KVPI News has obtained the following statement:
To the residents of Evangeline Parish:
It is with great sadness and concern that I ask you the public for great patience while an ongoing investigation, which includes my staff and I, is conducted by the EPSO CPA Firm regarding the recent budget short falls, and in turn recent layoffs.
As soon as a conclusive decision is reached, I want to assure the public that they will have access to all of the new information gathered from this investigation.
Patience and time, I sincerely ask of you the public.
With Best Regards,
Eddie Soileau, Sheriff
Lake Charles woman was sentenced to 15 months in prison for stealing more than $230,000 from her employer’s bank account. Melissa D. Crookshank, 33, of Lake Charles, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi on one count of wire fraud. She was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $235,155.79 restitution. According to the May 19, 2016 guilty plea, Crookshank, who worked as a bookkeeper for a Hackberry, La., company, stole $235,155.79 from her employer starting in 2009 and continuing until January of 2015. Crookshank issued checks to herself during that time without authorization from the company owners, which she deposited into her own bank accounts for personal use. The U.S. Secret Service and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph prosecuted the case.
The Evangeline Parish Police Jury held a special meeting Wednesday evening in the Courthouse to address the recent email announcement by Evangeline Parish Sheriff, Eddie Soileau, that his department is “officially broke” as of the 19th of August. Monday morning, the Sheriff began what he called “massive lay-offs” and since then the Sheriff’s Office has laid off 14 employees and the department employees remaining are taking a reduction in pay.
Employees of the Sheriff’s Office, Ville Platte Police Department, other Evangeline Parish Key Officials, residents of the Parish and the media were in attendance at the special meeting. Police Jury President, Ryan Ardoin, opened the floor to questions from all of them after they discussed the situation together. There was much concern and discussion of the lack of deputies that will now be on patrol within the Parish, especially at night.
It was also stated by the Jury President, that a copy of the Budget from the Sheriff’s Office was requested so they could review the funds coming into the Sheriff’s office and where the funds were spent. Police Jury Secretary/Treasurer, Donald Bergeron, stated after their request, they were sent a copy of a 2015 Budget which was reviewed by an unnamed source, according to Bergeron, who said it was an “unrealistic and unworkable budget. It was not an accurate budget.” .
The Police Jury is in a unique situation, as it does not control the Sheriff’s Office and is only mandated by the State to fund certain things for it (example: offices, furniture, equipment, and keeping and feeding those in the Parish Jail. Bergeron stated they either pay those bills directly or submit reimbursements for those expenses. Juror, Bryan Vidrine, explained that the Jury does not have a surplus that they can just give to the Sheriff.
President Ryan Ardoin, addressed deputies in the audience and said they will be happy to sit down with the Sheriff, look at the numbers and see what can be done. When KVPI News asked If Ardoin had spoken to Soileau personally, he responded “No, and I don’t think he will take my call.” The Sheriff was not in attendance at the meeting and many people questioned why he chose not to attend. Darin Bordelon who ran against the Sheriff in the last election spoke to the Jury and said “This mismanagement has been going on for years and if you look at audit reports you will see. It’s all just coming to a head now.”
KVPI News has left a message for Sheriff Eddie Soileau to issue a statement about the meeting. He has not contacted us back.
Evangeline Parish Sales Tax Commission Report
August 25, 2016
The Evangeline Parish Sales and Use Tax Commission held their monthly meeting this week. Commission Director Mike Veillon reported a slight 3 percent increase in sales collections parish wide for the month of July. Total sales tax collections amounted to $1.6 million dollars, a $382,000 increase over the same period last July.
Veillon reported that that the police jury had the largest increase in collections, 11 percent over July of last year. Other government agencies reporting increases included Pine Prairie showing a 4 percent increase, the school board and solid waste commission showed nearly a 4 percent up tick in sales tax collections and the Village of Turkey Creek showed a 1.73 percent increase.
Governmental agencies showing decreases include: Basile and Chataignier, each showing a 33 percent drop in sales tax collections; Mamou showing an 8 percent decrease and the City of Ville Platte a slight 1.24 percent drop in sales taxes.
Evangeline Parish Superintendent of Schools Toni Hamlin was our special guest today in our KVPI studios to record an very informative interview that will air Thursday at 12:30pm. Our topics include the start of school, the flooding of some of our parish schools and her recent announcement that she will retire at the end of the year.
VILLE PLATTE ROTARY CLUB
AUGUST 23, 2016
The Rotary Club of Ville Platte today (Tuesday) heard from Guest Speaker Frank Butler of Butler’s Tree Service and Gobble Gully of Turkey Creek.
Butler said over 7000 people have visited his low impact paint ball park in Turkey Creekafter two years of operation. The cost is $30 per person. He said many church groups, birthday parties and groups have visited the seven acre park.
His plans are to add 30 acres and create water park and an ATV park. Butler was the guest of Rotarian Peggy Tate.
KVPI News is putting together facts as they become available as to the layoffs by Evangeline Parish Sheriff, Eddie Soileau. In an email sent from the Sheriff to Secretary/Treasurer, Donald Bergeron, on Saturday, Soileau stated the Sheriff’s Department is “officially broke” as of the 19th. This morning what the email called “massive layoffs” began to take place. The email also stated that what staff is left will receive a 10% salary cut. KVPI received a Press Release this morning from the Sheriff’s office stating they will undergo “reconstruction” due to recent budget cuts. It also stated that in an attempt to lessen the impact of the cuts, layoffs will be spread across various divisions. We will be meeting with Police Jury President, Ryan Ardoin, and will update you on the matter. The Sheriff is scheduled to meet with our news department to provide more details.
SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a prisoner in Jackson pleaded guilty last week for sending threatening messages to U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes.
Charles Lidberg, 27, a prisoner at the Dixon Correctional Center in Jackson, La., pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. to one count of making threatening communications. According to the guilty plea, Lidberg, who was serving time at the state correctional institution for an unrelated crime, mailed a letter on February 19, 2014 to Judge Hayes’ office stating that he would hunt down and kill her after he was released from prison. Lidberg said his friend promised him half a million dollars to kill the judge if she sentenced Lidberg’s friend to more than 10 years in prison. Lidberg also said he did not state his friend’s name because that would “take the fun out of this.” He also gave a second letter threatening the judge to a fellow inmate who turned it over to law enforcement agents.
Lidberg faces 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $5 million fine. A sentencing date of December 7, 2016 was set.
The U.S. Marshals Service conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Luke Walker is prosecuting the case.
MONROE, La. – U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Delhi medical doctor pleaded guilty Tuesday to writing illegal prescriptions.
Dan J. LaFleur, 64, of Delhi, La., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen L. Hayes to one count of distribution of Suboxone, a Schedule III medication used to treat opiate addiction. The plea will become final when accepted by U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks Jr. According to the guilty plea, Dr. LaFleur issued illegal prescriptions from 2012 through February 2013 from his residence in Delhi, from the Northeast Louisiana Health Center in Rayville, and from his suboxone clinic in Rayville, La. On February 6, 2013, law enforcement executed seven search warrants at the locations and several pharmacies in Rayville and Delhi. Illegal prescriptions, patient records, bags, cartons, packages, and prescription bottles containing Schedule III and IV controlled substances were seized at all of the locations.
LaFleur faces up to 10 years in prison, two years of supervised release, and a $500,000 fine. A sentencing date was not set.
The DEA and Louisiana State Police conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney James G. Cowles Jr. is prosecuting the case.
EVANGELINE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
AUGUST 17, 2016
Superintendent of Schools Toni Hamlin Wednesday informed the Evangeline Parish School Board that she will retire at the end of her current contract effect Dec. 31. For the past nine years, Hamlin has served as school superintendent. In looking back, Hamlin has worked in the school system for more than 40 years.
She listed the following accomplishments while serving as school chief: achieving unitary status and removing the federal courts from judicial oversight; naming nine of the 12 seated principals, naming six of the 12 seated supervisors; receiving outstanding audit reports with no exceptions; securing a transportation contract with a $500,000 savings over a six year period; moving Ville Platte High from the academic unsatisfactory grade to a much better grade in one year and overseeing the renovation of Ville Platte High and other school facilities.
Hamlin said she wants to spend more time with her family and grandchild. It was after a recent class reunion that made her seriously consider making such a move.
Board President Wayne Dardeau told Hamlin “It has been a privilege working with you for the past 27 years. Through the years, we have had many discussions, shared ideas and sometimes we disagreed. I want to commend you on doing an excellent job.”
Also sharing personal congratulatory comments came from Board members Lonnie Sonnier, Georgianna Wilson and Nancy Hamlin.
In other business, the school board approved advertising for bids for the construction of a new parish wide Teacher Training and Technology Building at the recommendation architect Mike Holt with the firm of Yeager, Watson and Associates..
The 40x70 foot metal building is expected to cost anywhere from $280,000 to $310,000. The building will be used to house one million dollars worth of technology including centralized servers handling data from all of the parish school. The building will also be used to train and inservice teachers.
Board Business Manager Amie Lafleur informed the board members that no general funds will be used to fund the new building. The funds are coming from special funds set aside for technology and other funds.
Holt stressed that the current building housing the 24 computers and centralized servers is in very bad shape and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
In her report to the board, Superintendent Hamlin said from all indications the student population beginning the new school year remains stable from last year at approximately 6200.
She also reported that the weekend flooding rains brought water inside four parish schools: James Stephens Montessori School, Mamou High, Mamou Elementary and Chataignier Elementary.
The Ville Platte Chamber of Commerce held its monthly meeting Wednesday and heard from Industry Coordinator for the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Missy Grimmett. She explained the various functions of the Workforce Commission and opportunities it provides for businesses, big and small, as well as job seekers. For businesses, the Workforce Commission’s website offers a wealth of information like access to job descriptions, wage information locally, regionally and statewide. Employers can also have access to trends and data from Louisiana and across the country. The Commission also offers recruitment and placement services where they review job postings of employers and attempt to match a registered job seeker to that position. Interview assistance is also offered as well as “on the job training.” It is noted that if a business needs assistance training a worker, that request must be done before the employee is placed on payroll. Grimmett stated that the Commission does have unemployed job seekers listed with their resumes, but also those who are already working and perhaps are trying to better their place in the workforce, are young and need to gain experience or are a Veteran needing to re-enter the work force. She thanked those in attendance who have served their country through the military and stated that Veterans get priority service through the Workforce Commission as a “thank you” for their service. She also stated that the Louisiana Workforce Commission is funded through Federal tax dollars and is distributed to the various workforce Commissions throughout the State, including the office located at the Chamber of Commerce Building in Ville Platte.
In other Chamber news, the newest member of the Chamber that was voted in was Chris Soileau and Flat Town Music Co./U-Stor-It. It was also noted that Heritage Manor will hold its Open House and Ribbon Cutting on September 14th from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The next Chamber meeting will be Wednesday, September 21st at Noon.
LAKE CHARLES, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced that a Lake Charles man in federal prison custody pleaded guilty last week to federal escape charges after failing to report to a halfway house according to terms of home confinement.
Shaun Daigle, 37, of Lake Charles, pleaded guilty Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay to one count of escape from extended custody. The plea will become final when accepted by U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi. According to the guilty plea, Daigle was serving a period of home confinement in Lake Charles after being released by the Forrest City Federal Correction Institution in Arkansas. As part of the terms of his home confinement, he was required to report to the halfway house any time they requested. He was also required to remain in home confinement as ordered by the Bureau of Prisons. On May 7, 2016, Daigle was ordered to return to the CINC II Halfway House in Lake Charles and did not show up. He was found on May 8, 2016 in Westlake, La., and was arrested.
Daigle faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date of November 10, 2016 was set.
The U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the Westlake Police Department investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Luke Walker is prosecuting the case.
CIVIC CENTER WILL BE FEMA DISASTER CENTER
AUGUST 17, 2016
Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine announces that the Ville Platte Northside Civic Center will be designated as the FEMA Disaster Application Center for Evangeline Parish. Parish residents who have experienced any type of loss or damage from the historic floods this past weekend are urged to come in beginning this after noon. People will be there to take your official applications to FEMA for assistance. Food Stamp assistance will also accepted.
Also volunteers are needed to help remove water damaged carpets and rugs in senior citizen homes in the Ville Platte area. Those who would like to help volunteer are encouraged to call 363-3167.
The Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division is still investigating the fatal shooting that occurred in Turkey Creek, LA on July 1, 2016 at the residence of 1023 Cemetery Road. They are trying to locate all suspects involved. On August 11, 2016, one of the subjects involved (identified as Richard Alan Smith) was captured in Tulsa Oklahoma and is awaiting extradition. The Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office for its assistance in the matter. The Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office is still actively seeking to apprehend Leland Edward Hamm (pictured), a white male born May 23, 1974 with a body full of tattoos. Hamm is originally from Kansas and may be traveling in a 2003 Brown Monte Carlo with a green bottom and his license plate has “FELNINK” on it. Investigators are still receiving information and they encourage the public to continue contacting them at 337-363-2161. All calls will remain anonymous.
Ville Platte Rotary Club Hears from Audie Bellard of Eunice
August 16, 2016
The Rotary Club of Ville Platte today (Tuesday) heard from Audie Bellard, owner of Bellard’s Family Pharmacy of Home Medical Equipment of Eunice.
Bellard, who has been a pharmacist for 28 years, shared his early memories of playing Little League baseball against Ville Platte All Star teams. He urged Rotarians to support local independent pharmacists who don’t punch clocks.
The Eunice pharmacist also specializes in gerontology and dermatology to better assist senior citizens.
In 2006, Bellard’s Pharmacy expanded his line to include durable home medical equipment. He introduced Lisa Deshotel who is marketing director for the medical equipment. The pharmacy is expanding their marketing into Evangeline and Acadia Parishes.
Bellard praised State Senator Eric Lafleur and State Representative Bernard LeBas for their efforts in helping senior citizens.
Bellard was the special guest of Rotarian Fannie Soileau.
Rotary Club President Peter Strawitz read a text from Ville Platte Mayor Jennifer Vidrine who is in Baton Rouge attempting to get approval for Evangeline Parish to be included as a disaster area declaration. It was reported that more than 300 homes were affected during last weekend’s floods.
State Representative Bernard LeBas was in our KVPI studios live to talk with Steph on the Non Blonde Cafe today to talk about assistance available for residents affected by the floods.
EVANGELINE PARISH PUBLIC SCHOOLS OPEN TUESDAY
AUGUST 15, 2016
Evangeline Parish Superintendent of Schools Toni Hamlin told KVPI News there will be classes Tuesday.
The public schools were closed today (Monday) because of flooding problems over the weekend. Hamlin said there were four schools in the parish with water: James Stephens Montessori, Chataignier Elementary, Mamou High and Mamou Elementary. School maintenance personnel, teachers and students came in over the weekend to help clean up the school.
Hamlin announced that the buses will be rolling Tuesday but there may be areas in the rural section where the buses may not be able to pass. In those cases, students will be excused. In some areas, busses will be passing a little later than normal so please be patient.
We are awaiting word from Sacred Heart on whether they will have classes.
August 14, 2016
The Ville Platte Acadiana area can expect one more day of possible heavy rain activity. So far, the unofficial rainfall total is 13.25 inches in a 48 hour total here at KVPI while some areas have received much more.
The curfew in Evangeline Parish was lifted at 6:00 this morning. The curfew was called for by Police Jury President Ryan Ardoin Saturday to get people off the streets. The Eunice curfew was also lifted this morning. Eunice police urges motorists to be care not to travel in areas with standing water.
The extensive flooding Friday night and Saturday caused many streets and roads to become impassible. Many vehicles were left stranded as well as homeowners. Many homes in Ville Platte that never flooded were flooded by what weather officials are calling an historic flood.
Emergency first responders stayed extremely busy all day in the rain rescuing motorists and homeowners.
National Weather Service officials are predicting a 100 percent chance of rain all day today. An additional 3-5 inches of rain is possible in our area before this low pressure system finally moves out of our area.
If you need sand bags, they are available at the city barn on Hickory and the police jury has sand bags at the Industrial Park. In the Mamou area, residents needing sandbags, they are available at the on LA 95 at the police jury yard near the ball park.
No church services today at First Baptist Church of Ville Platte, New Life Assembly of God, Antioch Baptist Church and St. John Baptist Church.
The Evangeline Parish Library and all of its branches will be closed Monday.
Public Schools Closed Monday Due to Flooding Issues
August 13, 2016
Evangeline Parish Superintendent of Schools Toni Hamlin announced today that all public schools in Evangeline Parish will be closed Monday because of the flooding conditions in some areas of the parish. Schools dismissed at noon Friday at the start of the heavy rain event.
Hamlin told KVPI News that Sunday will be used as a day to assess and inspect all of the schools and begin the cleanup efforts. It was reported that Mamou High and Elementary have water in the schools.
The announcement follows a dusk to dawn curfew called for by Police Jury President Ryan Ardoin and a reported foot or more of rain that has fallen in the Ville Platte area. This historic rainfall caused water to enter into people’s homes and businesses and stranded numerous vehicles in the Ville Platte area.
KVPI has not received any announcements about Sacred Heart School which is due to open for classes on Monday.
Curfew in Evangeline Parish tonight
August 13, 2016
Evangeline Parish Police Jury President Ryan Ardoin has issued a curfew for all of Evangeline Parish beginning tonight at 6:00pm until 6;00am. Once the curfew goes into effect tonight, no one will be permitted to be driving anywhere in the city or parish. All businesses must be closed during the curfew time. This is in effect due to the extensive flooding the Ville Platte/Evangeline Parish area has received. We have reports of more than 12 inches of rain has fallen flooding numerous homes and businesses as well as stranding many vehicles. Many of the city streets were impassible earlier today because of the high water. The water has receded because it has stopped raining. However, officials from the National Weather Service are predicting an additional 3-6 inches of rain later today through Sunday. Sand bags are available at the city barn on Hickory and at the police jury yard at the Industrial Park.