Daily Report

This Afternoon's Headlines / Mon, October 20, 2014

Judge rules against Heath in suit against Roberts

A 19th Judicial District judge has effectively dismissed a suit filed in August against former LSU Alumni Association President Charlie Roberts by Kay Heath, Roberts' former girlfriend and a former contract employee of the association.

In her suit, Heath accused Roberts of reneging on a 2012 deal they made, whereby he would pay her a monthly stipend if she would resign her position at the association, which, at the time, was starting to raise eyebrows. In his ruling, Judge Mike Caldwell says Heath's suit failed to express a cause of action, and he gave her attorney 21 days to file an amended petition.

Roberts' attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, says today's ruling effectively ends the suit. But Heath's attorney, Jeffrey Sanford, says he has not yet decided whether to file an amended petition or to appeal the ruling, and further suggests political considerations are behind today's ruling. Caldwell is up for re-election next month.

"The system of elected judges is a big problem with our judiciary," he says. "It's hard to put the little guy—or, in this case, the little lady—on the same foot as someone with stature and connections."

In August, Roberts resigned from his position, saying he was being falsely accused by Heath but that he did not want to be a distraction.
—Stephanie Riegel

City-parish vows to file suit challenging St. George petition

Mary Olive Pierson, who has represented the city-parish in its legal battle with Louis "Woody" Jenkins over the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana, says a suit will be filed soon to challenge the petition that organizers of the St. George incorporation effort submitted to the East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters office earlier today.

"We will file suit shortly," Pierson tells Daily Report. "The petition is legally insufficient." While organizers championed the petition submission today, Pierson says they fell short of their goal. "They did not get the signatures they wanted and their margin is small," she says.

The St. George organizers submitted more than 18,000 petition signatures, potentially clearing the way for voters in unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish to weigh in on the issue in the Dec. 6 election.

Registrar of Voters Elaine Lamb says Tuesday is the deadline for submissions to be placed on the December ballot, though her office must still verify the petition signatures and determine roughly 17,750 are valid in order for a vote on the issue to go forward. "It's going to take several weeks to verify them because early voting starts tomorrow and all four of my offices will be bombarded," Lamb says.

In a prepared statement, St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey says the group chose to turn in the petition today—even though it does not yet have the 20,000 signatures that would help ensure enough of those on the petition are valid—due to "the constant efforts by the City of Baton Rouge to undermine the democratic process." —Stephanie Riegel

Red River, 'Advocate' among those submitting plans for new buildings

Red River Bank has filed a plan review application with the Department of Public Works for its proposed location adjacent to the Acadian-Perkins Plaza parking lot, signaling that it is ready to start construction there. According to the application, the project will cost $1.2 million. The building, addressed at 3191 S. Acadian Thruway, is expected to measure 2,800 square feet.

Before Red River Bank was able to purchase the tract in June, the property was caught up in a property dispute between the previous owner and Jon Claitor, who owns the plaza.

Red River market president Joanie Montelaro says the legal issues have been laid to rest and she expects construction to begin before the end of the year, at the latest, so that the branch can open next summer.

"We just met with some local contractors last week, and we're hoping to wrap up the bid process soon," Montelaro says.

Developers of several other major projects have also submitted plan review applications this month. The Advocate will spend $9.87 million on its new headquarters and newsroom at 10705 Reiger Road, according to its application. The building is set to be three stories and 48,657 square feet.

An application was also filed to remodel the existing top floor and add a floor to the 440 on Third development. The top floor offices will be leased by USAgencies. The project will cost $600,000, according to the application, and will add 5,620 square feet and another floor to the building.

According to an application for the River Center parking garage, the city will spend $81,799 to accommodate two-way traffic on St. Ferdinand and St. Louis streets. —Kelly Connelly

Five hopefuls in 6th District make their case at Baton Rouge forum

At a forum hosted by the Press Club of Baton Rouge today, four Republican candidates for Louisiana's 6th Congressional District seat stressed their opposition to President Barack Obama, while boasting of their conservative philosophies; one Democrat—former Gov. Edwin Edwards—emphasized what he called a moderate philosophy.

As The Associated Press reports, Edwards, businessman Paul Dietzel, state Sen. Dan Claitor, former coastal chief Garret Graves and state Rep. Lenar Whitney attended today's forum. Issues separating Edwards from the GOP crowd included a federal minimum wage.

Edwards endorsed it as necessary for low-income workers and a boost to the economy; the others, opposed it, saying it would drive up costs of goods and services. Edwards also broke from the others on same-sex marriage. He stopped short of backing marriage equality but endorsed the idea of same-sex civil unions.

Hollywood Trucks to provide vehicles to Mississippi's largest studio

Baton Rouge-based Hollywood Trucks announced today that it has signed an exclusive five-year deal to provide production vehicles at Mississippi's largest studio, Mississippi Film Studios, located in Canton. The announcement of the company's expansion into the Mississippi market comes roughly five months after it entered the Georgia market with a deal to supply vehicles to Pinewood Atlanta Studios.

Mississippi Film Studios is a 43,000-square-foot facility, including 8,000 square feet of production offices and more than 35,000 square feet of soundstage space located on 6 acres.

The studio, originally built for filming of the 1996 movie A Time To Kill, was recently acquired by Rick Moore, owner of Mad Genius Inc. and Eyevox Entertainment LLC. The independent film By Way of Helena, starring Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth and Alice Braga, is currently filming there.

"The Hollywood Trucks team is excited to partner with one of the newest members of the growing 'Hollywood South' family," says Andre Champagne, CEO of Hollywood Trucks, in a prepared statement. "Our expansion into Mississippi indicated the tremendous growth of the southern region's film industry in recent years."
—Steve Sanoski

La. business climate ranked No. 10 in US

A new ranking of U.S. states' business climates by location marketing firm Development Counsellors International places Louisiana No. 10, while the state's economic development agency, Louisiana Economic Development, is said to be the nation's second best.

Louisiana's business climate ranking by DCI has risen 20 spots since its last list was released in 2011, says Gov. Bobby Jindal's office. The rankings are based on a national survey of 356 corporate executives and site-selection consultants.

"Results matter, and so does quality of performance. DCI's latest ranking of Louisiana, validated by several other national rankings, demonstrates that our economic development performance is among the strongest in the entire U.S.," Jindal says in a prepared statement.

LED is tied at No. 2 on the ranking of the nation's best economic development agencies with the Texas Governor's Office of Economic Development. The Georgia Department of Economic Development topped the ranking this year. LED improved to No. 2 from a four-way tie for No. 5 in 2011. DCI is one of three national groups that recently have ranked LED among the nation's top five economic development agencies. Jindal's office has more details on today's announcement. DCI has the complete rankings.

'Business Report' planner: La. Association of Public Charter Schools hosts annual conference … Louisiana Looking Up is Thursday … LSU 100 to be honored at luncheon

Tuesday: The Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools hosts its annual conference and power breakfast from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza, 4728 Constitution Ave. The future of education will be the topic of a panel discussion for the power breakfast, with the luncheon to feature a keynote by Tim King, who is the founder, CEO and president of Urban Prep Academies in Chicago. Tickets to the breakfast are $20, with luncheon tickets available starting at $30. Combination tickets and tables of 10 are also available. Get complete details and register to attend.

Thursday: The LSU Flores MBA Alumni Association, in conjunction with the LSU E. J. Ourso College of Business, hosts Louisiana Looking Up at the Business Education Complex on the LSU campus. The event will begin at 1:30 p.m., with a reception to follow from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Cost of admission is $100 for individuals, $50 for LSU Flores MBA Alumni Association members and $25 for LSU Flores MBA Program students. Get complete details and register to attend.

Friday: The LSU 100, a competitive program that identifies, recognizes and celebrates the 100 fastest growing Tiger-owned or Tiger-led businesses in the world, will hold the fourth annual Honoree Luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4728 Constitution Ave., from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets are $100. Register to attend.

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.

Supreme Court denies Louisiana lawsuits against BP

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal today from 11 Louisiana parishes that wanted to revive their lawsuits over wildlife damage from the BP oil spill in 2010.

As The Associated Press reports, the justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.

A rupture of BP's Macondo well and the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers. BP says it has paid more than $27 billion to restore the coast and settle damage claims. It also faces a federal lawsuit under the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuits were filed by Plaquemines, Orleans, St. Bernard, Lafourche, Terrebonne, St. Charles, Jefferson, Iberia, St. Mary, St. Tammany and Cameron parishes. The district attorneys for the parishes who were pursuing the lawsuits said the federal courts were wrong to ignore the Louisiana Wildlife Statute. The parishes said the law gives the state power to impose penalties for harm to wildlife from offshore oil spills beyond what is authorized under federal law.

News roundup: Cristo Rey school begins landing partnerships with BR businesses … Committee of 100 leads delegation to Panama … BR haunted house named among best in US

On-the-job training: New Schools for Baton Rouge Board Chair Jennifer Eplett Reilly and All Star Automotive Group President and CEO Matt McKay hosted a breakfast this morning to discuss partnership opportunities for the local business community with Cristo Rey Baton Rouge High School, which is set to open in the fall of 2016. In the Cristo Rey model, students participate in college preparatory education as well as a corporate work-study program. The school is looking to partner with at least 35 local businesses. All Star Automotive and Lamar Advertising are sponsoring the first two job opportunities with the school.

South of the border: The Committee of 100 for Economic Development, Inc.—in cooperation with the District Export Council and the U.S. Department of Commerce Commercial Service Office in New Orleans—recently led a delegation of 57 university and business leaders to Panama. The delegation, including private sector leaders, university executives, port and airport authorities, and other stakeholders, held meetings with Panama Canal Authority representatives, health care professionals, higher education and high school authorities, and Copa Airlines officials between Oct. 13 and 17. "This was a great opportunity to provide positive information about Louisiana's business environment, resulting in positive connections for the state, our ports, the New Orleans International Airport, our major health care providers, and our universities," says Michael Olivier, CEO of the Committee of 100.

Boo! Baton Rouge's popular haunted house, the 13th Gate, has once again been included on a list of the nation's best. Fangoria magazine lists the attraction as No. 7 on its listed of the Scariest Haunted Houses and Attractions. "For those who have never crawled through a crematory door, this haunt is a must visit. The intricate detail and technology found in the sets of the 13th Gate in Baton Rouge alone makes what lies behind the gates of Hollywood seem almost elementary," the magazine says. "Visitors travel through 13 uniquely themed zones ranging from the fog-filled streets of London to the lost underwater city of Atlantis." See the full ranking.
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