Civil Service board will take mayor to court

The Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board will seek a court order forcing Mayor Bob Morris to sign a payroll change for two records clerks newly enrolled in Civil Service.

The board decided on that course of action at its April meeting after trying, according to Chairman Keith Vidrine, everything it knows to do to avoid hiring a lawyer and suing.

The mayor has also refused to sign change of status forms for three police officers who recently completed Police Academy training. That form does not affect their pay rates, only their job titles.

Once signed, the records clerks will receive back pay to last fall, the total being the difference per hour between their non-classified pay rate and their Civil Service rate.

Morris said his refusal to sign the pay changes is rooted in his belief the Records Office could make do with fewer people, not a quarrel with the classified system.

Civil Service Board member Roland Miller said Morris’ “hardheadedness” is “costing the city money for no reason.”

The mayor and Police Chief Gary Fontenot have gone round and round over payroll and other departmental costs since Morris took office.

Morris feels the Police Department has not made the same effort as other departments to reduce or restrain spending.

The chief has said Morris is underestimating the workload in the records area.

Putting the clerks under Civil Service, the chief has said, is required by state law. The same law requires that jailers be classified, a process which is under way in Eunice.

At its March meeting, the City Council meeting approved the classification of the two clerks and authorized Morris to sign the documents.

Morris at the time said, “In my opinion hiring three full-time up there is a waste of money.”

Fontenot responded at the time that the law requires most employees reporting to him to be Civil Service.

“The law doesn’t say you have to have three full-time clerks,” Morris noted.

Morris at the same meeting reviewed major points of his previously expressed conviction that Fontenot needs to do more in the spirit of fiscal reform.

Fontenot has said a number of times that costs within his control are being curtailed. Big-ticket items such as inmate expense and vehicle repair and replacement are another matter, he has said.

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