Burning Ban

RRPJ-Area Burn Bans-18Jul23

Red River Parish is now under a burn ban. Shortly after 9:00 am this morning The Journal was notified of the ban by the fire department. The statement from Fire Chief Shane Felts said that no outdoor burning of any kind would be permitted in the parish until further notice.

This afternoon Caddo Parish was added to the list of parishes and counties with a burn ban in effect. That happened shortly after the map accompanying this article was updated by the weather service.

There has been very little rain in recent days and the “Fire Danger” signs have been set on “extreme” as a reminder of the danger of wildfires. And not much is in the forecast for the next few days.

Attorney General Probes 911 District

RRPJ-911 AG Prove-18Jul20

The Louisiana Attorney General is investigating the former Administrator of the Red River Parish Communications District. The AG’s office has received the report of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor that the former Administrator issued herself 10 extra paychecks amounting to over $17,000 in 2017.

Red River Parish District Attorney Julie Jones told The Journal they are working with the Attorney General on the matter. Jones said, “They will review the audit. They will make a thorough investigation of the results.” Jones said, “I will meet with them and review their findings and then take appropriate action.”

Jones said she has worked closely with the Legislative Auditor and Attorney General’s office. “I am very pleased with the help from the state agencies in the matter.”

Former Administrator Jennifer Mahfouz was terminated on April 8th after the Communication District’s contract auditor found irregularities in district payroll records. The CPA turned the matter over to the Legislative Auditor on March first. The report issued this week found that at lest 10 paychecks totaling over $17,000 were issued early by Mahfouz and that electronic accounting records had been altered in an attempt to cover up the discrepancies. Mahfouz told the auditors she did not realize she received extra paychecks and does not know how she overpaid herself.

Last Day to Qualify for Fall Elections

RRPJ-Election Qualifying-18Jul20

There will be a local election for members of the Red River Parish School Board and officials of the Village of Hall Summit on November 11th. But today is the last day to qualify for those races.

All seven members of the school board have qualified to run for reelection. Three of them have opponents. Anyone wishing to get into the school board race or other local contests have until 4:30 pm today to qualify. Go to the Clerk of Court’s office in the courthouse to fill out qualifying paperwork.

In the race for the school board, here is the list of candidates as of late Thursday:
District 1 – Gene Longino. He is unopposed.
District 2 – Richard “Ricky” Cannon. He is unopposed.
District 3 – Gary Giddens. He is unopposed
District 4 – Two candidates. Incumbent Cleve Miller has qualified. And John Lewis has filed for the seat also.
District 5 – Two candidates. Incumbent Kasandria White has qualified. And Donald Everett has also qualified.
District 6 – Valerie Cox. She is unopposed.
District 7 – Two candidates. Incumbent Susan Taylor has qualified. And she is opposed by Chandra Wilson.

There are positions to be filled in the Village of Hall Summit. Here are the qualifiers:
Mayor – Danny Rex Scott. He is unopposed.
Chief of Police – Charles Loftin. He is unopposed.
Aldermen – Three to be elected. Only two people have qualified so far. They are Barbara Perrin and Antony Thomas.

Also on the local ballot will be Constable Justice of the Peace District C. No one has qualified as of late Thursday. There is one statewide office up for election. So far A.G. Crowe and Renee Fontenot Free have qualified for Secretary of State. And there will be a Congressional election. All members of the U.S. House of Representatives run every two years.

This information was obtained from the Secretary of State’s office in Baton Rouge. It is unofficial until after qualifying closes.

 

Lady Chops Puts on a Great Show

The meeting room at the Red River Parish Library was crowded Monday afternoon with excited, expectant children and parents. Lady Chops was coming to town. They were not disappointed.

Lady Chops is Elizabeth Vidos. She hails from Morgan City but now lives in Ruston. She entertained by getting all of the children involved in the show. Everything was preceded by a drum roll (patting your thighs with both hands) and a symbol crash.

Vidos explained that Chops means doing what you do the best you can. Lady Chops has been a drummer since grade school. And she was part of “Stomp” the off Broadway and touring troop for ten years. She can create music with just about anything, including drumming on arms, legs, and chest.

Check out the video of the kids making their own band. You won’t be disappointed.

The program included almost every percussion instrument you can think of. There were a couple of new ones thrown in. Lady Chops got the children involved in making music. There was instruction on how to play the various instruments, then the opportunity for the kids to try it for themselves. And that lead to the band you see performing on the video.

Lady Chops started her library touring last summer here in Coushatta. She told The Journal that this summer she is bringing her show to 90 libraries across the state. It is part of the local library’s summer reading program.

See the K-9s Next Monday

RRPJ-Last Library Summer Pgm-18Jul20
There are some incredible canine officers working with the Red River Parish Sheriff’s Office. And there are some incredible canines as well.

The RPSO’s K-9s will be at the Library on Monday afternoon at 2:00 pm. Their handlers will put these talented dogs through their paces. Children and their parents and children are invited to see what they can do. These dogs are on duty with the sheriff’s office to help and protect the citizens of the parish.

This will be the concluding program of the Red River Parish Library’s Summer Reading Program. This summer we’ve heard stories from wonderful storyteller Sylvia Davis. We have been mystified by Great Scott Illusions. A large crowd gathered under a big shade tree in the library back yard for the Jubilee Discovery Zoo. Harvey Rabbit and Friends made a return visit on June 25th. Kids were entertained by the Red River High Band. And last week the show was all about percussion with Lady Chops.

Children’s Librarian Kala Sims is already working on the line-up for 2019. Drop by the library and let her know which shows you enjoyed and offer suggestions for next summer.

RRPJ-Last Library Program BOTTOM-18Jul20

Harrington in the Hall

RRPJ-Harrington in the Hall-18Jul20
Long time Natchitoches musician, songwriter and philanthropist Rodney Harrington, singer for Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs, will be inducted into the Louisiana Folklife Hall of Master Folk Artists at the 39th Annual Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival which will be held on July 20-21 in Prather Coliseum on the Northwestern State University campus.

In addition to being inducted into the Hall of Master Folk Artists, Harrington will perform at the Festival. On the evening of July 21 Harrington will appear along with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer guitarist James Burton, Estelle Brown of the Sweet Inspirations and Grammy winner and Cajun folk artist Jo-El Sonnier, as guests of Johnny Earthquake and The Moondogs in the Festival’s grand finale concert. The concert will include a tribute to Elvis Presley featuring a recreation of the King’s Vegas-style show.

“We are honored to induct Rodney Harrington into the Hall of Master Folk Artists,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the Louisiana Folklife Center and the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival. “He is not only a great musician, but his philanthropic efforts have benefited so many throughout the state. Audiences throughout the South respond so powerfully to the music of the Moondogs because of the band’s love for Louisiana culture and music. As leader of the Moondogs, Rodney has been a phenomenal cultural ambassador for Natchitoches and Louisiana.”

Harrington has been involved in music his entire life and has been an active part of the Natchitoches and Louisiana music scene for more than 30 years. During that time, Harrington’s contribution to Louisiana’s regional roots and original music have been in his various capacities as a performer, song writer, producer, attorney, concert and festival promoter and organizer, philanthropist and radio host.

Harrington helped form a popular Natchitoches group in the late 1980s called Dick Dante and the Infernos which performed for several years. In 1995, Harrington and some friends formed the group Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs. Over their nearly 25 years of existence, the Moondogs have become a popular band not only in the Natchitoches area, but across the South. Under Harrington’s leadership, the Moondogs have managed to constantly change members (over 60 musicians have been members of the band over the years) while steadily increasing in popularity. The Moondogs have garnered numerous awards and been called by City Lights Entertainment Magazine “Quite simply Louisiana’s best show band.” Offbeat Magazine of New Orleans, a Louisiana roots magazine, in its review of one of the Moondogs’ critically acclaimed albums has observed “Tradition never sounded so good.”

Harrington has written and recorded several Louisiana and Natchitoches flavored original songs. One of them, Cane River Blues, was featured in a Hollywood movie. Various compilation albums include his songs, such as “Hey Santa” which was featured on the recent The Very Best of Louisiana Christmas, a compilation released by the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, with songs by Fats Domino, Aaron Neville, Dr. John, Brittney Spears and other Louisiana artists.

Harrington’s music related philanthropic activities have been numerous. He helped organize and for several years has served on the board of the James Burton Foundation which has provided hundreds of guitars for school children, veterans and their families and ailing children in hospitals. The Foundation has also started music programs in schools that would not otherwise have them. Harrington has also served on the board of The Friends of the Municipal Auditorium, which worked on the preservation of that historic venue and on the Board for the Ark La Tex Music Heritage Foundation, which raises money to purchase musical instruments for schools. For several years, Harrington has served as the chairman of the board for the Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival. Under Harrington’s leadership, the Festival has grown over the years to become one of the more popular music festivals in Louisiana and the South.

Harrington has often helped raise money for the Northwestern State University Department of Music. When the Natchitoches Central High School Orchestra needed funds to go to Carnegie Hall, Harrington organized and produced a fundraising concert which raised thousands of dollars for the trip which made it possible for many students to make the trip who otherwise would not have been able to. When Natchitoches blues artist Hardrick Rivers needed a prosthetic leg, Harrington came up with an idea for a concert called HardrickFest, which he organized and produced to raise money to purchase a prosthetic leg for Hardrick.

For the past 20 years, Harrington has hosted the syndicated radio show “Jammin’ With Johnny—The Johnny Earthquake Show.” The show, which is broadcast over much of Louisiana and into East Texas, has been rated number one in its timeslot. In addition to spotlighting and promoting area community cultural events, the show often features interviews with artists and live music in the studio featuring local and area artists. “Jammin With Johnny” is believed to be the only radio program in North and Central Louisiana that features live music on a regular basis.

The Festival will be held in air-conditioned Prather Coliseum located at 220 South Jefferson Street on the NSU campus in Natchitoches. The Festival will be held Friday, July 20 from 4:30 p.m. until 10:15 p.m. and all day on Saturday July 21 from 8 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.. The family-oriented festival is wheelchair accessible. Children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. For a full schedule of events, to purchase tickets or for more information call (318) 357-4332, send an email to folklife@nsula.edu, or go to louisianafolklife.nsula.edu.

Support for the Fiddle Championship and the Festival is provided by grants from the Cane River National Heritage Area, Inc., the Louisiana Division of the Arts Decentralized Arts Fund Program, the Louisiana Office of Tourism, the Natchitoches Historic District Development Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Foundation and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council.

The Festival is also supported by generous sponsorships from Acme Refrigeration of Baton Rouge, Dr. James Arceneaux, Bank of Montgomery, Louie Bernard, City Bank, the City of Natchitoches, Cleco, John Conine; Corkern, Crews, Johnson & Guillet; CP-Tel, Delta Car Wash, Dan and Desirée Dyess,Georgia’s Gift Shop, La Capitol FCU, the Harrington Law Firm, Billy Joe Harrington, Jeanne’s Country Garden, Maglieaux’s Riverfront Restaurant, the Natchitoches Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Natchitoches Wood Preserving, Inc., NSU Men’s Basketball, Page Builders, LLC, Sabine State Bank, R.V. Byles Enterprises, UniFirst, Dr. Michael Vienne, David and Shirley Walker, Waste Connections and Young Estate LLC.

 

Training for the Worst

RRPJ-Active shooter TOP-18Jul20

If you passed by Red River High School last week you may have noticed that the parking lot was full of vehicles from the sheriff’s department. There was no emergency, however deputies were making preparations for the unthinkable.

The week of July 9, 2018 thirty-one Red River Parish Sheriff’s deputies and one Coushatta police officer participated in Active Shooter Response training. Certified instructors with the Shreveport City Marshal’s Office conducted the training, with civilian volunteers assisting as perpetrators and victims. The activities took place on the Red River Senior/Junior High campus while school was not in session.

The purpose of the exercise was to provide scenario-based training to our law enforcement officers in a simulated critical incident/active shooter environment. The hands-on training was intense and exposed officers to realistic scenarios while utilizing non-lethal training ammunition.

The exercises were designed to instill, enhance and reinforce instinctive officer survival skills by implementing fast paced tactical techniques. The objective is to locate and eliminate threats as quickly as possible in order to protect potential victims, while reducing law enforcement injuries and/or deaths.

In today’s world, preparation and training for these unthinkable events are critical. Sheriff Edwards would like to thank the Shreveport City Marshal’s Office for leading the training, the volunteers for their participation and Red River Parish School Superintendent Alison Hughes and staff for use of school facilities.

ETC… for July 20th

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A reminder that the US 84 Bridge at Coushatta will be inspected by the state highway department tomorrow, July 21st. Traffic will be reduced to one lane, so expect some delay.

The Journal congratulates the new slate off officers of the Red River Council on Aging. Jessie Davis was elected President. Celia A. Norman was elected Vice President. Dianne Slatten was elected to her second term as Treasurer. And Barbara Brister was elected Secretary. They were elected at the COA annual meeting earlier this week.

Band Camp is wrapping up today at Red River High School. The band, dance line and others have been practicing for two weeks. You can see the results of their labors at the first home football game August 31st. The Bulldogs open at home against Lincoln Preparatory School.

These days are especially hot summer days. Everyone is warning about the dangers of too much exposure to the heat. Below is the advice from the National Weather Service in Shreveport.

RRPJ-ETC...BOTTOM -18Jul20

Former Administrator Issued Herself Extra Paychecks

 

RRPJ-Communications Dist Audit TOP-18Jul18

Former Administrator Jennifer Mahfouz of the Red River Parish Communications District issued herself extra paychecks totaling $17,112.00 and may have violated state laws and the Louisiana Constitution. Those are the findings of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor in a report released this week. (SEE AUDIT LINK BELOW)

Mahfouz was dismissed as Administrator on April 8th of this year. Possible improprieties came to light during the annual audit of the Communications District by a private accounting firm. Information the firm developed was turned over to the Legislative Auditor.

The audit’s Executive Summary states “District records indicate that from January 2015 to December 2017 Ms Mahfouz consistently issued herself paychecks prior to the end of the District’s pay periods and appears to have altered the District’s electronic accounting records to conceal her actions.” The summary said these actions “may have violated state laws.” In addition the summary said, “Further, by issuing herself checks before the end of the pay periods, Ms Mahfouz appears to have loaned District funds to herself in possible violation of the Louisiana Constitution.

The complete report from the Legislative Auditor is included at the bottom of this article.

Mahfouz was the only employee of the district and was responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the district, including paying bills and issuing pay checks. The audit says the issuing of extra paychecks was discovered by the district’s external CPA during the annual audit. The CPA notified the Legislative Auditor on March 1st. Mahfouz was terminated on April 8th.

The Legislative Auditor found that “Mahfouz routinely issued herself paychecks before the end of the District’s pay periods on at least 67 occasions. Some of these checks cleared the bank prior to the dates on the checks. According to the District’s accounting system records, Ms Mahfouz appears to have altered the dates that the checks were issued in order to match the appropriate biweekly pay periods.”

The auditors reported, “Ms Mahfouz told us that she did not realize she received extra paychecks and does not know how she overpaid herself.” She told auditors that she made some mistakes in writing checks and she tried to correct them. The audit said, “she received checks early because she was trying to change her pay schedule to alternate with her husband’s pay schedule. She further stated that on other occasions she received checks early because she knew she would be out of the office on the regular payroll date.”

The Legislative Auditor recommended the District consult with legal counsel to determine appropriate actions to take including recovery of funds improperly paid to the former District Administrator. The audit also recommended “the District revise policies and procedures to assure the same person is not responsible for issuing, approving, authorizing, and recording accounting transactions.”

Communications District Audit

Coushatta Infant Dies in Auto Crash

RRPJ-Coushatta Infant Dies-18Jul18Tragedy struck a Coushatta family this week due to an automobile crash near Colfax. A two-month-old Coushatta infant passed away last Wednesday evening following a one-vehicle car crash. The child, Kalani Moody, will be buried this morning in Coushatta.

State Police Troop F reported the accident happened on US 71 about 7:20 am Wednesday July 11th. The report says Aaron Tillman of Leesville drove the vehicle. Passengers were Cecily Moody and their infant twins Kalani and Kingston.

Their vehicle was traveling southbound on US 71, ran off the right side of the road into a ditch then hit a tree. Kalani Moody suffered severe injuries while Tillman and Cecily Moody suffered minor injuries. Kingston Moody was not injured. All were transported to Rapides General hospital. Kalani Moody passed away later Wednesday night.

The State Police report stated that all Tillman and Cecily Moody were wearing seat belts and the two infants were properly restrained in rear-facing car seat at the time of the accident.

Heavenly Gates Funeral Home in Shreveport handled arrangements. Here is the obituary from their website:

Graveside services for Infant Kalani Moody, 2 months, will be 10 a.m., Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at St Paul Cemetery, Coushatta, La. Pastor Robert Moody of Holy Way Ministries Family Worship Cemetery, officiating.
Infant Moody entered into eternal rest on July 11, 2018 after an automobile accident.
She is survived by her parents; Cecily Moody and Aaron Tillmon, sister; Saniyah Moody, brother; Kingston Moody, grandmothers; Betty Moody and Miranda Davis, aunts, uncles, cousins other relatives and friends.