Lafourche District Attorney Kristine Russell issued an opinion Wednesday, which said the parish president cannot raise his pay without having it approved by the parish council, via a budget amendment.
However, hours later, Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle released a press release detailing the terms of a lawsuit which he filed against the parish council on Monday, regarding his pay.
The issue of Cantrelle's pay stems from the Feb. 24 Lafourche Council meeting, where Councilwoman Luci Sposito questioned Cantrelle as to why his salary, and the salary of Brent Abadie, the parish risk manager, had a 29 percent increase during the first two pay periods of this year.
A video of the meeting backs Sposito's claim that "she was just doing her job" when she questioned Cantrelle.
However, Cantrelle felt Sposito was attacking him, and in the video he tells her, "Miss Luci, save it for the campaign."
And later when he was questioned about the incident, he referred to the council as a "Gang of Bullies."
Cantrelle also tells Sposito in the video, "I never look at my check."
In the video, Lafourche Legislative Auditor Reggie Bagala points out his findings on Cantrelle and Abadie's salary, saying that based on a 26 week pay period count (being paid bi-monthly for a year), the salary of the parish risk manager grew to $91,000 from $65,250. Also, the salary of the parish president saw an increase to $160,000 from $113,100.
"Both of these jobs are on pace to pay these salaries for the year," he said.
But later, Cantrelle said the council has been playing "ping-pong" with his salary, since his first day in office.
Russell said in her memo that Cantrelle was fully in his rights to award Abadie the pay increase, as he had desired (Cantrelle said he felt Abadie has been doing the job of three people.)
However, Russell took issue with Cantrelle and his pay.
"The parish president cannot unilaterally increase or decrease his salary amount in the enacted budget without an amendment brought before the council," Russell wrote. "It is my understanding that for any salary adjustment to be made within the parish accounting system, supervisor approval is required. In this instance, the parish president is the only person who could order a change in his salary amount. So, contrary to what the parish president stated at the meeting on Tuesday, Feb 26, he would have had to have been aware of the change in salary amount for the change in the parish's accounting system to take place."
"In any event, it appears as though an error was made in the enacted amount for the parish president's salary," she continues. "The salary of the parish president is set either within the charter or by ordinance of the parish council pursuant to the procedure laid out in the charter. But in neither instance may the parish president set his own salary."
Cantrelle, late Wednesday, said Russell's opinion is "erroneous".
"She's wrong. Everyone will see that. I filed suit against the parish council on Monday, so we're going to have an opportunity see how a judge feels the parish president's salary should be calculated," he said.