Criminal Justice

Sheriff Gusman continues to hand out extra pay to deputies who may not qualify

Six months after a whistleblower accused the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office of paying $500 monthly supplements to deputies who don’t appear to qualify, the office continues to seek the money from the state each month.

And though Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office is now using the correct form, it still isn’t providing full job descriptions to the state. Those descriptions are supposed to state exactly what each deputy does to deserve the extra pay.

Nevertheless, the state continues to pay up. As of June, Gusman sought supplements for 41 deputies who don’t appear to be eligible, totalling $20,500 a month.

The state’s Deputy Sheriff’s Supplemental Pay program gives deputies who are involved in jail security and law enforcement $500 per month, or $6,000 per year, above their base salaries.

Under state law, the pay may not be given to any employee whose responsibilities are primarily clerical or unrelated to law enforcement. The law specifically excludes certain types of employees, including cooks, switchboard operators, mechanics and maintenance personnel.

In January, former deputy Bryan Collins questioned why a number of deputies receive the extra pay. He flagged administrative assistants, accountants, maintenance staff and Gusman’s purchasing chief, whose annual salary without the supplement tops $80,000.

A few of those employees were grandfathered in, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Most of the rest, spokesman Phil Stelly said in January, are entitled to the extra pay because they do some security work in addition to what is indicated by their job titles. He did not respond to requests for comment on this article.

The Lens reviewed Gusman’s reimbursement requests for the past six months. Nothing appears to have changed. Through the end of June, all 41 deputies in question — whose combined supplemental pay totals $246,000 a year — continue to receive it.

“My opinion, just based on my experience and, let’s face it, based on the ongoing behavior and attitudes of this office, they have zero interest in changing anything from the inside out,” Collins said after The Lens showed him the report for June. “It’s going to take external pressure.”

It’s unclear if or when that external pressure might come. Collins has asked the Louisiana Office of Inspector General and the Legislative Auditor to investigate. Neither office would say if they’re conducting an investigation. Collins would not say whether either office has contacted him to follow up.

In February, Deputy State Treasurer Jason Redmond told The Lens that because all applications and reports submitted by the Sheriff’s Office are sworn and notarized, the department “presumes the information is accurate” unless a complaint is filed.

Complaints are reviewed by the Deputy Sheriff’s Supplemental Pay Board, which oversees the program. But according to meeting records on the state’s website, the board hasn’t met since March of last year.

Gusman’s office also had been submitting an outdated version of the supplemental pay application. On the part of the form that asked what the deputy’s duties are, Gusman’s office had simply responded, “care, custody, and control of inmates.” That’s boilerplate language often used to describe the Sheriff’s Office’s core responsibilities.

In March, the Treasury Department updated its policy to require sheriffs to use the current application form.

In July, Gusman submitted 18 new applications for supplemental pay. He used the new form, but his office’s answers haven’t changed.

Although the form directs sheriffs to break down the percentage of time spent on each duty, there is no breakdown. Instead, a Sheriff’s Office employee wrote, “Care, custody, and control of inmates.”

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About Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado covers the city of New Orleans and other local government bodies. He previously worked for Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative newsweekly, where he covered city hall, criminal justice and public health. Before moving to New Orleans, he covered state and local government for weekly papers in Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn.

  • Incorporeal Matter

    It is time the Deputy State Supplemental Pay Board of Review, convene what
    should be a series of meetings. The OPSO should be first up, to have all
    questionable employees, titles and tasks reconciled against statutory requirement(s).
    When it is determined that information repeatedly presented to the state treasury
    was/is deliberately incomplete and/or false, causing payments to be made to
    employees that are ineligible, two actions should immediately follow. First, a
    demand for complete reimbursement to the state treasury should be issued and
    enforced. Second, the official that is ultimately responsible and has sworn to
    the accuracy and truthfulness of information submitted to the state treasury,
    should be held liable,accountable and subjected the full extent of any and all
    applicable laws.

  • amanda

    Is this cover deputies driving the undercover vehicles off duty and to.go back and forth home in which I know nopd pays for the gas and how can they when live in another my subdivision ive counted 22 different nopd cars and this is st tammany..