First, to define the problem.
In 2008 the City Council voted to give firemen a $400 raise to put them on par with the Police Department. There are Civil Service requirements to consider when calculating these raises.
Louisiana RS 33:1992 says:
- (1) A fireman shall receive a minimum monthly salary of four hundred dollars per month.
- (2) Engineers shall receive a minimum monthly salary of not less than ten percent above that of a fireman.
- (3) Lieutenants shall receive a minimum monthly salary of not less than fifteen percent above that of a fireman.
- (4) Captains shall receive a minimum monthly salary of not less than twenty-five percent above that of a fireman.
- (5) Battalion chiefs and district chiefs shall receive a minimum monthly salary of not less than forty percent above that of a fireman.
- (6) Assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs shall receive a minimum monthly salary of not less than fifty percent above that of a fireman.
Now it would seem that calculating raises and payroll should be the bailiwick of the city’s Finance Director, but apparently the Fire Department has a payroll clerk who does the calculations.
As I understand it, each station keeps a log of each employees time and after it is verified by a ranking fire official, it is turned over to the payroll clerk. She then forwards the information to Finance Director Joe Buffington’s office, where the checks are cut.
I’m not sure of the procedure in the Police Department, but from what I can tell each division turns in the time for their employees. I’m not sure if they actually figure the payroll or not.
This is a huge, screaming gap in the system.
An approved raise is implemented as approved by the council, is incorrectly input into the payroll system, all with no oversight whatsoever.
Payroll is sent to the Finance Director for the checks with no verification or oversight at all.
KPMG comes in regularly and audits, but apparently doesn’t even look at payroll.
Don Williams, David Montgomery and David Jones are expected to be appointed by the council to oversee an independent professional to oversee an accounting of what is actually owed.
Sean Green has a good account of the whole affair in the Bossier Press-Tribune.
The inconvenient truth of the matter is that, whether or not Sammy Halphen incorrectly implemented the raise, there are a lot of people who should have been double checking and making sure that everything was done properly. You know the old saying, when you are pointing a finger, you have three pointing back at yourself.
I think that trying to blame it all on Sammy Halphen is about as phony as Milli-Vanilli.