BATON ROUGE — The state’s board of elected utility regulators has chosen Commissioner Eric Skrmetta as its chairman for 2013.
The Metairie Republican replaces Louisiana Public Service Commission Chairman Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish.
On Wednesday, the five elected members of the PSC then elected Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, as vice chairman.
Skrmetta said that as chairman he wanted all consultants to visit with commissioners prior to presenting their reports to the PSC. He also said he wanted the hired experts, usually economists and accountants specializing in utilities, to sign that they had no conflict of interests in preparing the reports for the commission.
New money laundering trial
BATON ROUGE — A federal judge has denied a new trial for a 40-year-old Denham Springs man convicted last year of laundering money for drug dealers.
U.S. District Judge Lance M. Africk, of New Orleans on Wednesday ordered Kevin Paul Calmes to report to federal prison Feb. 5 and begin his 30-month prison term.
In August, Calmes was convicted in Baton Rouge federal court on one count of money laundering, three counts of structuring large cash transactions to avoid mandatory reports to the IRS, and failing to file a report on one cash transaction that exceeded $10,000.
Man sentenced for vehicular homicide
LIVINGSTON — A state judge has sentenced a 32-year-old Walker man to 10 years in prison on a vehicular homicide conviction.
On Wednesday, Manuel Garcia-Gallegos pleaded guilty to the charge.
Livingston Parish prosecutor Charlotte Herbert says Garcia-Gallegos’ vehicle ran into the rear of a car in April, killing Dean Albares, of Hammond.
Herbert said Garcia-Gallegos had attempted to pass Albares’ vehicle at a high rate of speed, but hit it in the rear and ran it off the road.
Baker warrant amnesty program
BAKER — People who have had arrest warrants issued against them in Baker City Court may take advantage of an amnesty program during February to avoid unexpectedly winding up in jail.
City Court Judge Kirk A. Williams said people who have not responded to summonses to appear in court, paid outstanding fines or taken care of other obligations likely have had bench warrants issued for their arrest.
Former nonprofit worker booked with embezzlement
BATON ROUGE — Prosecutors allege a former finance director for a Baton Rouge nonprofit took money intended to provide computer training to community action agencies for the benefit of low-income Louisiana residents.
Kiamani A. Beasley was charged Wednesday for her alleged embezzlement of more than $50,857 from the agency.
Beasley is accused of taking that money from more than $10.8 million provided by federal agencies to the Louisiana Association of Community Action Partners Inc., or LACAP, between April 2009 and November 2011.
Mom arrested after her child tests positive for meth
LEESVILLE — Vernon Parish authorities say a 22-year-old Rosepine mother is facing charges after her 10-month-old child tested positive for meth at a hospital.
Detectives were contacted on Jan. 17 by Beauregard Memorial Hospital emergency room personnel about the child.
Detectives interviewed the child’s mother, Heather Jenkins, who said she had been to a house where meth was used and that the child may have been exposed while there.
Jenkins was arrested and booked with possession of meth and cruelty to a juvenile. Her bond was set at $35,000.
Strain named 2012 Vet of the Year
BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Veterinary Medical Association has named Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain its Veterinarian of the Year.
The association’s president, Dr. Dale Peyroux, says Strain has been a leader in both the veterinary field and in public service. He says Strain’s knowledge in and concern for animal health and safety transcends to keeping the public safe.
Strain, a past president of the association, said Wednesday he was honored to receive the award.
New Iberia trash pickup disputed
NEW IBERIA — The city of New Iberia may have to begin collecting garbage at Housing Authority properties following a ruling by a state district judge.
The New Iberia Housing Authority contends the city is responsible for collecting its tenants’ solid waste just as they provide the service for the rest of the city’s residents. However, officials say the city has not done so for the authority for some years.
District Judge Gerard Wattigny issued a summary judgment last Thursday in favor of the housing agency’s position in a lawsuit it filed against the city Jan. 9, 2012.
Mayor Hilda Curry said the city was not ready to comment on the lawsuit.
Judge suspended over misconduct
NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended a judge for one year without pay over allegations that his decision to reduce a man’s prison sentence was based on personal and political motivations.
The divided Supreme Court also on Tuesday ordered 7th Judicial District Court Judge Leo Boothe to pay nearly $12,000 to reimburse the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, which investigated and had recommended Boothe’s removal from office.
The commission concluded that Boothe held a hearing on a man’s request for a sentencing reduction in a drug distribution case to tarnish another judge’s reputation and to rehabilitate his own.
The Supreme Court disagreed with some of the commission’s findings but said Boothe engaged in “serious judicial misconduct.”
Boothe was first elected to the court serving Catahoula and Concordia parishes in 1991.
Taxpayers can begin filing returns
BATON ROUGE — People can now file their state income tax returns, but the state revenue department says the earliest tax filers will get their refunds is Feb. 26.
The department announced Wednesday that new computer software designed to prevent fraudulent electronic filing is being rolled out. That identity verification software means the first taxpayer returns will be processed Feb. 15 and the first refunds issued a week and a half later.
If a return is flagged as questionable, taxpayers will be directed to an online data test or telephone survey to verify their identities.
The Louisiana Department of Revenue says 82 percent of Louisiana taxpayers e-filed their state income tax returns for 2011, and the department says with the increase in electronic filing comes an increased risk for tax fraud.
From The Associated Press.