Sorrento council approves budget without police pay raises

The Town Council approved a controversial budget amendment Tuesday that makes minor changes to the town’s 2013-14 operating budget without providing raises two officials say are owed to town police officers.

Councilman Randy Anny and Police Chief Earl Theriot said some of the money being shifted around in the budget should go to the town’s police officers, who voluntarily gave up raises over at least a two-year period to help keep the town afloat financially.

Council members Patti Poche, Marvin Martin, Wanda Bourgeois and Don Schexnaydre disagreed and voted to adopt the ordinance amending the budget without including the pay raises. Anny was the only council member to vote against the ordinance.

“Don’t ask me to cut no more money,” Theriot angrily told the Town Council.

The budget amendment will shift some funding in the budget to different town services, such as road maintenance repairs and engineering projects and will decrease the town attorney’s fees by $6,000, town officials have said.

The budget amendment also increases the town’s projected revenue by about $11,000 and increases projected expenditures by about $5,550, according to Faulk & Winkler LLC accountant Jacob Waguespack.

The police department’s budget will not be affected by the amendment.

Three months ago, a previous Town Council made several last-minute adjustments just before the end of the fiscal year in June that Anny had said would save the town about $77,000.

The savings included reducing the police department force from six to five officers and eliminating pay raises and additional training for those officers, Anny said.

He said the Police Department agreed to the adjustments with the promise the officers would be given raises this year, Anny said. Additional funds should have been allocated back to Theriot “because he took major cuts to put us back where we needed to be,” Anny said Tuesday.

Schexnaydre said it was a “shame” the Police Department had to give up their raises for the town’s benefit.

“I do think everybody ought to get a raise ... if we had the money,” Schexnaydre said.

There might be money for raises if the town was not forced to pay $197,485 in litigation fees and $169,000 in attorney’s fees over the past four years, Schexnaydre said.

“If you want to talk about why this town is broke, let’s start with that,” Schexnaydre said.

Some of those fees have resulted from potential litigation against Theriot and claims of harassment and retaliation by former and current police officers, he said.