Unauthorized $9K pay raise; assistant St. John library director suspended

Published 9:10 am Tuesday, April 23, 2019

RESERVE — The St. John the Baptist Parish Library system is without an acting director or assistant director as of Monday night, and numerous employees will soon be asked to return money routed to their accounts from an unauthorized four percent pay increase.

Library Board of Control president Virgie Jarrow-Johnson was tasked with overseeing day-to-day operations after assistant director Dana Douglas was suspended without pay during Monday’s library board meeting in Reserve.

The suspension resulted from the discovery of incremental, unauthorized pay raises that increased Douglas’ salary by 11 percent, or approximately $9,000, between January 2018 and March 2019.

Douglas took on all library director responsibilities in January, when former director Trina Smith was moved to a children’s librarian role.

Overseeing employee pay was among her director responsibilities.

Pay scale confusion went beyond Douglas’ salary during Monday’s meeting.

The Library Board additionally seeks to reclaim public funds mistakenly distributed via an unauthorized four percent pay increase for all employees who had worked at the library for more than six months as of Jan. 1.

The employees should have received a two percent increase, according to Library Board officials.

Board members passed a motion requiring pay scales corrected in the system and a plan to be in place by Friday to ensure funds improperly paid eventually return to the library system.

Douglas accepted responsibility for the four percent raise, citing a misunderstanding over policy. However, she adamantly denied having any knowledge or involvement in her own pay increase.

Douglas reacted with surprise upon hearing the $9,000 figure and seeing the paystubs, stating, “That’s impossible.”

“I’m an honest person, and I think you all need to find out what happened here,” Douglas said.

“I’m not a person that has to monitor my checking account. I run a business, too, and I make good money running my business outside of this. I’m not a person who has to watch my paycheck, so I never watch my paycheck.”

Board members Blaine Tatje and Lisa Tregre-Wilder expressed doubt, the latter noting Douglas’ salary “strategically” raised to the next level month-by-month in 2019.

“If you did not realize almost a $10,000 raise in your bank account, how can we possibly believe everything else is accurate?” Tregre-Wilder asked.

Tatje, who discovered the payroll anomalies after his recent appointment to the board, made a motion that Douglas be suspended without pay until further notice.

“At this time, she has to turn in all library property, access cards, keys and equipment immediately,” Tatje said. “She is further restricted from logging into any library accounts, systems or documents. The Library Board of Control president of St. John the Baptist Parish is to step into the roles of director and assistant director until further notice.”

Tregre-Wilder said more information would be released to the public after a thorough investigation.