ZURIK: New questions surrounding pay for former sheriff’s office employee

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 11:12 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Emails from FOX 8 News to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office go unanswered. Those emails asked if Sheriff Susan Hutson overpaid one of her former top employees.

“I think it flies in the face of what the sheriff ran on. A platform of promising the public that she was going to be the transparent and accountable sheriff,” said president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission Rafael Goyeneche. “And when she won’t answer questions about the salaries and the monies that she’s paying to some of these key hires. I think all it does is undermine her credibility and the public.”

The former communications director for the sheriff’s office, Timothy David Ray, had a lucrative contract with the office. However, in three months on the job, his invoices appear to show taxpayers may have overpaid him $2,600. His contract called for bi-weekly payments and additional health benefits that would have totaled $6,100 per pay period. However, Ray billed the sheriff for as much as $6,700.

The sheriff’s office approved each invoice and paid him.

FOX 8 asked the sheriff last Friday why Ray was allowed to bill more than his contract allows, who was responsible for approving his invoices, and if he did overbill taxpayers; would the sheriff be asking for repayment. The office never responded to our questions.

“There’s a disparity there,” said Goyeneche. “Either provide an explanation for it, and if they can justify it, that’s what he was paid. If not, he was overpaid, and the sheriff’s office should receive a refund of some of that money.”

Hutson fired Ray last week, citing a State Ethics Board draft opinion that said Ray couldn’t work as a contract employee for the sheriff while his mother serves as a senior adviser.

On Facebook, Ray claimed Hutson actually offered him a full-time job with benefits, a car, and gas. FOX 8 asked Hutson if that was true, but her spokesperson didn’t answer.

ZURIK INVESTIGATIONS: ZURIK: Orleans Sheriff fires communications director after ethics board opinion, FOX 8 investigations

“She ran on a platform that she was going to increase deputy pay. Well, she’s saying she needs millions of dollars to do that. And I don’t doubt that, but she’s paying someone like Timothy David Ray, more money than four or five deputies with the contract that he has guarantees,” said Goyeneche.

In response to the ethics board draft opinion, Ray hired an attorney, who wrote the ethics board a response letter. The attorney claimed that Ray’s mother, Deborah Chapman, was not an employee when Ray as officially hired in late June. The attorney wrote that Chapman quit on June 14, 2022 and returned to the office on June 30, 2022. However, several sources tell FOX 8 that Chapman was paid during that time.

Goyeneche says either the attorney is wrong, or Chapman could have been improperly paid taxpayer money after she initially quit.

FOX 8′s investigation into Ray three years ago led to the State Supreme Court suspending his law license for a year.

Goyeneche says if there are discrepancies with Ray’s invoices, it could impact whether he gets his license back next year.

“The Code of Professional Conduct that attorneys have to adhere to applies even when you’re under the suspension. So, his suspension of his law license is for a year and a day. And when he applies, the burden of proof is on him to represent to the Supreme Court that he has changed. And this type of misinformation would, if it’s inaccurate, it would be misconduct, that would be something that could to be taken into consideration when they’re trying to decide whether to reinstate his law license,” said Goyeneche.

FOX 8 reached out to Ray’s attorney, Douglas Hammel, for comment on the discrepancies and his letter to the ethics board. He responded with “no comment.”

The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office did answer one of our emails asking about some of the statements made by Ray, however, when FOX 8 asked specifically if he was offered a full-time job, and pointed out the apparent pay disparities, we never received a response.

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