City Council seeks AG opinion on Lenfant raise

Contentious debate among council, mayor, officials raises more questions

Mayor gave executive assistant $10K raise in June

Council says they should have been advised

MANDEVILLE — Over an hour of often-heated debate at tonight’s City Council meeting (August 12th) ended with a 4-1 vote to ask the state Attorney General for an opinion on whether a $10,000 raise Mayor Clay Madden recently awarded his executive assistant Trilby Lenfant is allowed under the city’s budget rules. The raise brings Lenfant to almost $82,000 annually. Only District I Councilwoman Rebecca Bush voted against.

At the heart of the matter is that Madden gave Lenfant the raise without first consulting the council, just months after the mayor’s proposal to move Lenfant into a proposed “Director of Administration” post with a $90,000 salary was rejected by the council.

Bush, Finance Director Kathleen Sides and City Attorney Elizabeth Sconzert debated budgeting and finance technicalities and legalese with the other members of the council, particularly Councilman at Large Rick Danielson, District III Councilwoman Jill McGuire and District II Councilman Skelly Kreller, who all expressed frustration with how Lenfant’s raise was awarded.

Individual council members have weekly breakfasts with the mayor — in groups of two so that the Open Meetings Law isn’t violated by forming a quorum — and Danielson, McGuire and Kreller said they were not told in advance about the raise.

Danielson said they only heard a rumor that the raise had been given after the fact. McGuire said she is frustrated that the City Council had to file a formal public records request just to receive details about the raise.

Resolution No. 21-33, introduced by Kreller, requests an opinion from the State Attorney General’s office on whether the raise broke City of Mandeville budget rules.

According to members of the council, any line item change of greater than 5% is supposed to go through a budget adjustment process, which would require council approval. However, in this particular situation the question being asked is, what constitutes an actual line item. Both Sides and Sconzert disputed whether the 5% rule applies to individual raises.

The budget for fiscal year 2020-21 — as adopted by the City Council under Ordinance 20-13 on Sept. 10, 2020 — is comprised of various exhibits, labeled B, C and D.

Exhibit B is titled “Job Class Detail” which lists the pay levels for each of the city’s job classifications under both General Government (10100) and Police Department (10110). The “Executive Secretary” (Trilby Lenfant) is listed as $71,782,65. The total for the General Government category in the exhibit is reported as $1,294,648.98.

But Exhibit D, which contains the so-called line items one typically associates with a budget has an entry for “General Government – Salaries” with a requested budget of $1,318,049 for 2021.

This makes Exhibit B more like a detail record of the “Salaries” line item in Exhibit D. Apparently the Attorney General is being asked for an opinion on which one constitutes the actual line item and hence is subject to the 5% rule, if it is applicable.

Developing…

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