Review identifies problems in Orleans Coroner’s Office
BY DANNY MONTEVERDE
New Orleans bureau
March 15, 2013
NEW ORLEANS — An inspector general’s review of spending at the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office found that the agency made “illegal” supplemental payments of $200 to $2,000 to employees and independent contractors without proper authorization.
A report on the issue released Monday was completed at the request of Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard. Records reviewed were from July 2011 and June 2012, since any other records were destroyed either during Hurricane Katrina or a recent fire at the coroner’s temporary office.
For his part, Minyard said that many of the problems have already been fixed or are in the process of being resolved.
Beyond the unauthorized payments, the report found eight other issues related to the matter of improper payments:
- Coroner’s employees, who were paid through a city general fund allocation, worked for other parishes during their city-funded workday.
- The coroner’s office did not maintain a written policy outlining when employees or contractors could receive supplemental payments.
- The coroner did not maintain documentation of the calculations used for the supplemental payments.
- The coroner’s office was inconsistent in the coding of the supplemental payments in its general ledger.
- The coroner’s office had a doctor classified as an employee and an independent contractor at the same time.
- The coroner’s office did not issue 1099s to its contractors paid through its separately maintained bank account.
- The coroner’s office did not issue W-2s to its employees paid through its separately maintained bank account from 2006 through 2011.
- As of last June, the coroner’s office paid four contract employees without a written agreement stating an amount to be paid for the services to be performed.
In his reply to Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s report, Minyard wrote that the supplemental payments of public dollars to employees and contractors were “intended to reward certain employees, to reimburse them for any costs, and, most importantly, to provide incentive for all in my office to continue to serve the public with such professionalism.”
Minyard wrote that his office hopes to have formal authorization from the City Council by the end of the year to allow those payments in the future.
Meanwhile, he wrote, the office has begun to sign contracts with the four third-party workers, and a rate of pay is being established.
In regard to improper bookkeeping and a lack of proper tax forms being issued, Minyard wrote that his office has “already corrected these issues” and that he has “consulted with an accountant regarding future practices.” Without those changes, employees and contractors were receiving pay that could not be reported to the IRS.
Responding to the problem with a doctor receiving a salary and contractor pay, Minyard wrote that it was a “consequence of a particular employee’s retirement.”
He said that the doctor reviewed all cases and assisted in determining causes of death but did not perform autopsies, which someone else handled.
Minyard wrote that he hopes to create a new position in his office of chief forensic pathologist that will do away with the need for staff and contract work.
Quatrevaux, who commended Minyard for approaching his office to complete the audit, said that a follow-up review will happen in 18 months.