With just 23 employees, Lafayette Marshal highest paid officer in the parish

1:52 PM, Mar 28, 2017
12:04 PM, Jun 28, 2019

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope appears to be the highest paid law enforcement officer in Lafayette Parish.

Amid questions on whether Pope has been following the law when more than doubling his salary each year by taking home civil and garnishment fees, KATC Investigates took a look at how other law enforcement leaders’ salaries measure up with the marshal’s.

Lafayette Police Chief Toby Aguillard, who leads a 329-employee department, is paid just more than $123,000 a year, including benefits, according to the Lafayette Consolidated Government human resources department.

And Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber, whose agency employs 830 people, still comes in short of the marshal’s income, earning about $160,000 in salary and benefits each year, the agency’s human resources department confirmed.

By contrast, Pope’s been taking home at least more than $166,000 annually since he took office in 2015.

The marshal’s pay has come into question since he defaulted on a $21,000 payment he owes The Independent, which successfully sued him for withholding public records — a legal action that ultimately led to Pope’s indictment on counts of perjury and malfeasance.

According to Gary McGoffin, who represents The Independent, Pope is claiming he has no money or assets to pay the debt.

In his office’s most recent audit, Pope received a base salary of $61,000 plus benefits and state supplemental pay — a total of $80,730 — during his first 10 months in office in 2015. But his compensation during that same period amounted to $166,427, a number reached through Pope’s personal collection of certain fees.

The fees are collected through the city court system for the marshal’s office’s daily tasks, with fixed amounts appropriated to activities, like serving lawsuits ($10 for each service or attempted service). Pope also collects a 6 percent administrative fee on all garnishments the office collects.

State auditors questioned whether his personal collection of the administrative fee is legal and, in April 2016, suggested the marshal get a state Attorney General’s opinion on that.

Although he told auditors he’d request the opinion by November of last year, Pope only submitted an opinion request in March, according to the letter obtained by KATC Investigates. He’s seeking an opinion on not only the garnishment collections but on whether he’s been legally taking home the civil fees, as well.

The practice also happened under Pope’s longtime predecessor, Nicky Picard.

Although some Marshal’s Offices can collect those fees, Lafayette appears to be exempt from that provision.