Police jurors must accept pay raise

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 15, 2009

VIDALIA — Sometimes, you’ve just got to take that pay raise.

That’s what Concordia Parish Police Juror Randy Temple found out when he tried not to take the increase in pay the jury approved for itself last month.

“I was disappointed because I thought we had the option of declaring our salary, and that was my intention,” Temple said.

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The pay raise was approved in December and went into effect the first pay period of January. It raised the annual pay of police jurors by $4,800 and the annual pay or the jury president by $9,600.

Juror Whest Shirley voted with Temple against the pay raise, and at the time, jurors believed that even if the raise was approved, they were not obligated to take it.

But that turned out not the be the case.

When Temple contacted the Louisiana Police Jury Association attorney to find out what his options were, he was told that, unless the ordinance adopting the raise had a provision that allowed the jurors to opt out by declaring a lower salary for themselves, they had to take it.

“Unless there is a declaration provision in the ordinance — and the lawyer said he never had heard of an ordinance that had a declaration provision — then the salary would be what the ordinance says it is,” Temple said.

The next question he pursued was if there was any way the ordinance could be amended to allow a declaration ordinance to it, but Temple said the attorney told him that doing so would likely violate state law.

“His interpretation was ‘no’ because once your salary is set, any attempt to lower salary during your term is against the law,” Temple said. “You can raise it up to what the law allows, but then you cannot decrease it.”

That would keep public officials from lowering their salaries for political reasons, but it also means that the ordinance has to stand.

“Any attempt to amend the ordinance would have the same effect (as lowering salaries), and therefore would be illegal,” Temple said.

Jurors have the option of donating the money back to the parish, but they would still be taxed for the full amount of the paycheck.

“I definitely don’t want to lose money,” Shirley said. “I wish the whole pay raise issue had never come up.”