Government watchdog pushes back against large raises at state agency exposed by WBRZ
BATON ROUGE- The pushback and fallout is growing 24 hours after the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed the top three leaders at Louisiana State Civil Service received large pay increases.
Director Byron Decoteau and his underlings, Chris Deer and Nicole Tucker, received fat raises. Decoteau's salary went up $20,000 in September 2021. Deer received nine pay increases over a four-year span, elevating his salary from $101,000 in 2017 to $144,000. Tucker had the most dramatic increase. She received 11 pay increases in three years. Tucker was taking home $62,000 in 2018 and now earns $125,000.
WBRZ asked Decoteau if he would give raises to the rest of his staff.
"No, I don't have the funding to do it," Decoteau said.
Chief Investigative Reporter Chris Nakamoto noted that Decoteau had money for the the top three to receive raises, including himself.
"That's how you're phrasing it," Decoteau responded.
According to multiple sources, the pay increases they received—using a complicated formula called compression—would not have been legitimate at other agencies. Civil Service provides the oversight on all other state agencies. Now, lawmakers and a respected government watchdog want to know more.
The Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) has served as a government watchdog with more than 70 years of research on state and local government.
President Steve Procopio said what Civil Service did does not instill public trust.
"The public already has a lack of confidence, and this did not help," Procopio said. "If this happened in any state agency, it would continue to feed the narrative that government can't be trusted. It's particularly troublesome because it's Civil Service, and they are the watchdog agency for things like this."
Decoteau's raise was very secretive. It happened at a commission meeting, and the item did not appear on the agenda. The agenda was amended at the meeting, and Decoteau said the commissioners decided in executive session to give him the $20,000 raise after he asked the chairman.
WBRZ requested an interview with Chairman David Duplantier on Thursday. We also reached out to nearly all of the commissioners, and they all referred us to Duplantier. Duplantier did not return emails or phone calls.
"I've always felt that the civil service system, although it provides protection, it's not fair with how people get paid," State Treasurer John Schroder said. "The good employees don't get paid enough, and the bad employees get paid too much. And the system protects that. I think that's wrong."
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