Ackerman v. Port Allen case settled

Written by Emily Bell on . Posted in Local

The city of Port Allen’s former payroll clerk, Robin Ackerman, is back at work per the terms of a settlement reached on Jan. 9.

Ackerman, who had worked for the city for nearly 18 and a half years, was only 16 months away from retirement when she quit on Aug. 23.

A Jan. 13 press release for the city attributes Ackerman’s resignation to “issues with former Mayor Deedy Slaughter,” who vacated office in November following a successful recall election.

Ackerman said she believes Slaughter retaliated against her after she testified in court in July that Slaughter instructed her in Jan. 2013 to dispense the mayor’s salary at a higher rate than the council budgeted.

“The conditions of my employment deteriorated very rapidly,” Ackerman said.

Per the terms of the settlement, Ackerman will receive the same salary and benefits as before.

Ackerman will also serve as the city’s Human Resources Director.

Council member Ray Helen Lawrence has often advocated for a Human Resources Director, as a way to reduce the number of employment-related lawsuits the city periodically faces.

Ackerman was making $45,390.80 a year when she left, but now a 2013-2014 budget ups the city’s pay scale by 2.5 percent for a cost of living increase for all full-time, non-elected employees. In effect, this budget makes Ackerman’s annual salary prior to her resignation $46,457.48.

“She is on a grid 2.35 percent higher than when she left,” CFO Audrey McCain said.

Since the 2013-2014 fiscal year began on July 1 but the council did not adopt a budget until January, McCain said all full-time, non-elected employees will receive the 2.35 percent in back pay.

McCain said Ackerman will receive no back pay from Aug. 23 when she left to Jan. 10 when she reported back to work. However, McCain is unsure whether Ackerman will receive the 2.35 percent cost of living increase in back pay from July 1 to Aug. 23, when Ackerman was still working for the city.

“I need to get guidance from both the mayor and the council,” she said.

Ackerman already received one $6,347.23 check on Sept. 12 for 254.50 hours of accrued vacation time.

According to a press release for the city, “Ackerman will also receive the accrued sick leave she possessed.”

McCain said that because Ackerman left and didn’t retire, she was not paid at all for accrued sick leave.

Ackerman still will not get a check for her accrued sick leave, but it will remain on the books, McCain said.

According to the press release, “The settlement states the city will pay the employee and employer portions of her retirement contributions from her resignation date through December 2013.”

McCain estimates this cost at about $3,900.

The city will also cover Ackerman’s court costs and attorney’s fees.

“I don’t have an invoice on it yet,” McCain said, but she estimates between $300 and $350 for court costs and between $2,500 and $3,000 for attorney’s fees. “I would be shocked if it was more than $3,000,” she said.

McCain noted that because Ackerman and her attorney were going to pursue further action against the city if an ideal settlement was not reached, any costs associated with the settlement are “peanuts compared to what the risk was.”

“She has agreed to not pursue that [further action], so that risk is gone now for the city,” McCain said.

“We are happy to have this chapter of our recent history closed,” Mayor Lynn Robertson said in the press release. “We are moving forward with beginning a new era of building community and trust in Port Allen, and are optimistic about the future of our city.”

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