AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish Council on Monday introduced and set for public hearing an ordinance that would reduce the parish’s contribution to the salary of the Hammond City Court marshal by $12,156 a year.
The introduction followed a lengthy discussion about whether the parish is allowed under state statutes to reduce the marshal’s pay by any amount.
Currently, Tangipahoa Parish contributes $14,586 a year to the marshal’s salary and Hammond contributes $42,369 a year.
Under state law, the marshal is allowed to retain discretionary funds collected by his office through fines, fees and other services provided to residents of the 7th Ward of Tangipahoa Parish, which encompasses Hammond, Ponchatoula and some rural sections of the ward.
At the council’s last meeting, Parish Councilman Nicky Muscarello said Marshal Gordon Anderson brought his pay up to approximately $180,000 last year with the addition of the discretionary funds.
Muscarello told the council that if the marshal is making that much money, he doesn’t need the $14,586 the parish is contributing to his overall pay.
Muscarello originally asked the council to remove the marshal’s salary compensation from the annual budget. However, after hearing from council attorney Cliff Speed, Muscarello said under state law, the marshal’s pay cannot be cut below what he was earning when the statutes were adopted in 1986.
Parish Finance Director Jeff McKneely told the council that research of parish financial records shows that in 1986 the marshal was being paid $2,430 a year from the parish council. A number of council members agreed that apparently the marshal’s salary cannot be cut below that threshold, and by subtracting the $2,430 from the current amount being spent, they arrived at the recommended cut of $12,156 a year.
“There are more questions than there are answers to this whole situation,” Speed said. “Eventually, some court may have to resolve this.”
The parish contributes a total of $131,000 each year to maintain the marshal’s office. The City of Hammond contributes about $500,000 to the same fund. Muscarello said if the parish council were told it could not cut the marshal’s salary, he would later recommend the $131,000 be reduced by the salary contribution of $14,586.
Several council members balked at reducing the overall parish contribution to the marshal’s office because such a cut could affect the 11 employees hired by the marshal.
Anderson, who has served as marshal for more than 30 years, chose not to run for re-election. Pat Farris and Jeff Lesaicherre are in a Dec. 6 runoff to fill the position. Speed had advised the council that if the marshal’s pay is reduced, it must be accomplished before the new marshal is sworn into office in January.