NEW LLANO – The New Llano Town Council adopted an ordinance which cuts the incoming mayor's salary in half, and hired a new officer in its most recent meeting on Tuesday.
Council passed Ordinance 5 of 2018, which replaces Ordinance 6 of 2011. Several changes were made to this ordinance between the seven years, including the pay of the mayor.
Current New Llano Mayor Freddie Boswell makes $500 a week, but, according to the new ordinance, the incoming mayor, Denis Jordan, will make $500 bi-weekly for the first term, $700 bi-weekly for the next term and $500 a week in the third term.
New Llano Town Clerk Donna Condon said Boswell started off on a progressive scale, and instead of putting the scale into the ordinance, the council changed the ordinance to reflect the current pay.
"A lot of the stuff was just things that were supposed to be in there but wasn't," Condon said. "They recommended that instead of us setting the mayor's salary every time there is a new mayor that comes in, just to put it in there and do a progressive pay.
"Every time the mayor got a raise, we just changed it. We didn't put the progression in there. The LMA (Louisiana Municipal Association) said we needed to put a progression in there, that way you don't have to change it unless you want to change the progression. They allow you a certain amount of months when a new mayor is coming in to change it. We can change his pay as long as he's not in term yet. Had we known, we would have changed it awhile back."
While there are laws forbidding changing the pay of an incoming mayor who has not yet been sworn into office, Condon said she consulted with the town's attorney and the LMA attorney, and they agreed that this situation does not fall under those circumstances.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s office in May 2017 considered the question of the reduction of compensation of a Rosepine Chief of Police who was appointed to fill an elected position.
A finer question emerged from investigation into this issue – “Can the board reduce the salary of an elected position after the election but prior to the beginning of the term?”
An “Opinion of the Attorney General” was established regarding the 2017 Rosepine Police Chief situation. “In accordance with the Third Circuit’s decision in Avoyelles Parish Justice of the Peace, the Town of Rosepine may not reduce the chief’s salary,” the Opinion states.
The Attorney General’s website explains that an official opinion serves advisory purposes. “They do not have the force and effect of the law; and they are limited to the facts presented by the official or officials requesting the opinion.
“Further, the opinions may be changed or recalled due to subsequent court decisions and/or legislative enactments. As the chief legal officer of the State, the Attorney General is responsible for rendering opinions to governmental entities and officers only, and not to private individuals.”
This particular Opinion of the Attorney General (16-0161) sites a decision made by the Third Circuit Court which governs Vernon Parish. “The AG’s opinion is just a reiteration of what the judge’s decision was,” Jordan said.
The Rosepine and New Llano salary change situations differ in that the Rosepine Chief wanted to reduce his own salary due to already being in retirement. This is not the case with the incoming New Llano Mayor.
The similarity is that the Third Circuit ruled, regardless of specifics, a council/board cannot change the salary of an incoming elected official during the gap between election and his or her taking office.
“The prohibition against the reduction in compensation protects those who occupy an elected office,” the Attorney General’s Opinion states.
Other changes made in the new ordinance includes police hiring and promotions must be approved by the council, and the town cannot rehire an employee which previously worked for the town, unless he or she left in good standing.
Employees will now receive comp time for salary positions, and New Llano will pay to send employees to training and conferences. Employees will also receive Columbus Day off.
The town is in the process of putting its ordinances online, giving the public a chance to see every guideline the town must follow.
The new officer, Henry Finnie, was approved with unanimous vote, giving the town two full-time patrol officers.
Finnie left the department in January 2016 to deal with personal matters before coming back.
"(Finnie) had been here before, and when he left, he left on good terms," Condon said. "He had been here for a while, but left because his mother was sick. He let us know a few months ago that he was wanting to come back.
"We always knew he would come back eventually. It wasn't like when he was gone and never coming back."
The council did not approve another full-time officer, a reserve officer or a reserve dispatcher.
The reserves were not approved, despite it not being a paid position, because of the insurance and worker's compensation that must be paid.
The council also adopted a resolution that dropped the town's millage rate to 8.05 from 11.30.