The Advocate Blog Network

Banner image

Mary Olive Pierson working Pro Bono on St. George issues

In recent months, Baton Rouge Attorney Mary Olive PiersonMOP has risen as the face of the St. George opposition movement.

Baton Rouge officials defer to her biting comments on St. George issues when approached by the media for comment. Pierson even admitted that she flew to Kansas City recently to convince L’Auberge Casino representatives to join the city of Baton Rouge — a significant financial hit to the St. George proposed budget.

But Pierson’s contract with the city of Baton Rouge is limited to a lawsuit related to the annexation of the Mall of Louisiana, which is being challenged in the appellate court by former legislator and newspaper owner Woody Jenkins.

Her additional efforts to defend the integrity of the parish have not been lost of St. George supporters, who have questioned her motivations and financial backers.

But Pierson said Wednesday she is working pro bono. She noted that several St. George supporters say they are working pro bono including spokesman Lionel Rainey, and attorney Alex St. Amant who is defending Jenkins in the mall suit.

“I have a vital interest in making sure this city I was born in and grew up in continues to flourish,” Pierson said, adding that she stepped into the role to “fill a void.”

Pierson said she paid her own way to Kansas City to meet with the casino representatives and doesn’t get paid despite “spending three meetings a week on this.”

“If I have to give all of my time on this, I might think about doing that,” she said. “They’re stuck with me.”


Main Library is all-clear after weekend plumbing problems

People perusing the Main Library on Goodwood Blvd for autumn reads can reenter the library’s teen section after plumbing problems closed it down to patrons Friday.

The library, which has not been open for a full year, had a blockage in its main sewage line Friday. Whatever obstructed the sewage line — officials are still unsure — forced the water to shut off, the bathrooms to close down and the teen section to close because of a drain leakage.

Spencer Watts, library director, said most bathrooms opened again on late Friday and they set up a service desk where library employees could pull books from the teen section  while the room was closed to the public. They cleaned the teen room and confirmed that the library did not have sewage contamination before they restored services, Watts said.

“We don’t want people walking into sewage overflow,” Watts said.

The blockage was unrelated to the ongoing construction of the library’s parking lot, according to Watts. He said blockages have happened in other branches before, mostly due to people flushing things that do not belong in toilets.



Mike Futrell, former CAO – Where is he now?


Remember Mike Futrell?

He served as Mayor-President Kip Holden’s top aide from 2009 to 2010 after Walter Monsour left his side.

In 2010, Futrell, a captain in the Navy Reserve, was recalled to active duty for a tour of duty with U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Now, Futrell is back to running local government. The former councilman and state legislator is currently working in South San Francisco as the city manager.  He’s been working there since April of this year.

While serving in Hawaii, Futrell led a crisis team that responded to the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. After leaving active duty, Futrell stayed in Hawaii to work for the Hawaii Gas Company.

Scotland independence vs. the St. George incorporation


Today millions of Scotland voters are headed to the polls to vote on their independence from the United Kingdom.

It would be a stretch to compare the complex and storied Scottish breakaway effort to that of the St. George incorporation, but there are a few noticeable commonalities — the most obvious being that the opponents of Scottish independence have called themselves “Better Together.”

Opponents of the St. George incorporation have also called themselves “Better Together” for the better part of a year in their educational campaign to deter support from the proposed municipality that could draw funds away from the parish budget.

Many of the arguments for and against Scottish independence revolve around economic issues, like taking control of Scottish oil revenue. Also Scotland is more liberal country, which is governed by the conservative UK government.

Similarly, the people in southern part of East Baton Rouge Parish who want to create their own city want control of the sales tax funds generated in their part of the parish, while parish officials argue St. George threatens to create massive financial deficits for the parish. The proposed city is a mostly conservative area that often finds itself crosswise with the more Democrat leaning votes in the City of Baton Rouge.


Chauna Banks-Daniel fires off email supporting Parish Attorney: “Do Mary Roper no harm”

Parish Attorney Mary Roper faces the music on Wednesday when she will finally go up against the Metro Council in a hearing to contest her termination.

When the hearing was initially slated for May, Roper had a few allies on the council. But in the past few months — after rejecting a deal for a new city-parish job, making public record requests for Metro Council members’ emails, texts and Facebook messages, suing the council, and attempting to fire her first assistant for “disloyalty” — Roper has certainly lost some votes.

Roper lost her lawsuit asking for a judge to intervene and stop the hearing.

AX179_5265_9On Tuesday, Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel, who has a penchant for dramatic emails, fired off a message to the council backing Roper, saying she is unwilling to “alter the course of Mary Roper’s life undeserving,” citing both her faith and her feminism.

“Tomorrow, I am being charged with making a decision regarding a woman’s future,” she wrote. “This is something I do not take lightly. This is something I am in constant prayer about. So far, all I get deep down in my spirit man is this command, “Do Mary Roper no harm.”

Here’s the text from her email:


     I feel totally un-informed, dis-connected, and ill-prepared to go forth with the hearing to determine Mary Roper’s future as Parish Attorney.  Though, I am not an attorney I have hired a few over time.  I can only reflect on the meetings and communications that occurred with my attorneys and nothing in this case has been even remotely similar. 

     Tomorrow, I am being charged with making a decision regarding a woman’s future.  This is something I do not take lightly. This is something I am in constant prayer about.  So far, all I get deep down in my spirit man is this command, “Do Mary Roper no harm.”  

     Much of my thinking goes back to the many the young girls I have told that they can grow up to be “whatever” they want to be.  Encouraged them that there is No Limit to what they can achieve.  Now I am faced with inserting to girls that one day they may learn their success only cracked the glass ceiling, not shattered it.  Then I think about my own adult son, who hasn’t completely found his way and my constant hope for him to have a fair chance to reach his potential in a career and/or business venture.  Lastly, my thoughts turn to the almost 40 years I have been in the workforce and occasionally faced mistreatment, unfair practices, and a hostile work.  I know what that feels like and I cannot in good conscience do that to another human being.   

     I cannot take Mary Roper’s livelihood and retirement without overwhelming evidence that she is not in this predicament due to wrong motives, selfish desires, and hearing procedures in place that are fair and impartial. 

     There are some things I still want God to bless me and my family with.  As for me, I WILL NOT jeopardize every dream, every vision, every promotion, every healing from coming forth in my life because on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 2:00 p.m., I altered the course of Mary Roper’s life undeserving.  

Please answer the following questions that I should have not had to ask at this late date: 

  1. 1.    Does the MC require a lawyer at Mary Roper’s hearing on tomorrow? If so, who will be the lawyer?
  2. 2.    What is the potential conflict of the MC to have a lawyer (which I assume is representing the wishes of the council), then the MC having a vote? 
  3. 3.    Has the MC attorney had briefings with all 12 of the MC members? Specify yes or no for each member.
  4. 5.    Has the MC attorney required PA staff to provide any information to assist in any aspect of Mary Roper’s legal proceedings? If so, please list those staff members.
  5. 6.    Is the MC being placed in a position to vote against its own attorney?
  6. 7.    What will the MC lawyer’s participation be in Mary Roper’s hearing?
  7. 8.    Should the MC be briefed prior on Mary Roper’s hearing? If so, by whom? 
  8. 9.    What are the potential roles MC members may face on tomorrow? I have no idea what the allegations are against Mary Roper.

10. What are the rules and procedures for tomorrow’s hearing? Will Mary Roper be allowed to resent evidence and arguments used in making a final decision?

11. Will the MC members be allowed to present evidence and arguments used in making a final decision?

12. Will witnesses be allowed to be called by Mary Roper at tomorrow’s hearing?

13. Will the MC members be allowed to be called witnesses at tomorrow’s hearing?

14. Is Mary Roper allowed to speak on her own behalf at tomorrow’s hearing?

15. Are the MC members allowed to speak as part of tomorrow’s hearing?

16. What is the potential for MC to be witnesses at tomorrow’s hearing?

17. What is the potential for PA Staff to be witnesses at tomorrow’s hearing?

18. Has the MC given any potential witnesses advance notice of their potential to be called as a witness in tomorrow’s hearing?  If so, by whom? What method?  Who are these witnesses? How where they selected or what will their testimony produce?

19. Where all MC members consulted regarding potential witnesses, evidence, etc.?

20. Should the MC members have received a copy of the court documents (judgments, etc.) on prior court proceedings?  May the MC members get this information?

21. How should I handle myself in court and questioning witnesses?

22. Is there a time length placed on Mary Roper’s hearing?

23. Is there a time length for any participant’s to speak (witnesses, council member, etc.) at Mary Roper’s hearing?

24. What options are afforded a MC member who may not feel adequately represented, briefed, or informed on procedures for tomorrow’s hearing?

25. What is the potential harm to Mary Roper if the MC removes her as Parish Attorney, besides losing her position?  How will this affect her ability to regain city-parish employment? How much of her retirement is at stake? Please provide exact figures.”

Roper’s hearing starts at 2 p.m. in City Hall.

Jackson, Miss. envious of Baton Rouge’s downtown progress, newspaper reports

Jackson, Miss is apparently looking at Baton Rouge for guidance on how to develop a bustling downtown.

The Clarion-Ledger visited Baton Rouge to observe the downtown Renaissance that’s been in motion for the past several years.

Similar to Jackson’s downtown, Baton Rouge’s downtown was once a vacant ghost town. Davis Rhorer, director of the Downtown Development District, estimated that about $2 billion worth of investment has taken place in recent years downtown.

Rhorer said re-opening historic landmarks like the Old Governor’s Mansion and the Old State Capitol, encouraging state offices to relocate downtown, and encouraging private businesses to take advantage of Tax Increment Financing all helped jump start the economic activity.

While many Baton Rougeans still look at other big city downtowns with envy, a Jackson reporter describes Baton Rouge’s own downtown as a booming cultural epicenter.

“From a growing residential population to a booming hotel industry, Baton Rouge downtown is accomplishing what Jackson leaders have envisioned for the heart of their own city: a renaissance,” the story reads.

Read the story here. 


PETA opposes cat trap-neuter-release ordinance

PETA has joined the list of animal groups who are protesting an ordinance that would allow for stray cats in Baton Rouge to be trapped, spay/neutered, and then released back onto the streets. 

The organization sent a letter to the Baton Rouge Metro Council and Mayor-President Kip Holden on Thursday morning, a day after the council voted to defer a vote on the measure.

PETA takes issue with the act of abandoning cats outside, and the impact of outdoor cats who prey on birds. PETA also takes the position that all cats should be indoor pets.

The council will vote on the issue at the Sept. 24 meeting. Advocates of the ordinance say the measure helps gradually control the stray cat population through spays and neuters, while dramatically reducing the number of cats that will be euthanized in the parish. Last year 1,700 cats were euthanized.

Here’s PETA’s full letter:

August 28, 2014

Dear Mayor-President Holden and Members of the Metropolitan Council:
We hope you are well. Our office is hearing from East Baton Rouge–area citizens who are deeply concerned about a proposal that would result in the East Baton Rouge Animal Control shelter refusing to accept unwanted and homeless cats and would legislatively condone the hobby of feeding, neutering, and re-abandoning cats, both friendly and frightened, to fend for themselves on the streets. This dangerous policy would cause animal suffering and an eventual increase in animal control–related taxpayer costs, and we respectfully urge you to oppose it.
PETA is an animal-protection organization, so the proposed policy deeply concerns us because it would undoubtedly lead to animal suffering and an increase in the number of free-roaming cats who procreate outdoors in East Baton Rouge Parish. In your role as public officials, we urge you to consider the liability involved. Not only will denying effective assistance to taxpayers who want homeless cats removed from their properties condemn animals to short, miserable lives (and deaths) on the streets, such a policy is also in direct conflict with the mission of animal care and control authorities and public health agencies.
According to the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, “no evidence exists that maintained cat colonies adequately reduce human public health risks or appropriately address their impact on pets or native wildlife. Several reports suggest that support of ‘managed cat colonies’ may increase the public’s likelihood of abandoning unwanted pets in lieu of more responsible options.” A case in point was recently described at in a story about a cat colony caretaker who reports that it is impossible to keep up with the number of animals who have been dumped and are dying at the site: “For the past 10 years Walker has tended to the cats at the river location but is troubled that the problem is worsening. Many of the cats are dying from distemper or neglect. . . . ‘It’s happening daily,’ said Walker. ‘Last year not a day went by that I didn’t have at least one, possibly two or three cats abandoned.’”1
In another example, Phoenix College in Arizona recently decided to end its “trap-neuter-reabandon” program for cats after approximately eight years because ”[i]nstead of stabilizing the population, it has doubled, creating an unhealthy situation for the cats and the community.”2
A study published in the peer-reviewed public health journal Zoonoses and Public Health found that “[f]ree-roaming cat populations have been identified as a significant public health threat and are a source for several zoonotic diseases including rabies, toxoplasmosis, cutaneous larval migrans because of various nematode parasites, plague, tularemia and murine typhus” and that “free-roaming cats account for the most cases of human rabies exposure among domestic animals and account for approximately 1/3 of rabies postexposure prophylaxis treatments in humans in the United States.”3
The proposed program to trap, neuter, and re-abandon cats in East Baton Rouge is also in direct conflict with Louisiana Criminal Law, R.S. Title 14, which forbids animal abandonment and requires the owners of cats and other animals to provide their animal companions with humane and adequate care. Individuals and groups that promote leaving and re-abandoning homeless cats to fend for themselves outdoors refuse, as a matter of course, to accept the responsibilities of animal ownership, including providing routine and necessary vaccinations and other medical care for even life-threatening illnesses and injuries as well as adequate protection and shelter from the elements and abiding by state and local animal-control and public-safety laws.
It’s also of serious consequence that roaming cats terrorize and kill countless birds and other wildlife who are not equipped to deal with such predators. A 2013 New York Times article reports that feral cats account for the majority of cat-caused wildlife deaths in the U.S., an astounding “2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.”4 The American Bird Conservancy reports that “[c]at predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline.”5
Allowing the presence and growth of colonies of homeless cats doesn’t just endanger wildlife and public health. It also sends a dangerous—and wrong—message to the public, because it implies that cats can and do thrive outdoors without daily attention, parasite prevention, regular veterinary medical care, adequate and safe shelter, and more. Nothing could be more untrue.
We receive countless reports of incidents in which cats—”managed” or not—suffer and die horribly because they must fend for themselves outdoors. PETA’s caseworkers routinely handle cruelty cases involving “outdoor cats” who have been poisoned, shot, mutilated, tortured, set afire, skinned alive, or killed in other cruel ways, often by property owners or neighbors who just didn’t want the cats there, regardless of the cats’ reproductive and/or vaccination status. A gruesome case in point is that of a cat who was allowed to roam untended outdoors in Baton Rouge and was found dismembered in a neighbor’s yard last month.6 In May, a “neighborhood cat” in Sulphur for whom no one would take full responsibility was found struggling inside a garbage bag smelling strongly of bleach. According to animal-control investigators, the cat had to be euthanized, and it was later confirmed that he had bleach in his lungs and had apparently been drowned or suffocated.7 Cats are not safe outdoors.
PETA stands ready to help in any way needed to aid the Parish in passing proven, effective ordinances and programs to address the overpopulation crisis in your community.
Thank you for all your hard work for the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Yours truly,
Teresa Chagrin
Animal Care and Control Specialist
Cruelty Investigations Department

St. George organizers planning next fundraiser

Organizers behind the proposed City of St. George are planning their next fundraiser, intended to help raise money for their final push to get signatures to put the city to a vote.

The event is August 24 at 6 p.m. at Louisiana Lagniappe Restaurant. Tickets are $125 each. 

In January, the group had similar fundraiser at the same location and raised about $18,750.

Until the proposal reaches a ballot, the campaign is not legally required to disclose its donors or finances.

Organizers have about 17,500 signatures on a petition, but are aiming for 20,000 before they submit it to be verified.

Parish Attorney takes jabs at Metro Council via Twitter

Parish Attorney Mary Roper’s days as the chief legal officer for East Baton Rouge are numbered — but she’s not leaving without some parting words for the Metro Council members who are seemingly pushing her out the door.

On Wednesday, she posted some scathing tweets to her account.

roper tweetsRoper has served as parish attorney since 2008, but she’s worked for the office for more than 20 years. In recent months, a faction of the Metro Council,  said they’ve lost confidence in her and attempted to remove her from her post.

The council was expected to hold a public hearing where she would contest her removal, but she struck a deal where she would resign from the post in exchange for another city-parish job providing legal counsel to the City-Parish Employee Retirement System.

But Roper hasn’t hidden her feelings on the matter. She’s accused the lawyers sitting on the Metro Council, specifically Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe, of trying to remove her so the job can be given to a friend.

Roper is expected to start her new job on Aug. 11, but she has not officially accepted the position. However, her office is holding a going away party for her this week.

Roper’s Twitter feed for the past month has been a window into her feelings about leaving her job and her relationship with the Metro Council.

roper tweets2

Trae Welch confirms he will vote against anti-discrimination ordinance

Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Trae Welch has managed to miss two controversial council meetings dealing with LGBT issues — a resolution to support striking unconstitutional anti-sodomy laws from the state statutes and a local ordinance that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

AX096_24D7_9Because the vote on the latter issue was bumped to the Aug. 13 meeting, Welch will now have a chance to weigh in on the matter and he said he would definitely be attending the meeting. He also said he would be voting against the ordinance.

For him, he said, the issue has nothing to do with fairness for the LGBT community and everything to do with being against additional regulations for businesses.

He said he watched the arguments made by proponents of the previous council meetings who said the change was important to economic development. Welch said, by the looks of things, business is already booming in Baton Rouge.

The ordinance has garnered significant attention from both religious and business leaders. The July 23 Metro Council meeting to consider the law was so well attended that public comment ran out the clock and the council didn’t have time to vote.

The Metro Council, however, is almost certainly expected to reject the ordinance. Welch, who was a registered Democrat until 2012 when he switched to Republican, was considered a possible swing vote.

He now joins Ryan Heck, Joel Boe, Buddy Amoroso, Scott Wilson and Tara Wicker as confirmed no votes.

Only C. Denise Marcelle and John Delgado have publicly committed to supporting the measure. Chandler Loupe is also expected to vote in favor of the ordinance.

Welch, 42, is currently running against longtime 19th District Court Judge Mike Erwin, who is seeking his fifth term in office this November.