AMITE — The 7th Ward Court marshal’s annual income could reach $200,000 this year, Tangipahoa Parish Councilman Nicky Muscarello said, calling it an “insane” amount.
Muscarello on Monday asked the Parish Council to reduce the parish government’s share of the marshal’s salary to “the minimum allowed by Louisiana law.”
The council tabled the matter until more information can be obtained.
Council Attorney Cliff Speed said state law prohibits cutting the pay of an elected official to less than what the official earned when first elected or in 1986, when the legislation was enacted.
Speed said the law does not mention any dollar amounts so it is difficult to determine how the pay could be reduced and by what amount.
Speed also cautioned the council that if it wants to take action on the matter, it must do so soon because state law is clear that the marshal’s pay cannot be cut while he or she is in office.
Marshal Gordon Anderson did not seek re-election. Former Sheriff’s Office employee Pat Farris and Ponchatoula attorney Jeff Lesaicherre are in the Dec. 6 runoff to succeed Anderson. The new marshal will not be sworn in until early 2015.
Parish Finance Director Jeff McKneely said the parish has been paying Anderson $1,215 a month since 1986. The city of Hammond pays the remainder of the marshal’s salary, which Muscarello says is $61,000 a year. Muscarello said the marshal is allowed to retain a percentage of the fees and fines awarded by the 7th Ward Court to use at his own discretion. With those fees, Muscarello said, Anderson in 2013 earned about $180,000 and that figure could rise to $200,000 this year.
“This is money that the marshal can keep for himself, and he doesn’t have to share it with his employees or anybody else,” Muscarello said.
In Tangipahoa Parish, only the 7th Ward, which covers the cities of Hammond and Ponchatoula and some of the adjacent rural areas, has a marshal.
The marshal is responsible for serving warrants, processing evictions and working with the 7th Ward Court judge in the prosecution and punishment of persons committing misdemeanor crimes.
Muscarello, who served for eight years on the Hammond City Council, noted that in about 2005, the City Council gave the marshal a $15,000 annual raise.
“It’s time for the Legislature to look at this matter and study how the marshal is making so much money. It’s a sin,” Muscarello said.
Parish President Gordon Burgess, Speed and McKneely agreed to investigate the matter and report back to the council at its next meeting.