Mayor-President Kip Holden used his “State of the City” speech this week to check off a laundry list of his accomplishments, rather than trumpet his proposed public safety tax plan.
He went back 10 years and mentioned the city’s hospitality during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, then launched into the changes made during his tenure as mayor: the passage of The Green Light Plan to fix streets; the addition of hotels and life to downtown Baton Rouge; the hosting of the Miss USA competition.
Holden glossed over details of his proposed public safety tax plan, which would cost taxpayers three more taxes: a quarter-cent sales tax, a half-mill property tax and a 1.5-mill property tax.
The movie industry was a big talking point in his speech, with the mayor touting the number of blockbusters produced in Louisiana’s capital city and saying he hopes to bring more television shows. The productions take advantage of generous state tax credits as detailed in an in-depth series in The Advocate.
Holden primed his audience at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge’s meeting for his possible departure next year for a new office, yanking his speech into farewell territory at its end.
“I will never love any job more than the one I’ve held for the past 10 years,” Holden said, adding that if he is elected lieutenant governor, “I won’t leave you behind.”
Goff passes Livingston Parish Council gavel
Livingston Parish Councilman Ricky Goff passed the chairman’s gavel with a chuckle and a sigh of relief Thursday, as Chance Parent was unanimously elected to head the board for 2015.
Wielding the gavel during the often contentious meetings can be tiresome in any year but especially heading into elections.
Goff, a potential candidate for parish president this fall, said 2014 was “a long, tough year,” both “eye-opening” and “a challenge.” He began the year trying to broker peace between the council and Parish President Layton Ricks but ended it shaking his head over the number of stalemates that followed.
Parent commended Goff on his job as chairman but quickly followed with a pledge to have “a nice, calm year.”
“I’m praying for that,” Parent said.
Toward that end, Parent said he would impose new rules for public comment, where the council members would hold discussion on an agenda item only after the public comment period had closed.
“I’m going to ask everybody to be respectful: Mr. Ricks to the council, the council to Mr. Ricks and council members to one another,” Parent said.
An hour later, council members were accusing a colleague of deceit in some recent appointments to a fire board, and that colleague — Councilwoman Joan Landry — and fire board secretary Bridgette Rushing got into a heated exchange in which each woman called the other a liar.
Parent repeatedly banged his gavel to restore order and admonished Landry for her conduct.
“Welcome to the chairman’s position,” Goff said with another chuckle.
Denham Springs civil service board draws fire
As they continue their — possibly bungled — investigation of the Denham Springs Police Department, some of the city’s civil service board members have come under fire themselves for alleged improprieties.
Chief Scott Jones and Captain Steve Kistler have been accused of covering up drug use by the police department’s former narcotics supervisor.
In a pre-disciplinary hearing last week, Kistler’s attorney, Brad Rhorer, said he had subpoenaed board chairman Clay Gillespie. Rhorer said he wanted to question Gillespie about discussions of the case he had with board members outside meetings. One witness, Detective Glenn Lemoine, said Gillespie, a police sergeant, asked for a private meeting to discuss an internal investigation the detective conducted related to the case.
Gillespie and Lemoine ran against each other to represent the police department on the board, Rhorer said. The attorney said Gillespie told officers “there’s no reason to change horses midstream,” and asked permission to ask the sergeant if, by “stream,” he meant an opportunity to punish the police chief and captain.
Details never surfaced, however, as the board allowed the chairman to answer questions only about a previous complaint that he filed against Kistler. Gillespie has also recused himself from all votes in the captain’s case and transferred his chairmanship to another member.
Kistler faces an accusation that he commanded his subordinates not to cooperate with the board’s investigation. In one instance, he interrupted a proceeding to order a city officer not to answer questions, the board has said.
That officer, James Foster, died after an on-duty traffic crash last month. On Monday, Lemoine testified Foster had told him he was “glad” when Kistler interjected, and that he felt “harassed” by board attorney Henry Olinde to reveal information the city attorney had told the police department not to disclose by order of the then-mayor.
On Wednesday, Jones’s attorney Scott Huffstetler said he was given blank tapes when he requested recordings of interviews conducted during the investigation.
When the board voted to reschedule the chief’s hearing, they told the visibly perturbed lawyer he would be responsible for corralling his witnesses to appear on the new date.
“Why are you playing games with me?” Huffstetler said.
Advocate staff writers Andrea Gallo, Heidi R. Kinchen and Steve Hardy contributed to this report