public official should want to be remembered for.

    Mr. Pete Pittman when asked what would you like to tell the Politicians said,
    "Well all I can say is they have a reckoning day".

    James Moore

    Contact Politicans & Commission to oppose Reservoir

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