Parish president gets big raise, but not without area complaints
Published 12:00 am Friday, February 15, 2008
By ROBIN SHANNON
LAPLACE — A hefty pay raise for the St. John Parish president was the topic of some very vocal public outcry at Tuesday’s council meeting from angry residents who oppose the issue.
The parade of disgruntled citizens began during a public hearing on an ordinance to amend the parish’s annual operating budget to accommodate the $42,000 rise in salary for Parish President Bill Hubbard. The raise, which boosts the president’s annual salary from $81,267 to $123,318, was approved during a finance committee meeting held on January 29.
Most of the citizens who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting were outraged by the amount of the raise, as well as the timing. Hubbard has only been leading the parish just under a month.
“So much else can be done with this money,” said LaPlace resident Victor Ortiz. “I think people who are not here tonight need to consider why they are not here to speak out against this raid on the treasury.”
Ortiz also took issue with the stipulation that the salary of the parish president would now be tied to the salary of the St. John Sheriff.
“I don’t care what the Sheriff makes,” cried Ortiz. “He makes too much too.”
Rebecca Floran, also of LaPlace, applauded Ortiz’s sentiments, and agreed with most of his arguments.
“Why was this raise not requested before the election,” said Floran. “Hubbard is no longer running for the office, he is the parish president. I don’t know one person who can walk in to their boss’ office and ask for a 50-percent raise. Is this just business as usual?”
Other residents who made statements believed that if Hubbard did not like the salary going in, he should not have run for office.
“I’ve worked for 40 years, and I never took a job without knowing what it paid,” said John Banks of LaPlace. “If I didn’t like the pay, I did not take the job.”
Not everyone who spoke at the meeting was against the increase in salary. LaPlace resident Michael Carter said the raise in pay is sure to attract more trustworthy candidates to the position.
“I think one of the reasons we have corruption in government is because those persons feel they must illegally compensate for their salary,” said Carter. “Why should we not attract the best we can get? Our population is growing and we need good leadership.”
Once the public hearing was closed, Councilman Ronnie Smith told the audience that while he appreciates the open discussion, the issue was one that has already been decided.
“Our vote on this ordinance has no affect on the raise,” said Smith. “We are simply amending the budget now to avoid changing it in six months.”
Many of the residents who came out to voice their opinion reside in District 7, represented by Cheryl Millet. Millet and Councilman Charles Julien were the only two council members to oppose the initial vote as well as the vote on the ordinance.
After the meeting, Hubbard said he understands and welcomes the right of parish residents to speak out on issues taken up with the council, but was upset that they made it a personal issue.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Hubbard. “But this raise is what the position deserves. This was not a Bill Hubbard issue.”