By turns charming and baffling, the annual Livingston Parish School Board’s recently released audit report reads in part more like a tourism brochure.
Most of the 110-page document discusses the school system’s finances — pages upon pages of spreadsheets detailing capital assets, support service expenditures and liabilities for bonds payable — the kind of things only an accountant might find exciting.
But tucked under the subheading “economic factors” on pages 12 through 19, auditors from Hannis T. Bourgeois LLP once again waxed poetic on the parish’s cultural assets, like French Settlement where, they pointed out, the 2005 “Dukes of Hazzard” movie with Johnny Knoxville and Jessica Simpson was filmed (at least in part).
The U.S. Navy jet off Interstate 12 near Satsuma gets a nod as well.
“Under the cover of darkness, the Phantom jet was on its way to Livingston Parish in the early morning hours of February 19. ... After a full restoration, the aircraft was elevated 20 feet and is adorned with Old Glory flying majestically atop a tall flag pole,” the financial audit states.
The economic factors section doesn’t neglect nature lovers, either, noting that Livingston Parish serves as home to Tickfaw State Park, which auditors note, “has it all, ”including “must see” alligators in the fishing pond.
The Hungarian Festival, Denham Springs Antique District and the parish children’s choir all receive mention.
Staff shakeup underway at EBR Attorney’s Office
Lisa Freeman, who has served as Baton Rouge city prosecutor since 2011, is being reassigned to another position in the Parish Attorney’s Office by acting Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson.
Batson confirmed the move in an email this week.
“Starting Tuesday, Lisa Freeman will be moving to the Administrative Division to handle litigation files as well as our community outreach,” Batson said. “She will be relieved of her duties as prosecutor and Anderson Dotson will be serving as acting city prosecutor.”
Batson said staff needed to be shuffled to fill needs in the administrative office because of recent retirements of longtime Assistant Parish Attorneys Jimmy Zito and Rick Nevils.
Livingston council power shifts emerge
The unanimous election of the Livingston Parish Council’s new chairman this month belied the fragile alliances already beginning to fracture in advance of fall elections.
But a discussion Thursday night of a possible solution to the parish’s ongoing litigation with engineering firm Alvin Fairburn & Associates could provide a clearer picture of the power shifts that are beginning to emerge.
In November, the council rejected, by a 6-3 vote, a settlement offer that would have put $100,000 back into the parish coffers, according to sources close to the deal. Just hours before the vote, council members received an email from Fairburn’s attorney, saying the council had dragged its feet long enough and “made a (soon to be short) career out of persecuting” the firm.
Whether that email tanked the deal, as some council members have suggested, or simply lowered the firm’s cost of settlement remains to be seen.
Councilman Ricky Goff, who had pushed for approving the settlement, said just moments after passing the chairman’s gavel to Chance Parent on Jan. 8 that he was still working to resolve the dispute and asked that it be added to the council’s Jan. 22 agenda.
The item is listed instead under Parent’s name — a move that signals a shift both in the leadership of the council and the potential direction of settlement talks.
Parent is one of four council members who have spoken with Fairburn in the past few weeks about what it would take to wipe the slate clean between the parish and the firm. Sources close to the deal say the new solution may involve significantly less money than the six-figure settlement that was on the table just two months ago — assuming the deal can garner five votes from the nine-member council.
At stake are two state court lawsuits involving the firm’s road engineering work, a federal court claim for $5 million in unpaid monitoring work after Hurricane Gustav and a state court case against two council members for defamation.
The parish’s costs to fight the cases in court have totaled nearly $300,000 to date.
Advocate staff writers Steve Hardy, Rebekah Allen and Heidi Kinchen contributed to this article.