St. Tammany council to decide if coroner gets pay raise

St. Tammany council to decide if coroner gets pay raise

ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - The St. Tammany Parish council is set to decide if coroner Dr. Charles Preston should get a hefty pay raise. But the move is controversial, as some groups argue that Preston doesn't need more money.

Almost $54,000. That's how much more money Preston wants each year. Right now, his salary stands at $84,000.

"He is devoted full time to the St. Tammany Parish Coroner's Office," said Councilman Jerry Binder.

Binder supports the pay raise, explaining the council was flying blind when it set the coroner's salary before Preston took office.

"We voted in $83,000, not because we think that's what a medical doctor is worth, but because we didn't know who was going to be elected," Binder said.

The council also didn't know if the position would be full or part time. Yet despite the fact that Binder says Preston does work full time and the salary of $137,000 would be more in line with coroners in other areas, some don't believe Preston needs any more money.

"He came out publicly and to Concerned Citizens and to myself, telling us that the salary was more than enough and he wasn't in it for the money, that he wants to just help St. Tammany Parish out," said Rick Franzo with Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany.

Preston took office after our Body of Evidence series exposed serious misuse of public money under former coroner Peter Galvan. Galvan even gave himself raises during his time in office, eventually reaching more than $200,000 annually.

Rick Franzo says he and other members of the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany just want to protect tax payers.

"I can understand him asking for a raise and maybe getting a raise in increments, a normal raise, not 64 percent," Franzo said.

Franzo worries where the money will come from to fund Preston's raise, if approved. Binder says Preston has saved his office about $300,000 in the past two years, so the money would come from his own savings.

The council is set to vote on Preston's raise Thursday night. A spokesperson for the coroner sent FOX 8 a copy of an email Preston sent the parish council, in which he says he's sensitive to the concern over a 64 percent raise, however, other physicians employed by the coroner's office make more than he does.

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