Hall elected interim parish administrator; questions of communication in process still arise

By T. Scott Boatright

After a short discussion in the Lincoln Parish Police Jury Meeting Room during a special-called meeting at the Lincoln Parish Courthouse Tuesday night, the LPPJ voted to name Courtney Hall as Interim Parish Administrator, two weeks after moving to not reappoint Doug Postel to the parish administrator.

Hall, the former parish administrator from 2009 until his retirement in the summer of 2020, will receive a salary of $75 per hour only on days the LPPJ office is open and not exceeding 40 hours per week even if duties call for Hall’s work to exceed that 40 hours per week.

That works out to around $144,000 annually and does not include any benefits. 

Hall will be paid through an employment agency for a fee that LPPJ President Richard Durrett said is still being negotiated. Durrett said those standard fees are usually 45-55% of the employee’s salary but that the negotiations should bring the fees lower than that percentage. 

“They will take care of social security and all of the other employee deductions,” Durrett said during a personnel committee meeting before the full Jury meeting.. “In my opinion, this will be in the 30-35% range.”

Those added fees bring expenses to the Jury for Hall to fill the position to around $187,000 annually.

“I’ll be real candid,” LPPJ Personnel Committee member Logan Hunt said. “This is the first I’ve heard about this. Nothing was communicated prior to this meeting. I’m caught off guard by that $187,000 a year. I do very much respect Courtney’s leadership and have the utmost respect for the job he did in this office, without a doubt. I don’t want anybody to question that. But that just caught me kind of flat-footed.”

Personnel committee chair Joe Henderson then said Postel’s salary had been $103,708 annually.

“That’s kind of what I had in my mind, was something around $100,000 because that was what was budgeted,” Hunt said.

Hunt then asked if Hall was expected to finish out the year in the role, and Henderson answered by saying that at this time, there is no set time limit for Hall to hold the position.

Then Hunt asked Hall when he was approached by LPPJ members about taking on the interim role.

“To the best of my recollection, I came up (to the LPPJ Meeting Room) after the meeting held at the (Library Events Center) earlier this month,” Hall said. 

Hunt then asked Hall how long he planned on serving in the position.

“As long as you need me,” Hall said. “I can be here for a month. I can be here longer. I’m really flexible with that.” 

Ruston resident Bill Smith then asked if the plan was to keep Hall in place through next fall’s elections during which all 12 Jury seats will be considered by voters and let that new Jury select a permanent administrator. Henderson said “I don’t know if we anticipate getting a new administrator during that Jury time, but I don’t know that. I don’t anticipate that we will.”

Smith then said he was “just thinking that since you are so close to possibly seeing a new Jury and a new administrator … that the new Jury would be the ones that hire a new (permanent) administrator. Nothing against you all, but I just thought a new administrator elected by that Jury would be a good thing for everybody.”

Hunt then asked who negotiated the $75 per hour salary for Hunt.

“(Juror) Milton (Melton) and I did,” Durrett responded. 

Hunt then said, “Not trying to get too far into this, but as far as negotiations, is that it?”

Hall responded by saying, “That’s what it’s going to take for me to come up there. You’re getting 35 years experience. I’m not getting benefits. Just by comparison, if you think that’s out of line, if you look at comparable-sized parishes — St. Bernard, St. Charles and Washington — St. Charles is $171 (thousand), one is $197 (thousand) and one is $217 (thousand).”

Hall then added that he had no problem with Jurors doing an evaluation to possibly reconsider at any time.

The Personnel Committee then voted unanimously to recommend Hall’s hiring.

After that vote, Hunt commended the group for its transparency throughout the discussion, and followed with the question of asking why the personnel committee did not have the opportunity to formally meet to discuss any perceived issues regarding the previous administrator, Mr. Postel.

“Let me say this, as a committee we did not,” Henderson said. “Mr. Postel called each of us, and we had individual meetings with him to discuss different things. … We talked about some things man-to-man, and I didn’t want to call a public meeting to discuss those items.”

Hunt then asked, “Moving forward, whether about Mr. Hall or anyone, should we make it a policy to discuss any personnel issues in the personnel committee?”

Henderson responded by saying, “As you know, there are some things you can’t discuss publicly about personnel, but I can say that if we have to meet about character or something we can go into executive session.”

Hunt said he would appreciate that and have more transparency in the process.

“I’ll say right now, if we have a meeting about our administration, our treasurer, or personnel, the Personnel Committee needs to be part of it,” Hunt said. “I thought that was understood. I think moving forward, go ahead and count me in as saying, ‘Yes, I think we need to meet as a committee about anything involving personnel.’ ”

Henderson then asked if Hunt understood why that didn’t happen in this case, and Hunt said, “Somewhat, but not fully.”

During the 6:30 p.m. full Jury meeting (Juror Annette Straughter was absent), the LPPJ unanimously approved the Personnel Committee’s recommendation to name Hall as interim parish administrator.

The LPPJ also approved to pay Assistant Parish Administrator Kevin Klepzig $861.60 on top of his regular pay for duties served as interim parish administrator during the 10 days between Postel’s dismissal and Hall’s hiring.

In other business, the LPPJ confirmed a previous engagement of Nelson, Zenter, Sartor and Snellings LLC  to represent Suit 3:22-CV-05312-TAD-KDM; Franequa Jones v. Commission Lincoln Parish Detention Center.