HAMMOND---Calling a scathing letter sent earlier this week to parish and municipal leaders both “misinformation and disinformation,” 7th Ward Marshal Pat Farris on Wednesday vowed to “set the record straight” on the issue of his salary.
The marshal answered his critics who on Monday questioned the size of Farris' 2016 salary. He says that he is not only fulfilling his 2014 campaign promise to decrease his own salary, but he is also taking the minimum taxpayer-funded salary afforded for his post.
Farris’ statement comes on the heels of a media firestorm Tuesday when longtime veteran law enforcement official and former candidate for marshal Debbie Norwood sent a letter to Hammond and Ponchatoula city leaders as well as Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller and the Tangipahoa Parish Council. She urged them to cut their annual contribution to the marshal’s office based on figures showing Farris took home more than $230,000 in 2016—almost $150,000 more than he promised voters he would accept, if elected to the office.
In a brief statement sent to media late Wednesday afternoon, Farris acknowledges he campaigned on a pledge to “take the minimum salary of the Marshal’s Office.” That pledge was prompted after the 2014 campaign hinged on two issues—the nearly $180,000 salary of the office’s CEO and tens of thousands of warrants waiting to be served in the city limits of Hammond, Ponchatoula, and surrounding “rural” 7th Ward areas.
“I have taken the minimum salary which is funded by the taxpayers,” Farris said, detailing that his official salary is derived from three funding sources—$40,902 from the City of Hammond; $14,081 from Tangipahoa Parish Government; and $6,000 in state supplemental pay, which he says is "afforded to every certified law enforcement officer and firefighter” in the state.
That salary amount of $60,983 is what Farris calls the “minimum salary” for his position. With benefits-- including almost $13,000 in employer-funded retirement, as well as health and dental insurance—Farris earned $81,521.11 last year, according to paperwork obtained via a public records request for the office filed by Norwood and shared with media Monday.
Norwood says she did not take issue with Farris' “regular earnings,” but rather his so-called “extra payments” on top of his regular earnings. Those funds, identified in the financial documents as the “Marshal’s Civil Fees, Pat,” included $122,651 in “salaries” and $25,903 in employer-funded retirement contributions that were paid to Farris in the 2016 calendar year.
Farris identifies those funds as “civil commissions, not funded by taxpayer dollars,” and indicates that in 2016, the Marshal’s “share” was $122,651.
Farris said he is making a second attempt to get the Legislature to allow him to legally designate $50,000 from the “Marshal’s share of those commissions” to be used in the operation fund of the office. That bill, HB 73, was introduced by Representative Sherman Mack of Albany and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
"I am proud to be your Marshal and I am proud of the hard work my deputies perform on a daily basis,” Farris said. "We will continue to serve the citizens of the Seventh Ward and not be distracted by misinformation supplied by defeated candidates and a disgruntled former employee.”
The complete text of Farris statement follows:
In response to the misinformation and disinformation supplied by the defeated fourth place finisher in the 2014 Marshal’s race and a disgruntled former employee, it is time to set the record straight.
During my campaign I pledged to take the minimum salary of the Marshal’s Office and push to reform the office.
I have taken the minimum salary which is funded by the taxpayers. That salary breaks down as follows:
$40,902 – City of Hammond
$14,081 – Parish of Tangipahoa
$ 6,000 – State of Louisiana. This $6,000 is the supplemental pay every certified law enforcement officer
and firefighter receives from the state.
As for the civil commissions, not funded by taxpayer dollars, the Marshal’s share was $122,651. In this legislative session – which is my second attempt- I have asked for a specific bill that would designate $50,000.00 from the Marshal’s share of those commissions to be used for the operations of the Marshal’s office.
I am proud to be your Marshal and I am proud of the hard work my deputies perform on a daily basis. We will continue to serve the citizens of the Seventh Ward and not be distracted by misinformation supplied by defeated candidates and a disgruntled former employee.
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