Posts tagged ‘cameron parish’

Cameron official, others accused of embezzling

A former Cameron Parish ambulance district director and employees at a Jennings accounting firm are accused of embezzling almost $400,000, according to court documents.

A civil suit petition states that Stephen Kershaw, while serving as director of Cameron Parish Ambulance District 2, conspired with April Ebarb, Betty Bealer and Brittany Durio, all of Jennings and employees at Arthur D. Matte’s accounting firm, to falsely issue checks to themselves.

The activities were covered up by changing the names on the checks in the accounting software, according to court documents.

Kershaw reportedly pocketed $202,490.21 between 2005 and 2010.

Matte’s accounting firm was tasked with handling payroll, taxes and bills incurred by the ambulance district, which covers the Hackberry area.

The investigation began in 2010, during which FBI agents seized the district’s financial records.

According to records, Kershaw’s attorneys stated that he was pressured to go along with the scheme by Matte’s employees.

When Kershaw said he would report the fraud, April Ebarb reportedly threatened to tell the board of directors about the manipulation of checks.

Officials are asking for the accused to pay back the allegedly embezzled money and all legal fees.

No trial date has been set.

February 28, 2011 at 2:14 am

Alex south of border; rain still likely

*published July 1, 2010

Michael Collins, left, and Austin Vincent, both of Grand Lake, watch waves kicked up by Hurricane Alex, crash around them on Wednesday on the shores of Rutherford Beach in Cameron Parish. Collins' mother, Priscilla Collins, brought the boys down to the beach to see how even a far off hurricane could affect the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. BY CLAUDETTE OLIVIER

Hurricane Alex made landfall at about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in an unpopulated area of the Mexican coast about 100 miles south of the U.S. border, forecasters said.

Once landfall took place, the worst was over for Cameron Parish, said Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Clifton Hebert.

Hebert said the tides were 2 to 3 feet above normal at Holly Beach and that winds knocked down some of the Hesco barriers put up to hold back any oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.

“They kept the water from getting to the road, which was the point,” Hebert said.

Louisiana National Guard soldiers will be out today and Friday fixing them and adding more barriers, Hebert said.

On Wednesday, the Lake Area got a dose of heavy rain brought by Alex. Residents should expect thunderstorms and an 80 percent chance of rain today and a 60 percent chance of rain Friday.

Alex reached Category 2 status, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

The National Weather Service says the storm will continue northwest over Mexico and dissipate within the next two days.


July 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Alex reaches hurricane strength


Tropical Storm Alex became Category 1 Hurricane Alex at around 9:50 p.m. Tuesday and continued it’s trek toward the Texas-Mexico border.

Hurricane warnings were in place from South Padre Island to the mouth of the Rio Grande, according to the National Weather Service.

Alex had sustained winds of 75 mph and was moving at around 9 mph.

Landfall is expected this afternoon or evening. AccuWeather forecasters say Alex could still reach Category 2 status.

Category 2 hurricanes have wind speeds of between 96 and 110 miles per hour.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has declared a state of emergency for 19 coastal counties, but no evacuation notice was issued, according to the official state government website, texas. gov.

For the Lake Area, weather service forecaster say Alex will be dumping about two to five inches of rain.

Alex is the first named storm of the 2010 season and the first June hurricane since 1995, according the National Weather Service.

According to the Cameron Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, the impacts of Hurricane Alex to Cameron Parish would be mostly above-normal high tide.

High tides today and Thursday could run about three to four feet above normal.

No evacuations are planned at this time, but residents in low-lying area should monitor the weather very closely.

Rainfall of up to six inches in isolated areas can be expected of the next couple days.

Wave action is expected to affect La. 82 in areas from Holly Beach west. Residents are urged not to drive through water as it may contain large debris and is going to be salt water, not fresh water.

Lower Cameron Parish residents are urged to have their plans in place and be prepared to act on a moment’s notice if conditions change.


June 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Hurricane warning for Texas, Mexico

*published June 29, 2010

Tropical Storm Alex slowly strengthened overnight and is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane today, according the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.

Overnight, Alex was in the Gulf of Mexico about 500 miles southeast of Brownsville, Texas, with sustained winds of 65 mph.

Category 1 hurricanes have winds between 74 and 95 miles per hour, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale.

A Hurricane warning remains in place along the Texas-Mexico border and current projections have the storm making landfall near the border.

With it’s current path, Cameron officials said they only expect minor problems.

“Right now, the weather service is telling us we’ll get an extra foot or two (on our tides) with this current path,” said Clifton Hebert, Cameron Parish emergency preparedness director.

Hebert said officials are on 24-hour call because they know how quickly the situation can change with a storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We’ll be up early this morning checking on Alex again, and if anything changes, we’re ready to regroup and I know our people are.”


June 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Official: Cameron beaches still oil-free and open to public

*published June 25, 2010

CREOLE — All Cameron Parish beaches are clean and open to the public, Clifton Hebert, parish emergency preparedness director, said Thursday.

At about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the American Press received a call from a Cameron Parish resident who said she saw dead, oil-covered animals on Rutherford Beach.

The American Press observed two dead dolphins, each about a half-mile apart. Parts of the animals were black, but neither they nor the sand had oil on it, and there was no smell of oil.

Hebert said he has heard no reports of oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak coming this far west. He said the dark color occurs on the animals during decomposition.

“More than likely, there would be oil visible in the sand and water as well,” Hebert said.
He said the dolphins were likely caught in menhaden, or pogy, fishing nets. “We had a bunch of pogies wash on shore yesterday, from a broken net,” Hebert said.

Hebert took pictures and GPS coordinates of both animals to give to state fisheries officials, who will go out today to run tests.

“We’ve definitely been keeping a close watch,” Hebert said. “About every other day agents are driving all of the beaches, checking for oil.”

On March 13, residents reported seeing tar balls at Holly Beach and Johnson Bayou, but officials didn’t think they they were connected with the spill.

From the shore of Rutherford Beach about half a dozen offshore platforms are visible.

The Louisiana National Guard is in Cameron Parish to place a Hesco barrier wall along about eight miles of shoreline. The barriers, filled with sand, are meant to protect the marshes.

Residents with any information are urged to call the parish office of emergency preparedness at 775-7048.


June 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm

First responders train on digital radios for use during emergencies

*published June 5, 2009

Master Sgt. David Landry of the Louisiana Air National Guard demonstrates technology that can be used to communicate with anyone in the country from inside this van. The demonstration was part of the Region 5 Interoperability Drill held Thursday at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Each office in the area showed off emergency equipment during the training exercise.  BY BRAD PUCKETT

Master Sgt. David Landry of the Louisiana Air National Guard demonstrates technology that can be used to communicate with anyone in the country from inside this van. The demonstration was part of the Region 5 Interoperability Drill held Thursday at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Each office in the area showed off emergency equipment during the training exercise. BY BRAD PUCKETT

First responders from the five-parish area spent this week training on 700 mHz digital radios meant to connect their various agencies during emergencies.

“In the past, we did not have the funding or political support to make a system like this happen,” said Dick Gremillion, director of the Calcasieu Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Most of the equipment was reportedly bought with grants that officials received after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — the response to which, like that of Hurricane Katrina years later, was hampered by incompatible communications equipment and protocols.

“Katrina was a real wakeup call for us, because we lost all communication with each other.” Gremillion said. “And last year (hurricane season) we had very few problems.”

The system is called the Louisiana Wireless Information Network, or LWIN, said Mark Cooper, director of the state emergency preparedness office.

Cooper said there are about 42,000 users in the state, including law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers.

“Today we have 95 percent portable (radio) coverage in south Louisiana and 89 percent coverage of the state,” Cooper said. “Now Louisiana is being looked at as a national leader in radio interoperability.”

Cooper credited the partnerships between local, state and federal agencies as a big part of the successful network.

“Radio communication is one thing we are not concerned about going into this hurricane season,” Cooper said.

State police Superintendent Mike Edmonson said he is proud that people can admit their mistakes and work together to make sure they never happen again.

“For three days after Katrina, we couldn’t talk to our officers on the ground, and that’s a travesty,” Edmonson said. “We want to make sure that never happens again.”

He said that about 2.2 million people live along the Interstate 10 corridor in Louisiana.

“We moved 1.9 million people out of harm’s way when we issued an evacuation,” Edmonson said. “Unfortunately, we had not seen that in the past.

“I think now (because of previous natural disasters) there is a greater expectation from the public. Residents tell me, ‘We know what you can do, and we want to know our homes are safe and that we will be taken care of if we are told to leave.’ ”

All agencies brought their mobile emergency communications centers to show the systems they have in place for when all other power is out in their area.

Almost all centers are equipped with satellite communications for independent radio, Internet and phone capabilities.

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June 5, 2009 at 9:25 pm Leave a comment

More FEMA frustration

*published June 3, 2009
Agency’s ‘positive step’ nets Cameron little

Cameron Parish officials are scratching their heads over a FEMA announcement that puts a storage shed in Holly Beach but leaves the chance of rebuilding damaged schools up in the air.

On Tuesday, Cameron Parish officials — along with those of other coastal parishes — participated in a conference call with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In it, a FEMA public affairs officer read a cryptic letter that heralded great strides in resolving the high-velocity zone situation, said Cameron Parish Administrator Tina Horn.

“The letter wasn’t really clear,” Horn said. “And after the reading, they (the public affairs officer) couldn’t answer any specific questions about our parishes.”

A preliminary FEMA map puts about 80 percent of Cameron Parish in a v-zone placement that would prevent the parish from receiving federal funding to rebuild.

Both U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter sent out news releases praising Tuesday’s progress.

Landrieu listed six of 34 projects that had been stopped but that now have a green light for funding. The projects are in Cameron, Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Tammany parishes.

They comprise three buildings in Grand Isle State Park, a guardhouse in the South Shore Harbor, a radio tower in the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and a “maintenance unit,” or storage shed, in Holly Beach.

The Landrieu release said the projects account for $366,000 — out of the $33 million in 28 remaining projects.

Vitter’s news release called this an “important, positive step forward for communities in Grand Isle and Cameron Parish.”

He said the he would meet next week with Craig Fugate, the newly confirmed FEMA head. Neither Vitter nor an aide was available for comment late Tuesday.

“It sounds like they just took care of state projects,” Horn said, echoing criticisms made on the conference call that there was no local input. “We are the ones on the ground who have to deal with this. Why didn’t they talk to us first?”

In Cameron Parish, Horn said, the most important projects are getting Johnson Bayou and South Cameron high schools rebuilt.

Right now, the parish can only get money to repair the schools, but School Superintendent Stephanie Rodrigue has expressed a desire to rebuild both schools to federal elevation standards.

Rodrigue said she considers it a waste to rebuild schools to lower elevations when they could just flood or be destroyed again.

“And we don’t want our children in temporary buildings for another year,” Horn said.

Marni Goldberg, with Landrieu’s office, said the 28 remaining projects may be approved by the end of the week, but she could offer no timetable for the v-zone issue.

State Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish agreed with Horn that public input must be sought and that the coastal parishes must be able to rebuild.

“You have people rebuilding on Bolivar island (a peninsula near Galveston Island) right now,” Morrish said. “And the new hurricane season is here, and we’re still in limbo.”

Horn said Mark Cooper with the state emergency preparedness office had been pushing for a hearing with Fugate by the first week of June, but said she remains unaware of a specific date.

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June 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

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