Von Jennings: Alexandria needs effective leadership to move forward

By Sherri L. Jackson
The Light/EverythingCenla

It’s no secret that Von Jennings is seeking to take Mayor Jacques Roy’s seat in October.

And she said she plans to do so by proving that she has the necessary leadership skills to get the job done.

“We need effective leadership that listens to the will of the people,” Jennings told The Light in a one-on-one interview. “The city needs leaders who will develop plans of action and follow through with input from residents. Many have the technical skills to do the job, but lacks leadership skills needed to move the city forward.”

“A good leader has goals to accomplish, and the behavior is based on those goals,” she said.

Though mulling over the decision whether or not to seek the city’s highest office since November 2009, after careful consideration and several conversations with community and business organizations, Jennings officially made her intentions known Tuesday, March 30, when she opened her campaign headquarters at 1012 Third St., across from Alexandria City Hall.

About 40 people attended the event to hear Jennings’ announcement. She is the first to officially announce candidacy.

Jennings said she hopes to bring to her native city the type of leadership she believes is lacking in Alexandria City Hall.

“We need leadership that is open to collaboration with others. I’m positive we can do a better job,” she said. “I have the ability to partner, to collaborate and the willingness to listen the move on and to develop plans of action that can be implemented.”

Jennings worked as an assistant to Mayor Jacques Roy in charge of the city’s AFEAT, which stands for Alexandria Fairness, Equality, Accessibility and Teamwork, a business program which was designed to bring in help minority and emerging business do business with the city. She was terminated in January 2009.

Jennings is a 1991 graduate of Peabody Magnet High School. She has bachelor’s degrees in political science and public administration from Grambling State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Southern University. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in public policy.

“I want everyone to appreciate that I am a candidate who will represent all of the citizens of Alexandria. I am willing to work with everyone. We have to understand that there are more issues that we have in common than those that are different,” she said.”

Jennings said she sees the city’s priorities as conservative financial planning, aggressive

economic development, work force development, youth development, drainage and flooding,

affordable utilities and infrastructure projects that will promote economic viability.

“The immediate needs are to have definite financial plans. The city is looking at a deficit. We need more revenue streams,” she said.

Meanwhile, Jennings said the city in its current state needs her leadership skills, which along with experience, make her the “excellent choice” to be the city’s leader.

“Much of my experience and skills are directly tied to those serving as mayor of any leader in a corporation,” she said.

Jennings said as she operates a grassroots campaign she looks forward to meeting all citizens “at their door.”

Shreveport attorney Larry English accuses Roy of conflict of interest regarding the Cleco case

Attorney Larry English presents a seven-page document that outlines reasons he believe Mayor Jacques Roy had a conflict of interest regarding the Cleco case.

By Bill Sumrall, The Light

Claims of a conflict of interest were outlined against Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy during Tuesday’s City Council Legal Committee meeting.

Alexandria City Councilmember Ed Larvadain, who chairs the committee, began by saying he’s conducting a fact-finding probe and outlined justification for his actions by citing sections of the city’s Home Rule Charter.

However, Councilmember Chuck Fowler claimed the action is a “kangaroo court” and questioned Larvadain’s application of the sections cited.

Most of Alexandria City Council’s committee time Tuesday, Dec. 1, was occupied by claims of a conflict of interest on the part of Mayor Jacques Roy in dealing with the city’s lawsuit against Cleco Corp.

The claims were detailed by Larry English, an attorney representing local attorney Bridget Brown, who was also involving at one point in the city’s lawsuit against Cleco Corp.

English acknowledged in a seven-page statement that he read aloud to the committee that he represents Brown, “who has filed suit against the city for recovery of legal fees in the CLECO matter.”

“I also want to acknowledge that Ms. Brown has filed a lawsuit against Mayor Jacques Roy and City Attorney Charles Johnson for tortuous interference of Contract and Defamation, again in the CLECO matter,” English stated.

Council President Myron Lawson swore in former City Attorney Kelvin Sanders and English were to testify separately before the committee chaired by Larvadain, who cross-examined both men.

“Mayor Roy as a private lawyer was intimately involved in the CLECO representation as legal Counsel to Sam Sansing and EMS,” English stated, identifying EMS and Sansing as “consultants who claim a share of any funds awarded through the CLECO litigation.”

“However, in November of 2007, Attorney Roy won a special election and was named Mayor of Alexandria,” English stated.

“I believe at the moment Mr. Roy was elected, he should have immediately resigned his representation of Sam Sansing and EMS,” English stated. “And moreover he should not have discussed the CLECO case in any form or fashion until after he had done so. He did neither,” English testified before the committee in his statement.

English stated that once Roy became mayor “he was required by the Rules of Professional Conduct to cease all representation of Sam Sansing and EMS.”

“Furthermore he was required to seek a written waiver from the Council before having any discussions about the CLECO case. He did neither,” English stated.

English claimed this was in “clear violation of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct” that governs attorneys.

English also claimed Roy violated the City Charter by having a financial interest in the outcome of the Cleco litigation.

Roy did not attend Tuesday’s City Council committee or regular session.

Kay Michiels, the city’s Chief Operating Officer/Director of Planning, gave the city administration’s response to the published City Council’s agenda in a document dated Nov. 25 as follows for the Legal Committee meeting Dec. 1:

“To continue fact finding probe in regards to the potential conflict with Mayor Roy in regards to EMS, LLC, Sam Sansing and David Pugh involving the case of City of Alexandria vs. Cleco and related cases,” Michiels stated in the response.

“This agenda item neither merits nor requires a response since no fact finding probe was authorized by the City Council pursuant to the Alexandria Home Rule Charter.”

English also presented affidavits from several people claiming Roy engineered Bridget Brown’s removal from the Cleco litigation after his election as mayor.

“The conduct of Mayor Roy along with the willing approval of the City Attorney (Chuck Johnson) brings into question the moral authority of the Mayor’s office itself,” English stated, by refusing to honor the Legal Committee’s subpoena of city employees and documents in its fact-finding probe.

“The mayor has stated that he has two ethic opinions that blessed his conduct. Rather than produce these alleged opinions, he attacks the President of the Council (Myron Lawson) as having an ethical problem also,” English stated.

English was referring to earlier questions raised in broadcast reports about the $70,000-plus costs of the City Council’s catered meals authorized by Lawson.

“These are not the actions of an elected official who had a momentary ethical lapse. These are the actions that show a clear pattern of abuse and contempt for the rules of the City Charter,” English stated in reference to Mayor Roy.

English ended his testimony before the committee by challenging the City Council about what they plan to do about the allegations.

“I warn each of you that the citizens are watching to see if in Alexandria everyone is beholding to the rule of law,” English stated.

Afterward, committee members Larvadain and Jonathan Goins voted over the objection of committee member Harry Silver in favor of Larvadain preparing a report to go before the full council.

Alexandria’s recreation programs lack what?

Sept. 15 coverDoes Alexandria’s recreation programs fit your needs? or anybody’s needs? See Pages 6 and 7 in The Light. Click here: Sept. 15, 2009

Alexandria’s settlement with Cleco: “a bird in hand is worth two in bush”

By Bill Sumrall
The Light

Alexandria’s City Council agreed with Mayor Jacques Roy that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
On motion by Council members Chuck Fowler, seconded by Harry Silver, the City Council approved settling its lawsuit against Cleco in a 5-2 vote following an hour and 20 minute public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 30.
Council members Jonathan Goins and Edward Larvadain voted no.
The motion read as follows: “To consider final adoption of an ordinance authorizing the Mayor to execute Power Supply Agreement and all ancillary contracts and documents necessary to implement the Council approved Memorandum of Understanding between the City and Cleco Corporation in furtherance of the complete settlement of all claims and disputes in the litigation styled City of Alexandria vs. Cleco Corporation No. 05-1121-A.”
“It makes economic sense,” Silver said, prior to the vote, and described the Power Supply Agreement as “sound.”
In his remarks prior to the vote, Larvadain said that, in his heart, he couldn’t vote in favor of the proposal.
Larvadain said he’s only been on the City Council one month and has heard conflicting statements concerning the wisdom of the proposal.
“We’re getting into bed with Cleco again,” Larvadain said, contending the company had previously failed to “do right” by its Alexandria customers.
“In my opinion, people will be hurt,” Larvadain said,
Larvadain cited customers in his district with $600 to $700 utility bills.
“If we accept it now, the game’s over,” Larvadain said. “If we settle, it’s a wrap.”
Roy said that “to settle or not to settle, that’s the first question.”
In response to a public question, Roy said that “we looked at alternatives long and hard” for power sources other than Cleco, yet even if the city, for example, upgraded its D.G. Hunter power plant, which had been suggested, that would not be sufficient to meet the city’s power needs.
Roy summed the matter up by saying that the proposal represented the bird in the hand or that the City Council could risk going after the two birds in the bush.
Either way, the city administration was prepared to fight in court should the City Council decide to pursue the litigation or settle, Roy said.
At one point during the hearing and before the vote, Goins asked City Attorney Chuck Johnson if they settled tonight, what about rebates?
Johnson said a separate hearing could be called to determine the when, where and who of the rebate question, however “there is nothing to rebate” if there is not a contract.
At-Large Council member Roosevelt Johnson asked if a settlement were approved, when could utility customers expect a break on their bills?
Assistant Director of Utilities Michael Marcotte said it takes six months once the city enters into the new contract, then there is a lag time of two months.
For example, should the agreement go into effect May 1, Marcotte said the effect should be evident on the July 1 bill.
Public questions included one from Mike Redding on whether D.G. Hunter plant was being turned over to Cleco.
Marcotte answered that the City would continue to operate it and still staffs the facility.
Another citizen, Michael Goins, contended during his question period that “the citizens deserve due process of law.”
Michael Goins said he didn’t see the need to decide now since the dispute has been going on for four years.
“Are you here to do the right thing?” Michael Goins asked. “What about the old lady who can’t pay her bill?”
The Rev. Joe Green, pastor of St. Matthew Baptist Church in Boyce and executive director of Rapides Stations Community Ministries housed at 1429 Third St., asked was this the only offer Cleco made to the city?
City Attorney Chuck Johnson answered that there was never a number of offers but “always a give and take process” that rendered the 81-page agreement.
Green also asked was this agreement the best the city could do?
Johnson responded, “In my personal opinion, this is an excellent agreement.”
Questions about the proposed City-Cleco settlement followed a lengthy overview of the proposal during the Dec. 23 public hearing.
The city administration’s overview by Marcotte included a document prepared by R.W. Beck that went into more technical detail.
At the Dec. 23 meeting, former Alexandria Mayor Carroll Lanier asked the first question.
“I guess the biggest question is, when does Cleco return the rebate to the City of Alexandria? Will it be returned to the customers who paid it to start with?” Lanier asked.
“I know my personal bill, it was $500-plus some months, and I know in some lower income areas … they were $800 and $900. I certainly think all these people need their money back,” Lanier said.
Next, Patrick Lacour addressed his concerns to know the underlying details supporting the “bullet-points” in the presentation.
“For people to say this is a ‘transmission constrained’ area, I don’t know what that means, because you have plenty of transmission to get power from other places in here … because Cleco imports more power than it generates,” Lacour said.
“Even after they finish building Rodemacher 3, they’re going to have to keep bringing more power in here, so if they’re already bringing power in here, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Cleco bringing it in or a third-party that you would hire besides Cleco to bring it in,” Lacour said.
Lacour said he favored direct competition through the bidding process.
Lacour contended that, though Cleco does not admit fault or fraud, the power company took advantage of the city before and may do so again.
During the Dec. 30 hearing, Marcotte addressed the “transmission constraints” question.
“The City of Alexandria is situated in the approximate center of Cleco’s transmission system,” Marcotte said, reading a prepared statement projected in a Power Point presentation for the audience.
“The regional transmission grid, especially the Entergy system, is currently taxed and in need of significant capital improvement. Moving power, on a firm (uninterruptable) basis, through the Entergy system is a formidable challenge … the City could need to move as much as 120 mega-watts. To secure power from a source other than Cleco, the City would be required to purchase both the power and firm transmission rights,” Marcotte read.
“Firm power, with an acceptable reliability of delivery, would be available only after completion of a System Impact Study and a Facilities Study followed by the execution of a NITS Agreement. Yes, through OATT, the markets are accessible but the power purchaser must absorb the cost of transmission upgrades,” Marcotte read.
NITS stands for Network Integration Transmission Service. OATT stands for Open Access Transmission Tariff.
“Cleco recently sold $100 million in bonds to begin construction of transmission improvements in South Central Louisiana, the ‘Acadiana Load Pocket.’ Should the City exhaust a substantial portion of its bonding capacity improving a third parties’ electric system, most likely out of state, or would these dollars be better invested inside our corporate limits?” Marcotte concluded.
Lacour, who was also at the Dec. 30 meeting, said the city of Abbeville did better buying power from Entergy at 5 cents than the City of Alexandria at 9 cents, after seeking competitive bids, according to his calculations; however Marcotte showed using fuel cost calculations for Dec. 30 that the City of Alexandria bought power at 5 cents today even under the existing contract with Cleco.
Earlier, Marcotte had read under “fuel cost calculation” in his presentation that the proposed Power Supply Agreement “breaks the mold of standard wholesale power agreements. Industry standards charge wholesale customers at the highest incremental cost of the utility’s generation portfolio. The proposed PSA provides the City a system average fuel costing.”
“Under the Proposed PSA, the City is charged Cleco’s AVERAGE system cost,” Marcotte said, the statement he read emphasizing the word “average.”
“This approach allows the City to take advantage of all of Cleco’s generation portfolio as well as economy market purchases. The approach also reduces the City’s dependence on natural gas units,” Marcotte read.
At the Dec. 23 meeting, Alexandria City Council President Myron Lawson responded that he wouldn’t try to address specifics but agreed that “the devil is in the details” and that there’s “a whole lot of detail in the R.W. Beck report” that could address these concerns.
However, Lawson assured that the proposal guarantees access so that the city can check and audit the agreement.
Roy assured Lawson that the supporting documentation to the R.W. Beck report will be provided to Lacour and anyone asking for it.
Lawson also assured those present that a court reporter would transcribe the record of the Dec. 23rd hearing to be available for the public so concerns could be answered in detail.
After the Dec. 30 meeting, City Clerk Nancy Thiels said that both public hearings would be included in the transcript, which should be available soon into the new year.
At the Dec. 23 hearing, Sybil Holt, a resident of the Lower Third area, asked about the range of possible rebates to the community, what companies other than Cleco could provide for the city’s power needs, and the need for negotiations with Cleco to reimburse the city over attorney fees spent to date.
“We need to get our money back, and the city does too,” Holt said.
Sandra Bright asked for clarification on the presentation concerning D.G. Hunter as an asset worth $29 million.
“Is this tangible or just on paper?” Bright asked, adding that if the city were to sell this asset for $29 million, would that amount go back into the city’s general fund or used to help customers with high utility bills?
Marcotte said the city is not selling the physical D.G. Hunter plant itself but the right to use it, and the allocation of the funds, should the city choose this option, would be discussed later by the City Council.
Thiels said the City Council’s next meeting is set for Jan. 13.

Expert witness testimony doesn’t look good for Goins

Please let me begin by saying that it’s 2:41 p.m. and there’s much more testimony to be heard in Charles F. Smith challenge of Jonathan Goins’ run for the District 3 seat.

This hearing in Judge Swent’s office has the be the biggest happening today in Central Louisiana. Everyone who is anyone has made an appearance to the court. City Councilmen Roosevelt Johnson and Louis Marshall dropped in this morning, as did several attorneys. Mayor Jacques Roy and Police Chief Darren Coutee made appearances this afternoon.

From what I’m hearing and seeing, this case seems to be swinging in Charles F. Smith’s direction. I say that because Smith’s expert witness, Mark Marcotte, the city’s superintendent of utility. Based on an analysis of the water, gas and electricity usage and billing, Marcotte seems to be concluding it “doesn’t appear there is sufficient enough use to indicate occupancy.”

Again, let me say there’s much more to be heard in this case.

Be back shortly!