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Sunday, May 26, 2019

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Lafourche council questions pay increases for parish president, risk manager

Lafourche council questions pay increases for parish president, risk manager

The Lafourche Parish legislative auditor warned the Parish Council that the parish president and risk manager are on track to receive significant raises this year.

Legislative Auditor Reggie Bagala told the council Tuesday that according to the two latest pay periods, both positions are on pace to receive 29 percent raises. Those raises are not included in the 2019 enacted budget.

The parish president was budgeted for $113,100. The risk manager position was budgeted for an annual salary of $65,250.

According to Bagala’s calculations, if the pay increases seen in the latest two pay periods continue, Parish President Jimmy Cantrell would earn about $160,000 and the Risk Manager Brent Abadie would earn over $91,000 this year.

When pressed about the potential raises at the Feb. 26 council meeting, Cantrelle said the risk manager was given extra duties and compensated for completing them.

As far as his own potential raise according to the 2019 budget, Cantrelle said, “I never looked at my check.”

The proposed 2019 budget included a $160,536 annual salary for the parish president, up from $124,855 in 2018. But that increase was ultimately rejected by the Parish Council, which settled on $113,100.

Cantrelle said the $160,000 figure was calculated by the human resources department based on parish ordinance.

According to the parish code of ordinances, the parish president’s salary is the prior year average of the sheriff, assessor and clerk of court.

However, there have been discussions lately on whether that average is based on the base salary or the total salary for those positions. Each year, the sheriff, assessor and clerk of court are eligible for pay increases if they earn new accreditations.

According to state legislative audits, their base salaries (excluding benefits and reimbursements) for the previous year were as follows: sheriff, $160,338; assessor, $158,746; and clerk of court, $160,678. That averages out to roughly $159,920.

Their total salaries, including benefits, were: sheriff, $231,264; assessor, $208,117; and clerk of court, $250,475. That averages out to roughly $229,952.

“I didn’t figure it out, so if it’s right or wrong I can’t tell you that,” Cantrelle told Councilwoman Luci Sposito during questioning.

As she continued questioning him about who authorized the increased payments, Cantrelle repeated “I have no clue.”

“I don’t know, I haven’t looked at one of my checks I got. I just deposit them. I have no clue and I don’t care Mrs. Luci,” Cantrelle said.

Sposito referenced a 2017 district attorney’s opinion that ordered Cantrelle to return over $38,000 in “back pay” to the parish because the council never issued a supplemental appropriation approving the increased salary for 2016.

Based on that opinion, the council should have to approve a supplemental appropriation for Cantrelle to receive a higher salary than the $113,100, she said.

The salary issue is just political, Cantrelle said, noting Sposito’s plans to run against him in the fall elections.

“Why don’t you save that for the campaign Luci if that’s what you’re trying to do,” Cantrelle said. “Please save it for the campaign, save it for the campaign. If you want to make something up then save it for the campaign. But now I’ll bring some stuff about you too.”

If there’s enough money in the account, Cantrelle said, then the administration may not need a supplemental appropriation.

Councilman Jerry Jones asked Chairman Noonie Autin to call for a district attorney’s opinion on the issue.

“We voted on the budget in November, this increase is uncalled for,” Jones said.


-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.