Officials request raise from parish

Published 12:07am Tuesday, September 24, 2013

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish’s 12 justices of the peace and constables discharge their duties for $75 a month.

And representatives of the justices and constables told the Concordia Parish Police Jury Monday that their salaries aren’t enough to keep up with state-mandated training.

Justices of the Peace have judicial authority over a ward within the parish and hear civil cases in which the matter does not exceed the amount of $5,000. Constables serve as the enforcement arm of the Justice of the Peace’s court.

Both positions are elected to six-year terms.

District 3 Justice of the Peace Russell Wagoner appeared before the police jury Monday to request the jury consider giving the justices and the constables a raise from $75 a month to $125 a month and full reimbursement for conference fees in the 2014 fiscal year.

The conferences the justices and constables attend are mandatory per the state attorney general’s office, Wagoner said, and those who do not attend lose their pay until they attend another conference.

The conferences educate those who attend about new legislation that affects their office, and includes ethics training.

The attorney general’s office has also increased the conference fees from $125 to $175, he said.

“It is taking a toll on us,” Wagoner said. “Everybody has got to go. There is no opt out.”

Of the 22 parishes with the lowest population — including Concordia, Catahoula, Tensas and West Feliciana parishes — the average pay for justices of the peace and constables is $190.64. Of those 22 parishes, only Concordia, Catahoula and St. Helena parishes do not provide full reimbursement for the conference.

Concordia Parish currently provides $300 in reimbursement for the conference, while Catahoula Parish provides no reimbursement. Catahoula Parish justices and constables receive $175 a month, while Tensas justices and constables receive $200 a month.

When Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington asked Wagoner if the justices receive fees for hearing cases, Wagoner said they did but those fees were set by the attorney general’s office and that caseload was not guaranteed.

Ferrington said the police jury did not have the money to give raises and would have to see how the fiscal year closes out before the matter could be considered further.

“We will consider it, but we can’t promise you anything other than that,” he said.

The jury voted to refer the matter to the finance committee for further review.

In other news, the jury accepted the resignations of four members of the Lake Concordia Advisory Board, Ronnie Hendricks, John Patrick, William Hall and James King.

Ferrington said the jury would have to replace the resigning members soon.

“I think that (the replacements) need to live on the lake, have property on the lake and have an interest in the lake,” he said.