News Briefs

Melancon and mudbugs, Caillier faces feds, Grant Street update and more


There is little relief in sight for growers of mudbugs and satsumas and sugar cane, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to create a program for the distribution of $250 million in aid ' even though availability was originally announced in late October. And U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon isn't happy about it. When Hurricane Charley hit Florida in August of last year, it took only two weeks for President Bush to get the program moving. But in Acadiana, Louisiana farmers are still waiting for a simple sign-up procedure.

"While I can appreciate the damage brought by the storms of the past few months differ from what took place in Florida, our producers deserve, at a minimum, a response similar in size to that which was provided for Florida only one year ago," Melancon wrote in a letter recently to Andrew H. Card, the president's chief of staff.

And it's not as if USDA is strapped for cash. Records indicate that there was $778 million as of mid-October sitting in the department's Section 32 account, which contains disposable, non-obligated monies. ' Jeremy Alford


Former Opelousas Police Chief Larry Caillier will face federal charges, ending months of speculation. Last week, U.S. Attorney Donald Washington announced that Caillier had been charged with presenting a false claim to a federal agency. If convicted, Caillier could face up to a $250,000 fine and imprisonment for five years.

According to a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Louisiana, the Opelousas PD was responsible for a bicycle patrol that was funded through the Opelousas Housing Authority, which received federal funds of $225,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban and Development. Washington says Caillier submitted claims for payment "that he knew were false, fictitious or fraudulent."

Caillier already faces state charges of malfeasance in office, money laundering, public payroll fraud, forgery and obstruction of justice that stem from a state audit of the Opelousas Police Department. And this isn't his first encounter with the feds. In 1996, Caillier was acquitted of federal charges of conspiracy to aid the escape of federal prisoner Barbara Jenkins.

On Nov. 15, Caillier resigned after 15 years as chief. He goes to trial on state charges in March. ' R. Reese Fuller


Even though the future of the Byrd Amendment is in question, Louisiana crawfish processors stand to collectively reap about $2.1 million at the end of the year from tariffs collected on their Chinese counterparts. About 27 processors in the state will benefit from the 2005 collections. And while the award is being welcomed with open arms, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom says it seems a bit short. "It's a nice Christmas present for the processors, but unfortunately, it's a lot less than what should have been collected," Odom says.

In recent years, the processors, who filed an anti-dumping petition against the Chinese in 1996, have been eligible for amounts ranging from $7.4 million to $9 million. The U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to repeal the Byrd Amendment, which triggers payments to companies that petition and support anti-dumping actions. Dumping is an illegal act in which a foreign product is sold below the cost of production.

As to why the 2005 tally is lower than usual, Odom says the federal government isn't doing its job. "The amount is definitely a letdown from what they've received in the past, and I've been told that uncollected duties total more than $32 million this year," he says. The legislation to repeal the Byrd Amendment is now pending a House-Senate conference committee hearing. ' Jeremy Alford


The more than 100,000 pages of e-mails and documents released to Congress earlier this month are providing plenty of fodder for critics of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's response to Katrina. The recently released documents also reveal a few punchy remarks made by our public officials.

"I am in the mood to kick anyone named Katrina right now," Blanco wrote on Aug. 26, two days before the hurricane made landfall. She also mentions a "probable evacuation" will soon need to be called. The following day, as e-mails fly back and forth in preparation for the Category 4 storm, Kim Hunter Reed, deputy chief of staff, asks Communications Director Bob Mann if she could tend to some important business: "I assume I am safe to go grocery shoppingâ?¦?"

And the most notorious e-mail of the batch? Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff was trying to reach Blanco early Sunday afternoon before the storm hit, and one Blanco aide e-mailed the rest of her staff and said, "I think she's sleeping now." Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher denied that Blanco was napping. ' Jeremy Alford


Grant Street Dancehall owner Don Kight has been singing the blues about disputes with his landlord and says they are a factor in his decision to move the legendary live music venue out of downtown, but Grant Street Dancehall landlord Tim Mahoney is singing a different tune. Mahoney, a representative of Garden Properties, says that disputes with Kight "have been settled for quite some time" and that he doesn't know why Kight and Grants Street Partners LLC opted not to renew its lease. Mahoney also says he has been talking with several interested parties about keeping the Grant Street building open as a live music venue. "It's a landmark," he says, "and we hope to keep it that way." ' Nathan Stubbs


The oldest continually operating business in Lafayette Parish has moved out of downtown Lafayette. For 140 years, The Daily Advertiser has called downtown Lafayette home. But on Monday, the newspaper (along with its sister weekly publication The Times of Acadiana) moved to a new location on Bertrand Drive.

Jim Bradshaw, a veteran Advertiser reporter for 40 years, says the daily newspaper has been at its present Jefferson Street address since 1949. Ted Power, president and publisher of the Gannett-owned newspaper, says the new facility, in addition to the company's production facility at the same location, accounts for 96,000 square feet.

The paper's 300 employees now have a fitness room and new community room that can hold 100 at the Bertrand building. "We'll let employees host their alcohol-free birthday parties maybe, rehearsal dinners, or those kind of family things that employees have that they might need a little more room for," says Power. He hopes the new facility will also facilitate better communication inside the company.

The Advertiser's downtown property ' which includes some 38,700 square feet in four buildings, as well as two parking lots ' is listed for sale on Van Eaton and Romero's Web site for $2.2 million. ' R. Reese Fuller


Dailey J. Berard is back publishing letters to the editor at The Daily Advertiser that have striking similarities to Wall Street Journal editorials. The Independent Weekly first reported on Berard's letters in July 2004, noting how in one instance Berard published a 21-sentence letter to the editor that included 20 sentences from the WSJ.

At the time, former Advertiser Executive Editor Juli Metzger stated that the paper was addressing issues to ensure that letter writers were submitting their own words to the paper. After the article appeared, Berard wrote another letter to The Independent: "The recent attack in The Independent is meritless. I'm guilty of relying on my total recall memory base. It appears I was singled out for personal criticism because of my conservative views."

But Berard's letter in The Advertiser of Nov. 7, titled "Production limits push energy prices," again resembles another WSJ editorial published on Oct. 18. Berard's letter begins: "We better quickly realize that a major cause of high energy prices is the limits imposed on oil and gas exploration." The WSJ editorial's last line reads: "They need to start telling voters that a major cause of high energy prices are limits on oil and gas exploration and production."

Elsewhere, Berard wrote, "Compounding the problem is the special gasoline blends that are required in different parts of the country to supposedly reduce pollution," while the WSJ wrote: "These special gasoline blends are required in different parts of the country in the name of reducing pollution."

There are at least another half dozen phrases that are common to both Berard's letter and the WSJ editorial. ' R. Reese Fuller


Change is the one certainty at KATC TV-3. And once again, the local ABC affiliate's general manager is moving on; actually, she's moving home. After 3.5 years at the helm and a term that took the station to the top of the local ratings, Nannette Frye is returning to her 80-acre plantation home in Summerton, S.C., where her husband, Edward, works as a hospital administrator.

When she accepted the post, Frye says her husband indicated he would be retiring soon, but that's not turned out to be the case. "I think he wanted to encourage me in my career," she says. Frye isn't sure what her next move will be, though she may stay on with the station's parent company, Charleston, S.C.-based Cordillera Communications. "Right now we're talking about a couple of different options."

The company has named Andrew Shenkan to replace Frye. Shenkan, who is director of sales for the company's station in Lexington, Ky., assumes his new role Jan. 3. The Pittsburgh native and Tulane grad also worked as sales manager at ABC affiliate WBRZ in Baton Rouge from 1994-2002. ' Leslie Turk