Business Report

Companies are apologizing for cellphone and internet outages following flood, but they’re providing no plans for averting a repeat scenario

Faith-based and community organizations are planning to play a vital role in helping Baton Rouge heal

Daily Report

The Gates at Citiplace sell for $59.6M

Dan Gardiner officially became CEO and managing director of Postlethwaite & Netterville today, succeeding longtime chief executive Bill Balhoff and bringing a yearlong transition process to an end. Read more. 

Postlethwaite & Netterville initiates CEO transition plan, Bill Balhoff to take on new leadership role

Postlethwaite & Netterville has formally initiated succession plans to transition the firm from the leadership of Bill Balhoff, who is moving out of his role as the longtime managing director and CEO of the CPA firm next year. P&N formally announced the transition plan this morning. Balhoff—a longtime P&N employee who became CEO nine years ago—will transition out of the role next May and become a director of the company. Read more. 

Amedisys to pay investors $43.75M to settle class action lawsuit

Amedisys has agreed to pay $43.75 million to settle a securities fraud class action lawsuit shareholders filed against the company and its top execs in 2010 over alleged losses they suffered as a result of the company’s reported scheme to get additional Medicare reimbursement payments. The Baton Rouge-based hospice and home health services provider has notified the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the agreement, subject to court approval, was reached on Monday. The case is pending the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Louisiana, but will be dismissed with prejudice per the agreement. Read more.

State office leases at risk during Louisiana budget crisis, broker says

As Louisiana lawmakers cobble together fixes for the state’s numerous budget problems, one local real estate expert advises landlords to keep an eye on tenants that are offices of state government.  “As the state government is going through all these consolidations and budget fixes, their push is to consolidate state government employees into state-owned buildings downtown,” says Branon Pesnell of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate. “I think any landlord with state tenants needs to be aware of that. Those leases are at risk because of they have the ability to cancel them.” Read more. 

Baton Rouge pharmaceutical firm acquiring generic drug to expand footprint south of the border

Baton Rouge-based OncBioMune Pharmaceuticals is acquiring a generic drug that treats low blood pressure and heart failure from the Israel-based multinational pharmaceutical firm, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries. OncBioMune says it is acquiring the intellectual property rights and sanitary certificates—which confirms that the drug has been inspected and meets sanitary requirements—for Norepinefrine, a drug that’s already approved in Mexico. The financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. Read more. 

Metro Council greenlights Raising Cane’s River Center deal, Zipcar expansion

Major changes are about to take place in downtown Baton Rouge. The Metro Council on Wednesday unanimously voted to approve a 10-year, $3.87 million deal for Raising Cane’s to buy the naming rights to the Baton Rouge River Center and rebrand the venue the Raising Cane’s River Center. The council also OK’d Zipcar’s expansion to downtown. The car sharing company will lease four metered parking spaces within the Downtown Development District for a one-year pilot program with a one-year renewal option.  Read more.

Amedisys founder identified as Baton Rouge flood victim

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana projects to lose more than $200M on ACA individual plans

Due to flaws in the Affordable Care Act, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is losing hundreds of millions of dollars on individual policies, and new CEO and president Dr. I. Steven Udvarhelyi says the insurer will have to reevaluate on an annual basis whether it will continue participating in the market. Udvarhelyi tells Daily Report the problems are many. But in short, there are some ACA rules that remain unclear or are constantly being changed by the federal government. Meanwhile, he says, the government is not enforcing rules meant to keep people from jumping into a policy during a special enrollment period, getting costly treatment and then dropping the policy. Read more.

Louisiana poised to capture share of Cuban market if embargo lifted, agriculture and business leaders say

Louisiana is poised to benefit greatly by trade with Cuba, supplying commodities such as rice, if the United States lifts the long-standing embargo against the island nation, Louisiana’s business and agricultural leaders said today. But before the embargo can be lifted, other obstacles, such as Cuban reparations to American families and U.S.-based companies whose land the country’s government seized, must be addressed, they said. Read more.

Company behind ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ launches lawsuit against unknown Louisiana resident, alleging piracy of movie

Dallas Buyers Club, a limited liability company behind the 2013 major motion picture of the same name, has filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against an unknown defendant in Louisiana.Filed on Feb. 22, the lawsuit alleges the defendant, identified simply as Doe-, illegally reproduced and distributed the copyrighted motion picture, Dallas Buyers Club, through the peer-to-peer filed technology protocol BitTorrent. Read more.

The Times

Caddo Commissioner working on contract for Elio partner

One Caddo commissioner who voted to bankroll the purchase of the former General Motors Assembly plant so Elio Motors could set up shop there is now working at the facility for the automaker’s manufacturing partner. Commissioner John Escude, who donned an orange safety vest Thursday, said he’s been working at the old GM plant for Elio’s manufacturing partner, Comau, for nearly one month. Read more.

Prisoners sentenced to die by Caddo juries lingering on death row

Of the estimated 83  people on Louisiana’s death row, about 20 percent were put there by Caddo juries — more than any other parish in the state. Yet it’s been nearly three decades since a Caddo Parish death row inmate was executed. Wayne Robert Felde, 38 at the time of his death in 1988, is the only person convicted for a crime committed in Caddo to be put to death since Louisiana reinstated the death penalty in 1973. Others, such as convicted serial killer Nathaniel Code, who arrived on death row Jan. 25, 1991, and Percy Davis, who arrived April 6, 1992, for the murders of a convenience store owner and night clerk on two separate nights, are still there. Read more.

Outside special interest groups pay to influence local elections

The biggest curiosity of the fall 2015 election is why the far removed from northwest Louisiana billionaire George Soros, of New York, would give $851,000 to a Bossier City super PAC. Locals behind Louisiana Safety & Justice PAC aren’t saying much. Herschel E. Richard Jr., a local attorney listed as the PAC’s treasurer, would not comment beyond saying, “We formed Louisiana Safety & Justice to keep our citizens safe and to have a just and appropriate person in the DA’s office.” Soros’ contributions — four in all — easily make the New York City billionaire the largest contributor to the fall elections in Caddo-Bossier. Read more.

Exclusive: Cox accused of threatening defense counsel in death row case

Caddo’s acting district attorney Dale Cox threatened to cut the throats of counsel representing Eric Mickelson, court documents filed with the Louisiana Supreme Court say. In the documents, Mickelson’s defense counsel wrote they were within earshot of Cox when they heard the prosecutor tell his co-counsel he wanted to “kill everyone in here.” Mickelson is being re-tried after his previous conviction was overturned. “I want to cut their (expletive) throats. I’m just being honest and if any of them want to go outside we can do it right now,” Cox is quoted as saying. Read more.

Study offers limited opportunity for new trials

In theory, all of the guilty verdicts in a pool of cases an Australian nonprofit found to be part of a pattern of race-based jury selection in Caddo Parish are “suspect,” legal experts say. The study — called “Blackstrikes” — found during a 10-year period qualified black jurors were three times more likely to be struck from juries by Caddo prosecutors when peremptory challenges were used. Some are speculating about whether verdicts in the cases the researchers examined could be overturned, but the legal experts say it’s not that simple. “If there is an objection there may be an appeal issue. If there was no objection it’s not appealable,” said Jim Looney, the Louisiana Appellate Project director. Read more.

The politics of mass incarceration

The Bossier Sheriff Correctional Facilities on Old Plain Dealing Road had 1,433 inmates as of Thursday. The compound’s population is slightly more than nine times the size of the capacity of the old Bossier Parish Courthouse’s fifth floor jail which closed in 2005. Nearly 37,000 people were incarcerated in Louisiana as of August. Even though the state’s imprisoned population is smaller than its peak of 40,000 in 2012, Louisiana still is known as the prison capital of the world. Per capita, more of its residents are behind bars than in any other state, according to a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report. Civil Rights and advocacy groups have urged front-running gubernatorial candidates to make mass incarceration a priority and to come up with a plan to end it especially in minority communities. So far none have. Read more.

Local officials owe more than $17,000 in fines

Three former and current Caddo and Shreveport elected officials owe $17,275, combined, in outstanding fines to the state for failing to file timely personal disclosure and campaign finance reports. According to the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program, those who owe fines are: Shreveport City Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, Caddo Commissioner Jerald Bowman and former Commissioner Lindora Baker. The Times searched the names of all local government Caddo and Shreveport officials who served within the last year for outstanding personal disclosure, campaign finance and lobbying fines. Read more.

Update: Papers with names, social security numbers found in trash

The Oil City Housing Authority has admitted to throwing away documents containing visible names and social security numbers. The error left countless unsuspecting individuals, who were residents of the authority, vulnerable to ID theft as their personal information, such as birthdays and social security numbers, became easily accessible to anyone who stumbled upon the dumpster. The files were retrieved from the dumpster after The Times contacted the housing authority. However, Oil City resident Patricia Priddy, who stumbled upon them, said they had been there for at least a week. Read more.

Local doctors observe rise in infants exposed to drugs

The babies are born agitated, experiencing tumors and have difficulty feeding and sleeping. They have piercing cries, seizures, rapid breathing and are unable to calm down. Through their mothers, their bodies become addicted to opiates — often in the form of heroin or prescription painkillers — that are passed along through the placenta. And within days of their births, they begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. “It’s becoming such a problem we are in the beginning stages of developing protocols for how to deal to with this,” said Dr. Gerald B. Whitton, head of the NICU at Willis-Knighton South and the Center for Women’s Health, in August. Read more.

Black jurors more likely to be struck from Caddo juries

Renee Pipkins, 54, is college educated. She made her living working as a General Motors engineer in Michigan before packing up her life and moving across country to Louisiana with her husband, 68-year-old Everitt. They came for better weather and friends. The couple lived in Caddo Parish for three years before she was summoned for jury duty in 2012. She sat through the questioning and subsequently was dismissed after several days. “I was just surprised that I wasn’t chosen because of my background,” she said. Read more.

On the Brink: Payday loans

Advocates and government watchdog groups say lenders are skirting the parameters of the federal Military Lending Act — which is designed to protect military members and their families from abusive predatory lending practices. Payday loans are short-term loans that borrowers can use to cover expenses until their next payday. Read more. 

LED: Risk is too great for start-ups like Elio

Louisiana Economic Development isn’t usually in the business of providing up-front infrastructure or relocation incentives to start-up business ventures such as Elio Motors. The reason: risk management. This means many budding companies will have to produce real jobs before they’re awarded state financial incentives.“Startup companies commonly face challenges raising the funding needed to launch their projects. Accordingly, LED is careful to avoid placing state funds at risk with such firms,” said Stephen Moret, LED secretary, in an email to The Times.  Read more.

First Amendment issues surface in Little Free Library case

The Metropolitan Planning Commission’s zoning enforcement office is restricting the free flow of information and the exchange of ideas via books by using an antiquated law to prohibit Little Free Libraries — free book exchanges — from currently operating, First Amendment experts say. Read more. 

New England Center for Investigative Reporting

A Sinking System –Tracking and Taxing Bay State Boat Owners

An analysis of boat registration and tax records by The New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) has found that the state’s failure to change the system is costing cities and towns millions in potential revenue at a time when communities are struggling to fund critical programs. Read more.

Violating the Public Trust? A five-year look at Massachusetts public servants charged with crimes and ethics violations

The NECIR compilation of public servants accused of crimes or ethical misconduct was culled over the past several months from news reports, agency press releases, state and federal court records, Ethics Commission dispositions, government annual reports and interviews with municipal, state and federal officials. Read more.

Poisoned Places

An investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting shows that regulators in Maine and nearby states have taken months and even years to sanction facilities violating the Clean Air Act – even those the government itself has called HPVs, such as the Old Town paper mill. Read more.