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After WBRZ report, Civil Service suggests any state worker can get lucrative raises 'as applicable'

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BATON ROUGE - After an eight-hour writing and vetting process, the State Civil Service Commission wrote on behalf of its commissioners, it was okay with three lucrative pay raises for its employees.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit first reported Wednesday, the Director of Civil Service, Byron Decoteau, received a $20,000 raise in September. His two underlings also got large raises.

State Treasurer John Schroder said the nature of the raises showed why people question government systems: "If it smells bad, it is bad. That's a problem with the system."

The Public Affairs Research Council even questioned the situation in an interview Thursday: "The public already has a lack of confidence, and this did not help," President Steve 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."

Friday morning, State Civil Service Commission Chairman David Duplantier promised a response to the extraordinary raises WBRZ exposed.  Five minutes before 6 o'clock, he sent a two-page statement.  

Duplantier chastised the report and said Civil Service commissioners were okay with the raises. 

In addition to Decoteau, his top two managers also got sizeable raises. 

Civil Service Deputy Director Chris Deer received nine pay increases over a four-year span, elevating his salary from $101,000 in 2017 to $144,000. Nicole 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. 

State workers are furious. They claim the secretive nature the pay increases were handed out are not fair. 

"I want them to explain to me to say how it's valid," one worker told WBRZ Friday. "Validate it for me. Tell me what you've done to say you deserve what you got. 

The worker did not want to be identified out of fear of retaliation. WBRZ made an editorial decision to also not disclose the agency where they work. It was a different agency other than Civil Service.  The employee said everyone in their office watched the stories and believe the raises are unfair. 

"They are furious," the worker said. "It's like I went in and wrote my own pay and no one was there to say, 'you don't think that's a little much?'"

Decoteau told WBRZ he did not have enough money in his budget to provide raises for the rest of his staff. 

Decoteau said he approached the chairman of the commission for the raise, and it was decided in executive session. WBRZ checked, the pay raise was not on the agenda that day and the agenda was amended during the meeting. 

Decoteau was already the highest paid employee at his agency when he received the $20,000 raise.

"The Commission... support[s] the pay decisions made by Director Decoteau to retain his subordinates," Duplantier wrote.  "We provide a variety of flexible pay options for agencies to use in recruiting and retaining an effective workforce."

He continued: "All eligible classified employees, including employees of the Department of State Civil Service, have the opportunity to receive market adjustments annually as well as other pay adjustments as applicable. Furthermore, the report provided no background on critical roles, scope and complexity of job duties, and additional responsibilities these employees assumed during the timeframe referenced."

Click HERE to read the entire statement


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