White to appeal firing
Mayor Kip Holden says that, technically, he didn't fire Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White on Feb. 6. White and his attorney, Jill Craft, say the opposite. In any event, Holden made the firing official following a hearing this morning, although White plans to appeal to the civil service board. "I stand ready to serve this community," White said shortly before Holden publicly announced his decision. Craft says White "started a lot of good work" and "certainly would like the opportunity to complete it" when asked why White would still want his job. "I think he feels very strongly that people need to know what's going on," whether he continues as chief or not, she adds. White declined to answer questions during the hearing today, instead focusing on refuting 14 justifications for his dismissal outlined in a letter released by Holden last week. For example, White was accused of not being truthful about the extent of the security detail provided to Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan during a visit to Baton Rouge last year. White says he assigned one officer and did not learn until later that the officer allowed others to join the detail and record overtime. After a recess, Holden returned to announce his decision to fire White and asked the public to "keep an open mind" regarding White's "gross misrepresentations." After Holden's decision, people in the audience were given 45 minutes to vent their concerns. While a few who spoke supported Holden's decision, most said White was unfairly targeted for trying to reform the department. Several black speakers commended White's outreach to the community. —David Jacobs
Councilwoman calls for federal investigation of BRPD
The testimony of fired Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White was enough today to convince Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle that a federal investigation of the department is needed. "I believe this opens it up for the feds to come in," she says. "I think that needs to happen, and I am at least willing to discuss it because these are some serious allegations." During a public hearing this morning, White says he has addressed the "vestiges of racism that have torn this department apart" and described disciplining a police officer who used a racial slur at the scene of a homicide. "We have a serious race problem here, whether you want to acknowledge it or not," White said to Holden. According to White, the department has been under a federal consent decree for past racial and gender discrimination since 1975. Kelley Morgan, a black woman who spoke today on White's behalf, says the chief went to bat for her after she suffered discrimination. However, Holden said White actually failed to conduct a proper investigation of Morgan's complaints, suggested White made an improper loan to Morgan through White's secretary, and denied an allegation that Holden ordered White to fire her. Holden scoffed at the idea that he, as a black man, would support discrimination. "You chose to misrepresent my record today," Holden said to White. "I hope you tell the truth later." —David Jacobs and Stephanie Riegel
Loftus likely out as CATS board chairman on Tuesday
A change in the executive leadership of the CATS board is likely Tuesday when the transit system's board of directors elects new officers at its regular monthly meeting. Sources tell Daily Report that Chairman Jared Loftus does not have the support of a majority of the board to be re-elected to his current position and that Isaiah Marshall will be selected by the board's nominating committee for the position. Marshall confirms he expects the nomination and says he believes he has the votes. Loftus declined to comment. A change in leadership could have implications for how the CATS board proceeds with the findings of a consultant that last month recommended the agency replace its top management with outside experts. A review of the contract of CATS CEO Brian Marshall—who is not related to Isaiah Marshall—which is currently month-to-month, is also on the agenda. A CATS committee today recommended that the board not take up the contract issue, Isaiah Marshall says, because "it's not a good time and we have too many other things going on right now." He declined to elaborate. Loftus, however, says he will recommend that the board take up Brian Marshall's contract. "I feel it is necessary we address his contract," says Loftus. "I don't know how we can expect a man who is on a month-to-month contract to deal with an agency that is about to double in size." —Stephanie Riegel
'Business Report' planner: LAE hosts education forum tonight … Film festival director to address Creative Louisiana … 2013 Business Awards & Hall of Fame banquet on tap
Tonight — The Louisiana Association of Educators hosts an education forum at 5:30 p.m. at the McKinley Alumni Center, 1520 Thomas Delpit Dr. A panel of local education stakeholders—including teachers, parents, school administrators, community leaders and members of the Legislature—will discuss some of the most pressing issues currently impacting public schools. The event is free.
Friday — Louisiana International Film Festival Executive Director Chesley Heymsfield will be the featured speaker at Creative Louisiana, a monthly meeting for creative types. The meeting will take place from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Baton Rouge Gallery, 1442 City Park Ave. There is no charge.
March 19 — The 2013 Business Awards & Hall of Fame Banquet, presented by Business Report and Junior Achievement, will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Crowne Plaza, 4728 Constitution Ave. Tickets are $80 each and $750 for a table of 10. This year's winners are:
• Hall of Fame Laureate: Jim Bernhard, founder, chairman and CEO of The Shaw Group
• Businessperson of the Year: Teri Fontenot, president and CEO of Woman's Hospital
• Young Businesspersons of the Year: Brandon Landry and Jack Warner, owners of Last in Concepts Inc., which includes Walk-On's, Roux House, Schlittz & Giggles, and Happy's
• Company of the Year (100 or more employees): Sparkhound
• Company of the Year (under 100 employees): GoTech Inc.
The winners will be profiled in the March 5 issue of Business Report in addition to being honored at the banquet. Complete details for the event, including ticket information, are available here.
The Business Report planner is open to events of general interest to the Capital Region business community. Items must be submitted no later than noon the Friday before the event occurs. Email [email protected] with information.
For the full list of upcoming events, click here.
Executive Spotlight: Rinaldi Jacobs
Eleven years ago, Rinaldi Jacobs ran The Shoe Wizard on Government Street. He fixed broken heels and gave new life to tattered shoes. Today, Jacobs has moved to a larger form of recycling with Full Circle Development. What had started as a development company with plans to create New Jerusalem Estates in St. Francisville now focuses, in part, on recycling houses. Jacobs, who is the firm's CEO, previously worked with Wells Fargo and Liberty Bank until the end of 2011. Jacobs is now preparing to move his new recycling company to a facility with seven docks and rail access. The full Q&A with Jacobs can be found here. The following is a sample:
What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you've overcome?
"Two items personally: breaking out of the poverty of a shotgun house I lived in as a child, and obtaining a master's degree. Professionally: bringing back The Shoe Wizard after being totally burned out."
DOTD opens a portion of widened I-10
More than a year after it was first scheduled to be complete, the widened stretch of Interstate 10 between the I-10/Interstate 12 split and Siegen Lane officially opened today, says the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. The $86.2 million project, which began in 2009, expands the freeway from four to six lanes in both directions. In 2011, DOTD replaced the lead contractor on the project, from Austin Bridge & Road Inc. to Boh Bros. Construction of New Orleans. The project is part of the $315 million Geaux Wider program, an ongoing development that will revamp I-10 and I-12 in East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes. DOTD says drivers can expect I-10 work to continue between Siegen Lane and Highland Road, where additional widening to six lanes is expected to be complete this spring. That project has a $60 million price tag. The widening is expected to ease traffic along a four-mile stretch of roadway that is used by an estimated 73,000 motorists every day. Last June, the state finished widening I-12 between O'Neal Lane and Juban Road for $146 million. Work continues in that corridor to finish the widening to Walker, and plans call for further widening to Satsuma in the future.
Jindal's stumping for Romney cost La. taxpayers
While Gov. Bobby Jindal crisscrossed the country stumping for Mitt Romney's unsuccessful White House bid last year, Louisiana taxpayers picked up the tab for the governor's security detail, with a price tag topping $18,000. The Republican governor's trip on an Iowa bus tour aimed at ousting an Iowa Supreme Court justice cost Louisiana nearly $1,200. A September speech by Jindal to the New Hampshire Republican Party added another $2,500 to the tally. Taxpayers in Jindal's home state have shelled out thousands as the governor travels the country for political events, fundraisers and campaign speeches that have little to do with official state business. Jindal's campaign, other GOP campaigns or event hosts pay for the governor's flights, meals and hotels when he travels for non-state business, but the Louisiana State Police reaches into its own budget to cover similar costs for the governor's bodyguards. An Associated Press review of the expense statements filed by troopers shows at least $226,500 has been paid for out-of-state travel with Jindal since he took office in 2008. A spokesman for the governor, Sean Lansing, didn't directly answer a question about whether Jindal has considered reimbursing the security detail's travel costs from the $3.7 million in his own campaign account, rather than from tax dollars in a state struggling with repeated budget shortfalls. "The state does not pay for the governor's unofficial travel out of state. As far as State Police, they have a legal duty to provide protection. As far as how, when, and where they do that—that's up to them," Lansing says in a statement. You can find more details in the full story here.
Is your company prepared for health care reform?
Health care reform is a reality, and the new world for business begins this year. To help prepare companies for these new rules and regulations, Business Report is hosting a Health Care Reform Forum on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The forum will explore how employers, employees and bottom lines will be impacted by new health care legislation. Forum panelists will include: Andy Impastato, vice president, client compliance, BancorpSouth Insurance Services/Wright & Percy; Michael Bertaut, health care economist/exchange coordinator, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana; Dr. Stephanie Mills, president & CEO of Franciscan Health and Wellness, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System; William Potter, senior tax director, Postlethwaite & Netterville; and Patrick Seiter, chair of the health care practice team, Taylor Porter law firm. Following the forum, there will be two breakout sessions that explore how the legislation will impact employers with 50 or more employees, one that looks at the impact on firms with fewer than 50 employees, and a session that looks at innovative solutions to reduce health care spending and improve employee health. The event will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the forum running from 8 to 9:15 a.m. and the breakout sessions beginning at 9:30 a.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.
News roundup: E. J. Ourso College announces 2013 Hall of Distinction inductees … LSU Transition Advisory Team live-streaming Tuesday's meeting … WrestleMania 30 coming to New Orleans in 2014
Bound for glory: The LSU E. J. Ourso College of Business today announced the members of its 2013 Hall of Distinction: William Balhoff, Toni Stephenson and Robert Stuart. This year's class will be inducted at the Hall of Distinction Banquet, which the college will host at the Business Education Complex on Friday, March 22. Balhoff is managing director and chief executive officer of Postlethwaite & Netterville; Stephenson is president of Domain.com Inc.; and Stuart is head of Middle Market Commercial Banking for Capital One Bank and the Louisiana State President for Capital One Bank. More details on all of them can be found here.
Live and in person: Meetings of the LSU Transition Advisory Team and one of its subcommittees on Tuesday will be live-streamed online. The Transition Advisory Team will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Student Experience Subcommittee will meet from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. It will be the third meeting of the 10-member Transition Advisory Team, which was formed to provide information to the LSU Board of Supervisors as it continues to look at ways of reshaping the LSU System. Both meetings can be watched online here. All users may enter as guests but must have the latest version of Adobe Flash player for access. More info on the team can be found here.
Off the ropes: Wrestling fans can be expected to pour into New Orleans beginning April 6, 2014, when WrestleMania XXX arrives at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The four-day event ends with a pay-per-view event at the Superdome. The official announcement came at a news conference today in New Orleans by civic, sports and tourism leaders and by executives from the media company, World Wrestling Entertainment, which organizes WrestleMania. In a news release, the WWE says the event will be televised in more than 100 countries. Read more about the announcement here.