New Caddo Commission Plan Quadruples Down on Self-Pay
Early last month, a new Caddo Parish Commissioner contacted me as he worked on a plan to “correct” policies at the heart of the Commission self-pay scandal. I quickly saw that the work was another guarantee of Commissioner self-pay, tracing back to at least one veteran Commissioner who is dead at the heart of some of the worst self-pay abuses. Quickly, I refused any further involvement.
To the great disappointment of most Caddoans, I am sure, these slap-in-our-face proposals are now real, on the Commission website, set to be initially considered at its work session tomorrow.
First and foremost, readers should specially note that once our pro bono attorney, Whitney Pesnell, filed our lawsuit against the Commission / Commissioners last March, our legal “discovery” – even through the use of the Louisiana Public Records Law was extinguished by the trial court judge. So, as was the intent of Commission lawyers (we pay), we cannot get related documents to investigate who – specifically, inside and outside the Commission – is actually driving this attempt.
Second, it is most notable that there is no mention whatever of any return to taxpayers of a single dollar illegally taken from us by the Commission.
Third, we have no idea what chance of passage these ordinances have, but we do know to expect that the most substantive debate of these noxious notions will occur in a closed-to-the-public Executive Session of Commissioners.
Here are summary take-aways:
(1) Agenda Item 12. II, Ordinance No. 5559 of 2016, click here
This concerns the Caddo Parish Employees Retirement System (CPERS), and only removes Commissioners from the list of parish employees who are eligible to participate. Top administrators left on the list will continue scoring taxpayer match rates as high as 16.75%. There is no mention of return to taxpayers of the $300,000 or so illegally taken from us in the past.
(2) Agenda Item 12. III, Ordinance No. 5560 of 2016, click here
a. Commissioner salary increases would no longer be those also given to other employees. These have for years been carefully buried in the arcane budget process, beyond public awareness or debate, and without a Commission public vote. It in no way reverses illegal salary increases scored over the years, a huge amount, much less returns those ill-gotten gains to taxpayers. All amounts over $1,200 per month have always been illegal, and the salary is now almost $1,900.
b. Commissioners are also “allowed to participate” in either Social Security or “any 457 deferred compensation plan offered by the Parish.” This means the Commission can maintain control, post-CPERS membership, of its very own replacement plan, in secrecy, as it has been doing with CPERS for 15 years, and as the Louisiana Legislative Auditor has already noted.
This proposal is loud and stark evidence that the Commission does not give a hoot in hell what our Louisiana Constitution says. In a November 1996 vote – 70% statewide “yes,” and 69% in Caddo Parish – that amendment became Article X, Section 29.1 of our Constitution (see here), and includes Paragraph C. which reads:
(C) The provisions of this Section shall not apply to participation in the Louisiana Public Employees Deferred Compensation Plan, or its successor.
Put simply, that is the only 457 Plan which the Constitution permits. The Commission knows this, but refuses to cede control of these ill-gotten gains. We believe this may well reveal the intent of Commissioners to dodge taxation on illegally scored CPERS funds, seemingly a red-flag to federal investigators.
(3) Agenda Item 12. VI, Resolution No. 7 of 2016, click here
This proposal is another stark and nasty reminder that Commissioners WILL NOT give up their self-pay.
Here, Commissioners “cut” their annual travel “allowance” from $15,000 to $8,000. Commissioner Matthew Linn last year proposed this with a “cut” to $7,500. I believe the change by $500 is intended by Linn to somehow seem different, i.e., not his. That in turn likely proves most, if not all of these proposals, are his. In 2014, Linn became the worst offender of this self-pay bonanza.
We should note the history here. In a fit of anger over voter defeat a few months earlier of both a term-limits expansion and a tiny road repair millage, Commissioners voted this in 2014. Prior policy required that every Commissioner jaunt anywhere had to be approved by Commission action in a public meeting. Now, it’s no-questions-asked, no public debate or vote. More importantly, it is barred by our Caddo Parish Home Rule Charter, Section 3-05. – Compensation:
D. No commissioner shall receive any additional compensation, benefit or privilege, direct or indirect, because of his office.
Repeating, our demand is simple and direct: restoration of law, meaning no retirement for Commissioners, salaries at their legally achieved $1,200 per month, no travel money, health insurance, life insurance or automobile mileage pay, and the return to taxpayers of all ill-gotten gains.
Next, we learn which Commissioners will sign on the dotted line, owning this most recent, official act of self-pay.
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)