Citizens Investing in Bossier School & Students: A Sham?

by John Settle
Shreveport Attorney John Settle
John Settle

Recent litigation to overturn the April 21 bond/tax election for the Bossier Parish School Board (BPSB) uncovered the existence of the Citizens Investing in Bossier School  & Students (CIBSS).  This group operated as a front to raise funds and make expenditures promoting the tax elections.  Full details are not known at this time because the BPSB has not fully complied with two public records requests (PRR).

Initially, the failure of the BPSB to provide approximately 150 emails regarding the CIBSS to a PRR dated April 27, 2012 is most likely a violation of the Louisiana Public Records Act. Many of  the CIBSS emails should have been included in the response to that public records request.

They are NOT Sheep!
Citizens Investing in Bossier School & Students (CIBSS)

What is known about CIBSS is indeed interesting.  It’s no surprise that the BPSB’s high dollar public relations liaison Sonja Bailes coordinated the actions of the CBISS.  The members of this hand picked group included Carol Presley, Mike Poole, Richey Jackson, Jill Frost, Mindy Wardlaw, Bishop Larry Brandon (yes, he does live in Bossier Parish), Bell Cothran, Ken Wessels, Lisa Harmon, Reverend Doyle Adams, Martha McGee, Gerald Pruitt, Jason Burns, and Ken Ash (Chairman).

Information from BPSB sources indicate that CIBSS was touted as a 501(c)(3) corporation, –that is a separate legal entity that had obtained IRS approval to solicit tax free donations.  The records of the Louisiana Secretary of State do not reveal the existence of a legal entity bearing the name of CIBSS.

Invoices for billboard advertising with Ace Outdoor Advertising and Lamar were mailed to CIBSS/Ken Ash, –at the BPSB post office box in Benton. (LINK TO DOCUMENTS) Sonja Bailes contacted Ace and Lamar Advertising for billboards on behalf of the CIBSS.

Frank Rougeau, Director of Finance for the BPSB,  functioned as the treasurer of the CIBSS.  Emails were sent to him requesting funds for yard signs ($2,436) and other promotional materials.  Rougeau dispersed the CIBSS funds from the Bossier Federal Credit Union, and he obtained money orders/cashier checks to pay the bills for the group.  Payments were made from this account to Fast Signs, Ace Outdoor Advertising, and Lamar.

Emails between Sonja Bailes, Frank Rougeau and Keith Norwood, P.E. (Supervisor, BPSB Planning and Construction Department) questioned if ads to be run in the Bossier Press Tribune promoting the bond  referendum would fulfill the requirements for running legal ads in that publication.  The response to the June 25th public records request did not answer this question, –or for that matter, or several other emails seeking information from addressees.

Obviously, the BPSB has not been forthcoming to public records requests, and for that matter to the general public regarding the April 21 tax election.  This attitude of indifference is reflective of a disdain for Louisiana law and Bossier taxpayers, –and is further indicative of the mindset of elected officials in the free state of Bossier.  More information has been requested from the BPSB, and litigation will be filed if needed to get all the information for Bossier taxpayers.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.