The Attorney General’s Opinion that everyone has been waiting for has just been released.
At issue is a large portion of Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s take-home pay. The AG says he can’t use the fees he’s been paying himself as income; he can only use them to pay his office’s expenses.
The opinion issued today is summarized as follows:
“The Marshal of the City Court of Lafayette is allowed to collect the fees established by La. R.S. 13:5807. These fees are not payable to the Marshal as compensation, but should be placed into an account for the exclusive use of the Marshal for the expenses of his office. To the extent that La. Atty. Gen. Op. No. 11-0227 is in conflict with these conclusions, that opinion is recalled.”
You can read the entire opinion for yourself if you scroll down.
The opinion was requested by District Attorney Keith Stutes, who is prosecuting Pope in a criminal case that accuses the marshal of perjury and malfeasance in office.
The opinion, which originally was requested by Pope last spring, was completed but wasn’t released because Pope wouldn’t authorize it. At the time we learned that, the Attorney General’s Office told us that any elected official could request the same opinion. Stutes did so.
“It had been asked before and we were very interested in knowing what the response would be. When I learned that the attorney general’s attempt to present that opinion was somehow blocked or interfered with, I made the request myself,” said Stutes in a phone interview with KATC.
Some Lafayette City-Parish Council members happily received the news of the Attorney General’s opinion.
“Right now, we’re funding the marshal’s office to the tune of $1.6 million,” said councilman Bruce Conque.
Pope collected more than $200,000 in fees to supplement his salary between 2015 and 2017, money Conque said could be used elsewhere.
“How about our own police department? Some of those monies, if not all of those monies, could go toward funding of our police department. In providing more personnel, in better equipping them and just overall operations and maintenance,” said Conque.
And as for whether Pope will have to pay the money back, Conque said it’s up in the air.
“I think the other question would be is this decision considered to be retroactive? How far back do we go, if we do go back to seek some of the monies he’s received since taking office,” said Conque.
District Attorney Keith Stutes said he’s already working on the answer.
“Determining what next action, if any, may be taken,” said Stutes.
KATC reached out to Brian Pope for comment, he was unavailable.