Criminal Justice

Orleans sheriff continues questionable supplemental pay for some employees

More than two dozen Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office employees continue to receive as much as $6,000 in extra annual pay from the state even though they may not be legally eligible for it, according to records provided by the Sheriff’s Office.

The $500 per month state pay, intended to supplement the salaries for sheriffs deputies throughout Louisiana, is intended only for law enforcement officers. Last year, Bryan Collins — a former deputy at the city’s jail who famously leaked photos of a blood-covered jail cell to The Times-Picayune — provided The Lens a list of 51 Sheriff’s Office employees he suspected were receiving the pay improperly.

Three of the employees on the list, who did not hold law-enforcement jobs, were grandfathered in under a provision in the law allowing any sheriff’s office worker to collect the pay if they were hired before March 31, 1986 and were commissioned law enforcement officers, Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s spokesman Phil Stelly said last year.

The rest did not meet those criteria, and many did not appear to work in law enforcement at the city jail, as The Lens reported:

The employees in question include accountants, kitchen staff, administrative staff, maintenance staff, a human resources administrator, the head of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Credit Union and Gusman’s chief purchasing officer, whose base salary before the supplement is close to $82,000.

Collins flagged eight employees identified in the payroll sheet as ‘communications deputies;’ in fact they are switchboard operators, he said.

A payroll sheet provided in response to a public records request last month, shows that 27 of them are still working for Gusman and still receiving state supplemental pay.

Many of them are collecting it even though their positions appear to have nothing to do with enforcement or jail security. State law prohibits the pay for employees hired “primarily to perform purely clerical or nonenforcement duties.” But current employees collecting it include Gusman’s assistant comptroller, a mechanic, an assistant payroll supervisor and the office’s credit union manager.

Though the payroll report says otherwise, three other staff members  — Amanda Butters, Lawrence Gabriel and Cathy Taylor — are receiving the pay, Stelly wrote in emails to The Lens. Stelly was not able to explain the discrepancy, saying that the person best able to explain it was on leave from the office.

In an email, Collins wrote that there “appears to be no affirmative steps taken by the OPSO, to correct its blatant ongoing violations of the Louisiana Deputy State Supplemental pay program.”

“To continuously deliberately operate outside the boundaries of these established rules and regulations, calls into question the sincerity of the OPSO and its Sheriff, to do what is in the public’s best interest,” Collins wrote.

In fact, the 18 remaining employees from Collins’ list did not stop getting the additional pay because they were found to be ineligible. Most are simply no longer employed by the Sheriff’s Office. Fifteen no longer appear on the payroll sheet at all, and Stelly confirmed that they are no longer employed by the office.

Some left the jail altogether, and some, former in-house medical staff, now work for Gusman’s medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions. The company took over jail medical services late last year.

Three employees are still with the Sheriff’s Office but are no longer collecting the additional pay.  McRay Mottley and Teresa Lawson recently changed jobs and “do not qualify for state pay in their current positions,” Stelly said.  And one — Cynthia Coleman — is semi-retired and only working part time, he said.

The month after The Lens’ first report last year, Collins filed a complaint with the State Office of Inspector General and the Legislative Auditor requesting an investigation into Gusman’s use of state supplemental pay for his staff.

It’s unclear if either agency is pursuing it. The Office of State Inspector General and Louisiana Legislative Auditor have both told The Lens that they cannot comment on investigations. Collins said state officials have declined give him any information on the status of his complaints.

Asked if the Sheriff’s Office has been contacted by state agencies about an investigation, Stelly responded, “Our Human Resources Department has no information regarding any state agency contacting us relative to state supplemental pay.”

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