Ferriday back pay issue referred to DA

Published 11:34 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FERRIDAY — Alderwoman Gloria Lloyd said Tuesday she would take the issue of back pay for fired-and-then-rehired Water Supervisor Gregory Griggs to the district attorney’s office.

The rest of the board — along with Mayor Glen McGlothin saying he had no problem with her proposal — voted to give Lloyd official, on-the-record blessings to do so.

Lloyd’s determination to take action followed Town Attorney Anna Ferguson’s advice against giving Griggs back pay.

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McGlothin fired the water supervisor earlier this year, but the aldermen voted to reinstate him in March. At issue is if he should be given back pay for the time he wasn’t working.

The problem is that Griggs was not a salaried worker at the time, and Ferguson said she found an attorney general’s opinion from 1986 that nearly mirrored the situation.

“It was a question of whether or not the mayor could send someone home and not put them on the schedule, and if the board of aldermen could reimburse that person for the time that that person wasn’t schedule,” Ferguson said. “It came back that it would be public payroll fraud committed by (Griggs) and malfeasance by you, and it is simply not allowed.”

The town attorney emphasized that the opinion was just an opinion, but she said it was one she would stand behind.

“It is a pretty straightforward factual situation and a straightforward interpretation of the statute, and I don’t think you are going to find a judge in the state with a different opinion,” she said.

When Lloyd said that Griggs was not just not scheduled to work, but rather was fired, Ferguson said the conclusion would be the same.

“If he was not physically there, we cannot just assume he would have worked 40 hours (a week),” she said.

Ferguson said the board, if it determined Griggs should be given back pay, could file a legal writ to force the mayor to cut the check, but it would have to go through civil district court.

Lloyd said the mayor overstepped his bounds in firing Griggs as a department head, and that such a firing would have to be approved by the board of aldermen.

“We are the governing body of this town,” she said.

“The mayor cannot fire a department head. The mayor can fire someone working for the water plant. The mayor can fire someone working at City Hall. He cannot fire a department head.”

The mayor has the power to make administrative decisions, and the board can choose to ratify or reject those decisions, Ferguson said.

In this case, the board rejected the decision.

When Lloyd said she wanted to take the matter to the district attorney’s office to find out what could be done, Ferguson said it was a civil and not criminal matter.

“If you take this to (District Attorney Brad Burget), he is a very knowledgeable, congenial man, and if you sit down and tell him this story, he will tell you the same thing I am,” Ferguson said. “If someone is paid money by this town for hours they did not work, the person who receives the money has committed a felony of public payroll fraud and the person who pays the money has committed the crime — I believe it is a misdemeanor — of malfeasance in office.”

Lloyd said her concern was doing what is right.

“I want to do what is right, and if Mr. Griggs is due this money, why not ask the district attorney?” she said. “If the district attorney says, ‘No,’ it’s over.”

McGlothin said Griggs is no longer an hourly worker, but — as of the adoption of the new budget — is now salaried.

In other news:

4The board voted to send a letter to Louisiana Economic Development declaring that the sites for several business prospects were within the Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District.

They did so to open the door for tax incentives for those businesses if they renovate existing buildings rather than build new ones.

“The assessment on the property is taken before renovation, and they continue to pay their ad valorem taxes based on the assessment before renovation for five years, and there is the option to extend it for five more at the end of that,” CPEIDD Executive Director Heather Malone said.

McGlothin said the business prospects in question could end placing three businesses in the renovated building should the project go forward.

4The board voted to name the park at the intersection of E.E. Wallace Boulevard and Delaware Avenue as The Matron’s Civic Club Park.

The Matron’s Club has been maintaining the park for years, McGlothin said.