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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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DA: Cantrelle must pay back the money

DA: Cantrelle must pay back the money

Last Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting began with a short but contentious exchange between Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle and Councilman Jerry Jones over the issue of two checks issued to Cantrelle for back pay totaling over $38,000. Cantrelle said the checks were to cover an accounting error that underpaid his salary over the past year and a half.

Jones asked how the administration came up with the numbers for Cantrelle’s salary and was told the auditor, Stagni & Company, had come up with the number.

The two checks in question were discovered by Lafourche’s Internal Legislative Auditor Reggie Bagala back in May.

On Friday, Lafourche District Attorney Cam Morvant issued an opinion on the matter, saying Cantrelle is required to refund the money as well as any salary paid over the amount approved by the council in the 2017 budget.

“In light of the fact that this amount was over and above the salary amount submitted by the administration and approved by the council in the 2017 budget, a supplemental appropriation is required,” Morvant said.

“At the very least, Mr. Cantrelle is required to immediately refund the amounts paid to him by the parish on May 19, 2017, in the amount of $38,779.31,” he continued. “In addition, any amounts that have been paid to him as salary that are over and above the amount approved by the council in the 2017 budget are also due to be refunded immediately.”

“I’m going to do whatever the DA says to do,” he said. “I will return the money. That’s not a problem.”

A parish ordinance enacted in 2014 says the president’s pay is based on the prior year’s average for the sheriff, clerk of court and assessor. That ordinance went into effect last year.

The parish president’s salary was listed as $122,812 for last year. Former Human Resources Director Tommy Lasseigne came up with $142,502.30 for the parish president’s salary this year.

However, Lasseigne said in an email Oct. 20 that based on numbers from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s website for 2015, the parish president’s salary for last year should have been $153,338.

Lasseigne emailed the District Attorney’s Office March 15 regarding the apparently incorrect calculations and was told it was an accounting issue.

The human resources department issued two checks to Cantrelle on May 19 – one for $25,000 and the other for $13,779.31. According to the human resources department, the state tax table prevented checks from being issued for more than $25,000.

Morvant recommended that the council establish a single source for salary numbers, pointing out that audit reports provided to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor include supplemental pay and statutory allowances in the salaries for clerk of court and assessor. He recommended that the council decide which amounts to include in salaries and should take into account the fact that the assessor has a different fiscal year than the sheriff and clerk of court.