Lafayette councilman wants answers on Marshal Pope's salary, ope - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Lafayette councilman wants answers on Marshal Pope's salary, operations

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A Lafayette city-parish council member is seeking answers about the operations of Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s office, including about the legality of his annual take-home pay and the specifics of his employees’ duties.

Pope’s office has come under scrutiny since he became embroiled in legal battles in his first year of office. That scrutiny continued during the marshal’s Thursday budget hearing before the Lafayette City-Parish Council.

Bruce Conque, who represents Lafayette’s District 6, requested that specific information about Pope’s office is provided before the budget is finalized:

  • Marshal’s salary: The marshal doubles his salary each year by personally taking home certain court-related fees his office collects. Is this legal? If not, can those funds go elsewhere?
  • Marshal’s personnel: How much of his employees’ time is spent performing state-mandated tasks, and how much if it is left to the marshal’s discretion?

Marshal's financial picture in question

Conque contested a $40,000 request to replace a totaled vehicle and a $8,400 request to promote two marshal’s office employees, suggesting the office "has more than enough" to pay for those things itself instead of asking for funding from Lafayette Consolidated Government.

The marshal’s office has more than $600,000 in discretionary spending. The office has also had a balance of more than $300,000 for the last few years — except for last year, as the marshal spent about that much in legal costs and penalties in a public records lawsuit.

Conque is also requesting legal clarification on whether some of the money Pope personally takes home can be rerouted to fund other things.

Pope and his predecessor, long-time Marshal Nicky Picard, personally collected the civil fees now in question. But auditors have questioned those fees for the last two years, as a state law specifically exempts the Shreveport and Lafayette City Marshals from collecting them. Shreveport's marshal stopped collecting the fees years ago.

According to the most recent audit, Pope made more than $227,000 last year. The figure includes:

  • Base salary: $86,250
  • Lafayette City Court civil fees: $84,811
  • Administrative fees for garnishment collections: $36,066
  • State supplemental pay: $6,000
  • Retirement and insurance benefits: more than $10,000
  • Conference travel: $2,357
  • Per diem and travel pay: more than $800

Overseeing just 23 employees and a $1.7 million operating budget, Pope is the highest paid law enforcement officer in Lafayette Parish.

By comparison, Sheriff Mark Garber earns about $160,000 in salary and benefits each year to oversee his 830-employee agency. Lafayette Police Chief Toby Aguillard makes about $123,000 each year to oversee 329 employees.

An Attorney General’s opinion is pending on whether Pope's income is legal, but it's unclear whether the question will be answered in time for next Tuesday's public hearing on the budget.

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