Before he retired last year after four decades in office, former New Orleans Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard ignored several pledges he had made to fix a bonus pay program that was found to involve illegal, unauthorized and poorly documented payments to employees and contractors, according to a report issued Wednesday by Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux’s office.
It was Minyard who invited the IG in August 2012 to review his office’s books.
In March 2013, Quatrevaux reported that he had found, in records from 2011 and 2012, unauthorized payments of up to $2,000 for some employees and contractors, a failure to track hours that employees worked for other parishes, classification of one doctor as both an employee and an independent contractor at the same time, and a failure to issue proper tax forms to workers, among other missteps.
At the time, Minyard thanked Quatrevaux and promised a series of corrective actions, while blaming the chaos after Hurricane Katrina for bookkeeping lapses and defending the supplemental pay for a staff that had “shouldered the burden of the post-storm years heroically.”
The report Wednesday found that Minyard never did most of what he promised. Of the nine follow-up measures that he pledged to take, the IG found that at least seven of them were never implemented.
Among those were seeking City Council authorization for the supplemental payments from a coroner’s fund, tracking employees’ time working for other parishes and issuing proper tax forms.
Minyard partially implemented one of the corrective actions by stopping the practice of classifying the doctor as both a contractor and an employee. Quatrevaux’s office couldn’t determine whether another promised action was taken, thanks to a lack of documentation.
Minyard admittedly struggled to regain the office’s bearings after Hurricane Katrina. An obstetrician and gynecologist, he weathered severe criticism — mostly for his decisions on the classification of several high-profile deaths in the aftermath of Katrina, as well as for failing to advocate strongly for more city funding for his downtrodden operation.
While a new building is under construction, the office has been operating since 2006 in a former funeral home on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Minyard endorsed his top deputy, forensic psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, to replace him, and Rouse won the office last year.
Months after taking office, Rouse told the City Council that he’d found no evidence of financial misconduct by Minyard. But he said he walked into a jumbled record-keeping system that made it hard to know even when a body had arrived at the morgue.
In a response to the IG’s report, Rouse pledged to end the supplemental pay program for employees by the second quarter of this year, calling the system “too flawed to fix.”
“I’d like to thank the inspector general for his report, and it points to an example of the numerous administrative issues I inherited upon taking office,” he said in a statement.
Minyard did not return a message for comment Wednesday.
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