Settlement with state leaves Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office claiming victory

By Jamie Kelly | May 20, 2016

NEW ORLEANS—The conflict between the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and the State Treasurer’s Office over supplemental pay was unusual, not least because such disputes rarely escalate so far.

Disputes like that, which in this case ended earlier this month when lawyers for Sheriff Marlin Gusman provided the state with the job descriptions for the deputies at issue, are relatively rare, according to Michelle Millhollon, communications director for the Louisiana State Office of the Treasury.

“It is very rare for disputes to arise,” she recently told the Louisiana Record.

The state has a normal process for handling questions about eligibility for supplemental pay, she said. State law allows deputies with at least one year of service who weren’t hired to primarily perform clerical tasks or tasks not related to law enforcement to receive $500 in supplemental pay each month.

“Ordinarily, eligibility questions are presented to and settled by the Deputy Sheriff Supplemental Pay Board of Review,” Millhollon said.

The board reviews monthly applications for supplemental pay and also handles disputes over eligibility. A legislative audit released in April claimed that the sheriff’s office had improperly given supplemental pay to 56 deputies. It also said that the sheriff’s office failed to submit some forms and that it didn’t fully fill out others.

The board told auditors that in order for deputies to be eligible for supplemental pay, they needed to spend at least half their time working with or supervising jail inmates, as opposed to administrative or clerical duties. The audit claimed that the 56 deputies in question were assigned to various parts of the sheriff’s office.

“The OPSO employees who do not appear to have been eligible to receive supplemental pay include clerks, mailroom employees, facility management personnel, kitchen personnel and other administrative personnel,” the auditors wrote.

The sheriff’s office sued after the treasurer’s office began withholding payments that were earmarked to go to the 38 deputies found in the audit who were still working for the sheriff’s office. The case was settled on May 10 after lawyers for the sheriff’s office handed over job descriptions that showed the deputies were eligible for the supplemental pay.

In a statement issued after the hearing, the sheriff’s office categorized it as a “significant victory,” and said the office had been in compliance with the law authorizing supplemental pay.

“Today’s victory proves that my office has fully complied with the laws governing our deputies’ entitlement to state supplemental pay,” Gusman said in the statement. “We will continue to do so moving forward. We strongly disagreed with the position taken by the Legislative Auditor in challenging the entitlement of some OPSO deputies to receive State Supplemental Pay. We took action to protect the livelihoods of the law enforcement professionals of the Sheriff’s Office.”

The statement said the 38 deputies in question would keep receiving the supplemental pay that they were entitled to under the law, and that the sheriff’s office did not owe the state any money because of the matter.

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