Update: After this story was published, the state Department of Treasury told The Lens that Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office has been using an old form, and the state will now require sheriffs to use the current form that outlines exactly what deputies do.
The state of Louisiana has a straightforward way to decide if sheriff’s deputies should get a $500 monthly supplement: Sheriffs fill out a form describing exactly what each deputy does. If a deputy has received the proper training and works in law enforcement, he’s eligible for the extra money.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman, however, doesn’t always use that form. Instead, his office has submitted an older version that omits key information requested by a state board to make its decision.
As a result, the state may be paying some deputies who are ineligible for the extra pay.
The Deputy Sheriff’s Supplemental Pay program pays eligible sheriff’s deputies $500 per month, or $6,000 each per year, above their base salaries. Only deputies involved in law enforcement, which includes jail security, are eligible.
Bryan Collins, a former deputy turned whistleblower, has questioned the supplemental pay for 51 of Gusman’s deputies who received the supplement as of August. Their combined supplemental pay is $306,000 per year out of the $2.8 million that goes to Orleans Parish deputies.
The supplement cannot be provided to Sheriff’s Office employees whose responsibilities are primarily clerical or not related to law enforcement. The law specifically disallows certain types of employees, including cooks, switchboard operators and mechanics. People holding all those positions appeared on Collins’ list.
Earlier this month, Collins filed a formal complaint with the Office of State Inspector General and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. Employees with both offices said they can’t comment on any request for an investigation.
Gusman spokesman Phil Stelly previously told The Lens that most of the deputies questioned by Collins deserve the extra pay because they do some security work in addition to what is indicated by their job titles.
Three others, he said, were “grandfathered in” to the program under a provision of state law that allows all certified deputies hired before March 1986 to receive the extra pay regardless of what they do.
Sheriff submits old version of form
If those employees do perform security work, that information should appear on the applications that the sheriff submits to the state for each deputy’s supplement.
Those applications are reviewed by the Deputy Sheriff’s Supplemental Pay Board, which oversees the program for the state. As part of each application, Louisiana sheriffs or their designees fill out an “employment information form,” a sworn affidavit that is supposed to include a detailed description of each deputy’s duties.
In most cases, however, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s office did not provide those job descriptions.
The Lens asked the Sheriff’s Office and the state Department of Treasury for the supplemental pay applications for all 51 deputies on Collins’ list. The Lens received 27 of them. Officials said that’s all they have because of records retention guidelines and because some files were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.
Of those 27 applications, just one included the complete form and a full job description. That application was for an employee who was grandfathered in, so the duties don’t affect eligibility.
In most cases, the form submitted by Gusman’s office is different than the one available on the state Department of Treasury website. According to Deputy Treasurer Jason Redmond and Chief Financial Officer Laura Lapeze, Gusman’s office is using an old version of the form, from 2005.
The new version of the form reads:
New hires after March 31, 1986, must perform full-time direct law enforcement duties.
Describe present duties as a full-time deputy sheriff (Show % of time for each duty)
Twenty-three of the 27 applications for Orleans Parish deputies do not include the line, “Show % of time for each duty.”
The Lens asked the Sheriff’s Office several times to explain the discrepancy, but the office did not respond.
Job descriptions vague
Gusman’s applications are also light in describing what the deputies do. For the job description, almost all have the same boilerplate language often used to describe the Sheriff’s Office’s core responsibilities: “care, custody and control of inmates.”
Darren Barnes, Eartha Grant and Demonde Harris are three examples. According to the August payroll report, they work as an air conditioning repairman, cook and mechanic, respectively. Such employees are all ineligible for the supplement, according to state law. In each of their applications, the “percent time” request is omitted, and the job description is simply “care, custody and control of inmates.”
But the Sheriff’s Office apparently does have access to the correct form. The applications for Debra Prosper, a sergeant in the administrative staff; Nicholas Richards, a sergeant in the inspection division; and Tonya Jones, a nurse, all include the request for a percentage breakdown of duties. Again, “care, custody and control” is all that appears under the prompt.
The only application reviewed by The Lens with the current version of the form and a full answer is for an employee who isn’t even required to work security in order to receive the extra pay. Cassandra Myles was hired three years before the cutoff requiring eligible deputies to work law enforcement. She’s a docket clerk in the sheriff’s civil division, and her application reads, “100% data entry — inputs papers of Civil District Court.”
State will now require current form
After this story was published, Redmond told The Lens that the submissions are sworn and notarized, and the department “presumes the information is accurate” unless someone files a formal complaint. In an email, he wrote:
As it stands with the Orleans Sheriff’s Office, the board considers the applications in question as containing all the information needed for consideration of approval. In regards to your question of percentages, applications for Deputy Sheriffs Supplemental Pay have been approved in the past without the percentage of time listed. When only one job description was reported, the board assumes the duties listed were performed 100% of the time, which was certified by the Sheriff.
But he said in a phone call that the agency will now require sheriffs across the state to use the new form, with the percentage breakdown.
“We’re going to be emailing the sheriff’s offices across the state,” Redmond said, “letting them know we have a new policy that any application submitted must use the new form or it will not be considered.”
Records don’t match
Some records from the Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Treasury don’t match. Barbara Baier, a staff attorney for the Department of Treasury, told The Lens in an email that there’s no application for Victoria Nelson, a docket clerk, because she does not receive supplemental pay. In the email, Baier said applications have not been submitted for seven other employees on Collins’ list, and they don’t get the supplement.
Indeed, the eight employees do not appear on a monthly report on supplemental pay submitted by the Sheriff’s Office to the state in August. But the office’s internal payroll report for the same month says they did receive it. The Sheriff’s Office provided its own copy of Nelson’s supplemental pay application as well as two other employees who do not appear in state records.
The state, not the Sheriff’s Office, is responsible for making the call on who gets supplemental pay, said Gusman attorney Craig Frosch in an email accompanying the records provided to The Lens.
“It is our understanding that applications for supplemental pay are submitted to the state, and that the State Supplemental Pay Board of Review has the final say on questions of eligibility on a case basis,” he wrote.
Collins acknowledged the state’s role, but he said the Sheriff’s Office must submit complete information.
State employees “rely on the honesty of these sheriff’s departments to send this information in correctly,” Collins said. “That’s the entire sentiment and spirit of this agency — it’s always someone else’s responsibility.”
This story originally stated that the Department of Treasury did not respond to questions about the forms and the job descriptions. The agency responded after the story was published. The story has been updated with that response, including its new policy requiring sheriffs to submit the proper form.