News Briefs

Caillier pleads guilty, Grant Street's re-opening postponed and more


Two years ago, The Independent Weekly profiled infamous Opelousas Police Chief Larry Caillier ("Couillon in Chief," August 11, 2004), detailing his public exploits and legal woes. Caillier refused to be interviewed for the story, later telling KATC-TV 3, "You just don't communicate with idiots. Because then, you know, you'd be giving them â?¦ the spotlight that they wanted."

Caillier apparently shared the same kind of contempt for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Despite multiple earlier claims of his innocence, Caillier pled guilty last Thursday to federal charges of fraud. Prosecutors say Caillier filed claims to HUD "that he knew were false, fictitious or fraudulent" for a bike patrol conducted by the Opelousas Police Department.

Caillier still faces several state charges and charges by the state ethics board. He has not been sentenced on his federal conviction but faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. ' R. Reese Fuller


Despite constant construction and the best intentions of its new owners, Grant Street Dancehall will not reopen its doors the first weekend in June as originally planned. Dave Maraist, director of public relations and entertainment, says issues with permitting and licensing have bumped the club's opening back a month, maybe even to the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The club originally opened its doors on July 4, 1980.

In January, Maraist and a group of investors purchased the building in downtown Lafayette for $385,000, along with the historic club's name ("Staging a Comeback," Jan. 11). After completing the $215,000 renovation, a second bar will open by the end of the year in an unused room hidden behind the stage. ' RRF


Lafayette author Sharon Arms Doucet's children's book, Alligator Sue, has been chosen as the 2006 Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award in the elementary division by a vote of readers who know it best ' third, fourth and fifth graders. The story, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf, tells the tale of Suzanne Marie Sabine Chicot Thibodeaux, or Sue for short, who is blown off her parents' houseboat in the Atchafalaya Basin by a hurricane. Sue winds up in Mama Coco alligator's nest, where her foster family of Mama Coco and 30 alligator siblings raises her.

"The award is really an honor," Doucet says, "because it's chosen by the kids. Every children's writer's goal is to please kids, not to please adults." Doucet has been reading in schools since hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit. "Since the storms struck, it's been getting out to a lot more kids," she says. "I've been reading to kids who were directly impacted by the hurricanes."

The book focuses on Sue's determination and ingenuity. When another hurricane comes, Sue uses her father's accordion to bellow so loud that she drives away the hurricane. "That's when we have a really good time," Doucet says. "The kids make enough noise to scare away a hurricane. I think it's therapeutic." ' Mary Tutwiler


Before hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck last year, Louisiana residents thought the state and its economy were moving in the right direction, and public education reform was considered the most important issue facing the state. According to the results of a recent post-hurricane poll conducted by the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University, those sentiments have significantly changed. Only 34 percent of respondents think the state is moving in the right direction ' a dramatic 18-point drop from last year's survey. Confidence in Louisiana's economy has also dropped, with 49 percent of residents contending the state economy has gotten worse ' a 24-point downturn. David Bondy, chief executive officer of LUBA Workers' Comp and a member of the survey committee, says the results "should provide state leaders with an invaluable resource, and, used wisely, should help advance the rebuilding process." The full report and a summary are available at ' Jeremy Alford