After listening to a string of irate citizens berate the idea of police jurors increasing their salaries by 50 percent during a public hearing, members of the Acadia Parish Police Jury Tuesday unanimously approved a substitute motion by Juror John Quebodeaux, seconded by Juror Kermit Richard to remove funds for juror pay raises from the 2009 budget while retaining funds for raises for the secretary-treasurer and jury employees.
The actual amounts of employee raises will apparently be set early next year.
Gibson Miller led off the hearing by commenting, “To say you deserve a salary raise is dumb.” He warned jurors, “The issue won’t end today,” as he urged them, “Drop this nonsense.”
Another citizen wondered how jurors could consider a pay raise when he understood the budget contained a $500,000 deficit due to hurricane relief cost. Those expenses, however, are expected to be reimbursed by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He suggested the Jury amend its budget when it had those funds in hand.
Roland Faulk repeatedly confronted jurors “to justify the pay raise.” He insisted, “We need to hear your responses.”
Jurors ‘Fatty” Broussard, Richard and Quebodeaux admitted they opposed the pay raises, and Juror Thomas Sonnier commented, “For me, it wasn’t merited.”
At one point, Juror Quebodeaux asked Secretary-Treasurer Terry Lacombe to explain how the budget was formed.
One Iota area resident speculated that the State Legislature raised the pay limit for jurors from $1,100 to $1,600 per month, a step which may have prompted the Acadia jurors to seek a pay raise. Jurors currently earn $950 per month and were considering a $450 per month raise. He also suggested the Jury should move to give any raises in the next term. “That’s the right way to do it,” he said.
Juror Stevenson, who initially supported a pay raise for jurors, eventually said he would vote against a salary hike. However, in an exchange with Juror Broussard, Stevenson said he knew he and other jurors wouldn’t turn down a raise.
Roland Faulk was highly critical of how jurors were acting as he condemned “in-fighting on the jury,” and said the public doesn’t fully know what was going on with the Jury.
At the end of the meeting, Juror Quebodeaux came very close to confirming Faulk’s accusation. After serving one year on the Jury, Quebodeaux answered his own question, “Is everything the Jury does out in the public?” He responded, “I’d have to say no.”
Judging that frequently jurors come to meetings with “five or six having made up their minds,” the Rayne juror said, “Not everything is in the sunshine. We betray public trust.”
Juror Cade Benoit asked if it was possible for the Jury to have its meetings broadcast over cable television or radio.
In other action, jurors agreed to abolish the Acadia Parish Airport District #1 which oversees the operations of LeGros Memorial Airport in Mermentau. Juror Broussard cast the sole dissenting vote.
Juror Benoit emphasized he didn’t want to abandon the airport, but rather set up a Jury committee to manage it because all financial dealings must come through the Jury.
Juror Quebodeaux, who seconded the motion said the airport was likely the parish’s most valuable asset and “it might need more babysitting.”
Jurors agreed to form a committee of both jurors and citizens to oversee the airport’s operations. At the same time, jurors accepted the resignation of Reinhart Kondert from the district board.
Dr. J.D. Hains told jurors after 19 years serving on the airport district board he was ready to retire. As he walked away from the podium, he said, “You’ll have to appoint a whole new committee.”
In other business, jurors agreed to maintain their committee meetings on the first Tuesday of the month and their regular jury meetings on the second Tuesdays of the month in the coming year.
Legal Counsel Doug Wimberly told jurors their effort to abandon several dedicated road rights-of-way in Maxie was complicated by the fact that the original landowner had created a statutory dedication in 1955.
Because of the restriction, Wimberly said the Jury can only abandon several rights-of-way by determining there is no “public need.”
When jurors asked about retaining mineral rights on these would-be streets, Wimberly advised the Jury to take no action and seek a legal opinion from the Attorney General about exchanging property.
Jurors agreed to place two tax renewals of 2.12 mills each on the April 4 ballot. The tax propositions maintain the parish’s multipurpose building (Rice Arena) and the parish public health units.
Jurors acted on several appointments:
• Michael Richard was reappointed to the board of Fire District No. 5;
• Paul Miller, Sr., was appointed as a board member to Fire District No. 2, replacing Richard W. Heinen who submitted his resignation.
• Charlotte Jeffers was appointed to the Tourist Commission to replace Betty Miller who asked to retire as Crowley’s representative;
• Mary Bordelon was appointed to the Tourist Commission, replacing Mayor Roger Boudreaux who did not seek reappointment.
• Cheryl McCarty was reappointed as Rayne’s representative on the Tourist Commission; and
• Iota Mayor John Sittig, Lee Hebert and Ralph Lacombe were reappointed to the Communications District.
Jurors approved supplemental pay of $475 per month from July 1, 2008 thru June 3, 2009 for Director Lee Hebert and Assistant Director Kim Boudreaux of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.