NEW ROADS, LA (WAFB) - A significant pay discrepancy between two New Roads Police officers of the same rank is part of the legacy of the former mayor turned convicted felon, according to Police Chief Kevin McDonald.
New Roads Police Capt. Michael Fabre has been with the department for nearly 18 years and currently oversees the detectives unit, earning an annual salary of $37,000, according to records from City Hall.
Despite Fabre's lengthy career in law enforcement, his salary was suddenly eclipsed by newcomer, Delaney Lee, who joined the department in 2016 with four years of experience in law enforcement at the time. Capt. Lee was immediately given the same rank as the veteran, Fabre, and currently oversees the uniform patrol officers.
But for reasons unclear, former Mayor Robert Myer ordered the chief to pay Lee nearly $10,000 more per year than Fabre.
"He was brought on after the fact and his salary was set by the mayor," McDonald said. "We have a pay scale that is kept at City Hall, but in any case, the mayor can decide what an officer's salary is going to be."
However, when asked for a copy of that pay scale, City Secretary-Treasurer Lynette Nelson said no such pay scale exists. Nelson maintained that response when asked to double check with the police chief. She has complied with every public records request submitted by the 9News Investigators in recent months, disclosing thousands of pages of financial documents, personnel files, and other public records.
Myer, the former mayor who set Lee's salary, was convicted in October of felony malfeasance for misusing taxpayer money through his city credit card. The investigation into Myer led to indictments on nine counts. He opted to plead no contest to only one of those counts, forgoing a trial and receiving no jail time. As part of his plea deal, Myer received a year's probation and had to resign from office.
Prior to working for the New Roads Police Department, Lee served four years at the Pointe Coupee Sheriff's Office. During his time there, he attained the rank of sergeant. When asked about the pay discrepancy, Lee said he is "more than qualified" and feels he is actually underpaid, though still happy with his job.
"You can't set pay according to experience because experience don't always mean knowledge," Lee said. "So you have to pay someone according to their knowledge."
Rafael Goyeneche, a lawyer with the watchdog, Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans, said most law enforcement agencies promote officers in correlation with the rank structure. In other words, the officers climb the rank structure like a ladder, spending a certain amount of time holding each rank before moving up to the next. The structure typically progresses as patrolman, sergeant, lieutenant, and then captain. With each advance, the officer supervises more people, Goyeneche said.
Lee's personnel file from the sheriff's office contains a disciplinary report for improper use of a department vehicle. He was pulled over near the parish line while driving to Baton Rouge to "pay a bill," the report said. It noted he "was not authorized or given permission" to use his police car for personal errands. Lee's response at the time, as quoted in the report was that "no one sat him down and told him he couldn't use the department vehicle to go out of town for personal use."
He received a two-day suspension.
When it comes to training, Capt. Fabre's personnel file contained certifications for basic training, defensive driving, firearms, defensive tactics system, field sobriety testing, HAZMAT training, and adult and child first aid. Lee's file contained only a certificate for basic training. He said he actually has additional certifications that are not in his file at City Hall, but did not produce them after two requests from the 9News Investigators.
"The sheer volume of the achievements of Michael Fabre exceed the single page that you were provided on Delaney Lee," Goyeneche said.
Lee maintained his work speaks for itself. "My first week in being a detective, I caught a rape case in three days, so you can't determine what I went through and what I experienced in an amount of time," Lee said. "[Fabre] could have been here 15 years and not worked one murder, whereas I worked a double murder."
Chief McDonald said he could not immediately recall another instance in which the mayor had intervened in determining the salary of one of his officers. "Not right off the top of my head, but I'm sure that it was done," he said.