CLINTON — Twentieth Judicial District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla short-circuited a move Tuesday by the East Feliciana Parish Police Jury to cut salary supplements to his assistants, and jurors heard an earful from the parish coroner for questioning her billing for services.
Both issues stemmed from a Friday jury Finance Committee meeting.
Mack Herrod, the jury’s financial adviser, last month began researching the jury’s financial obligations to the District Attorney’s Office after D’Aquilla sued the jury Aug. 7, alleging an Open Meetings Law violation for a June 11 meeting to discuss the district court’s finances with judges, the district attorney, clerk of court, a sheriff’s deputy and the public defender.
Herrod said he found that a 1964 law authorizes five assistants for the two-parish district and sets the maximum parish-paid salary supplement at $1,000 a year for each assistant. The jury, however, has been paying four assistant DAs $2,400 per year and another a total of $7,200 per year, Herrod said.
No one currently on the jury remembers when or why the payments were increased, jurors said.
The jury was poised Tuesday to cut the supplements and attempt to recoup the apparent overpayments until D’Aquilla produced copies of a 1973 law that he said allows the higher payments.
Parish Manager John Rouchon confirmed he had provided Herrod with the 1964 law, prompting D’Aquilla to comment, “Mr. Rouchon, you’re not an attorney.”
“If Mr. Rouchon wants to be the legal adviser, name him the legal adviser,” D’Aquilla said, adding that his office is not often consulted about legal questions.
The jury decided to table the matter after hearing from D’Aquilla, but Rouchon criticized the district attorney for not speaking up during the Friday meeting but waiting until Tuesday’s full jury meeting.
Meanwhile, parish Coroner Laura DeJohn, who took office last year after the death of her husband, Dr. Michael DeJohn, told the jury that she should have been at the Finance Committee meeting.
“I was not notified. I found out about it at a nail salon,” she said.
The Friday agenda included the item “discuss coroner invoices, regarding double billing and lack of details.”
Rouchon said then he could not in good conscience approve some of DeJohn’s invoices because they lacked details on the services she actually provided. The discussion did not include clear examples of alleged double billing, however.
Rouchon said he thought a recent meeting with DeJohn had resolved the issue, but “personal meetings and emails don’t seem to be working.”
The committee recommended drafting a form for DeJohn to use in billing the jury that would answer the jury’s questions, but DeJohn asked, “What’s so different about it?”
She said she prepares her invoices for her services “the same as 63 other parishes.”
Rouchon showed her two invoices that should have been sent to two other parishes.
“So I’m not perfect. So I made a mistake,” DeJohn said, adding Rouchon should have called her about the errors.
“But you got your panties in a twist,” she said.
Juror Jason McCray said the problem seems to be a lack of communication, and he urged the parties to sit down and work out their differences.