New St. John employees benefit from updated pay ordinance

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – After several minutes of intense debate between the St. John Council and the parish president, the council narrowly approved an ordinance that awards credit to new hires for job-related experience outside of parish government.

The council voted 5-3 on Tuesday night in favor of starting new parish employees at an appropriate level in the parish pay scale based on previous on the job experience they may have gotten elsewhere. Councilmen Haston Lewis, Dale Wolfe, and Charles Julien cast the three no votes. Councilman Danny Millet was absent from the meeting due to illness.

Before the vote took place, Parish President Bill Hubbard told the council he believed the ordinance could be beneficial to the parish in helping the area move forward and continue to be progressive.

“This is a real common sense ordinance,” Hubbard said. “It is pro business, and fair to all of our employees.”

Wolfe, the councilman-at-large for Division A, disagreed with Hubbard’s assessment saying that it prevents employees who are already employed by the parish from getting better jobs when a position comes open. He said it allows the parish president to hire whomever he wants.

“If this passes, our employees don’t stand a chance,” said Wolfe. “Employees who have been here several years get sold down the river.”

Julien, who represents District 3 on the council, questioned Hubbard on how the parish would determine where a new hire would fall on the pay scale.

“Would a new employee with five years of experience outside the parish start at an equal level within the parish,” asked Julien to Hubbard.

Hubbard responded by saying the parish would take it on a case-by-case scenario, but said it would be fair and even regardless of the level.

The ordinance that passed Tuesday was one section of a larger three-part ordinance, proposed in late April, to totally revamp St. John’s hourly pay scale system. The first part, which granted raises to all of the parish’s water plant operators, passed last month. The third proposal, which would have added a new pay grade to the system, and also would have created a “professional administrator” position within the parish, failed Tuesday due to a lack of a majority.

After the meeting, St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the ordinance that failed would have been a great opportunity to attract more middle management to the parish. He said voting it down now puts a cap on advancement for parish employees.

Wolfe said the ordinance would have further diminished the morale among some parish employees. He said some of them already feel cheated by the parish.

“These two ordinances will come back to haunt you,” Wolfe said. “I hope the employees remember this evening.”