Criminal Justice

State treasurer denies bonus pay to 38 Orleans Parish deputies; Gusman sues

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman is suing state Treasurer John Kennedy for failing to pay 38 of his deputies a $500 monthly supplement over the past two months.

The lawsuit, and the $38,000 in withheld payments, are related to a recent report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor that said Gusman appears to have broken state law by requesting the supplement for deputies who don’t primarily engage in law enforcement.

The report, issued Monday, found that between 2011 and 2014, the Sheriff’s Office sought extra pay for 56 employees who appear to be ineligible — about $1 million.

The $500 monthly payment is supposed to supplement the salaries of deputies primarily hired for law enforcement. The Legislative Auditor found that it was going to “clerks, mailroom employees, facility management personnel, kitchen personnel, and other administrative personnel.”

Its findings echo Lens reporting over the past two years.

Monday, Gusman said he disagreed with the auditor’s interpretation of the law, and Tuesday night he said he had filed a lawsuit over the matter.

In a written statement, state Treasurer John Kennedy referred to the Legislative Auditor’s report and said, “We cannot violate state law. We cannot pay those employees unless a judge tells us otherwise.”

The Sheriff’s Office provided the lawsuit to The Lens on Wednesday, with a proof of filing from the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court.

According to the lawsuit, the Sheriff’s Office requested about $207,000 in supplemental pay for February but received only $188,000. It requested about $187,000 in March but received just $168,000.

“The failure to make the required payment has resulted in 38 deputies in Orleans Parish being deprived of their state supplemental pay, which is an extreme hardship given the large portion of their compensation which consists of state supplemental pay,” attorney Robert Tarcza wrote in the lawsuit.

The suit claims that the Treasury department does not have the authority to deny the payments. “The deputies are entitled by law to receive state supplemental pay,” Tarcza wrote.

Last month, The Lens counted 37 current employees who received the pay even though their jobs appeared to have little to do with law enforcement.

This story was updated with information from the Sheriff’s Office confirming that the lawsuit has been filed and with a statement from state Treasurer John Kennedy. (April 6, 2016)

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