A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that employees spend at least half an hour of each day “loafing.” According to the American Time Use Survey, the number is closer to 50 minutes. So, what qualifies as excessive? Should taxpayers foot the bill for an employee whose productivity averages 75%? What about 50% or even less than that? Should it be acceptable for employees to use government equipment to visit shopping sites or dating sites? What about gambling sites or financial and/or loan sites? More importantly, should three Council members be allowed to usurp the authority of the Chairman as supervisor of the Council employees? Perhaps the most important question is whether or not these three councilpersons’ knowledge of a situation and their refusal to address it rise to the level of misprision of felony and/or malfeasance of public office?
At the urging of Parish Councilman Doug de Graffenried at the August Council meeting, NPJ submitted a Request for Public Information seeking documentation regarding the computer usage of Parish employees. The question has arisen whether or not certain employees of the Parish are spending excessive time surfing the Internet and/or working on non-Parish related projects during working hours. Councilman de Graffenried made the request after Council members Paige, Hoover and Bedgood refused to go into Executive Session at the July Council meeting. To understand how it is that we’ve gotten to this point, it is important to remember that the Parish Council is allowed to have employees independent of those supervised by the Parish President.
In July of 2013, Catherine Hamilton, the former Parish Administrator who also served as the Parish Purchasing Agent and the Council Clerk, retired from the Parish Government. In the months leading up to her retirement, the Council discussed at its May 20th meeting whether the Council Clerk position should be full-time or part-time and voted 3-2 with John Salter, Chris Paige and Rodney Bedgood voting in favor of the position being full-time (see exhibit below). The Council also adopted the job description of the Caddo Parish Council for their Clerk (see exhibit below). At its meeting held July 15, 2013 (see exhibit below), the Council unanimously voted to set the salary of the incoming Council Clerk at $35,000 per year. At its December 16, 2013 meeting (see exhibit below), the Council voted to increase the Clerk’s salary to $40,000 to be retroactive to October 29, 2013. In March of 2014, all Parish employees, including the Council Clerk, received a 3% cost of living pay increase.
During this time frame, Councilmen Salter, Paige and Bedgood frequently complained about the salaries of employees in other departments of the Parish Government.
In February of 2014, the Parish Council unanimously passed a new personnel manual that applied to all Parish employees, including those employed by the Parish Council. The Manual specifically addresses Internet usage, personal phone usage, prohibited websites and conditions for termination, among other things. All employees must sign acknowledgment forms showing receipt of the Parish Manual.
In 2016, a new Parish Council was seated. At its first meeting, Mr. Russell Rachal was appointed Council Chairman and Mr. Doug de Graffenried as Vice Chairman. Section 2.06.A. of the Home Rule Charter states (see exhibit below), “… The chair shall be the presiding officer at council meetings, supervise or delegate supervision of council employees, and carry out any other duties the council may authorize.”
In light of the refusal by Councilpersons Paige, Hoover and Bedgood to go into Executive Session in July, the question remains on how they will address the situation now that they can no longer sweep it under the rug. The information obtained under the FOIA request clearly indicates that the position of Council Clerk should not be full-time.
NPJ will continue to monitor for new developments in this story.
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