BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Did three officers cross the line criminally, but only two took the brunt while one got off easy? That’s what appears to have happened with three officers with the Baton Rouge Police Department.
“If it walks like a duck, sometimes it’s a duck. I can’t think of another explanation,” said Rafael Goyeneche, corruption watchdog and president of Metropolitan Crime Commission.
Patrick Martinez, Jamie Strahan, and Larry Ned were all under investigation in 2017 for possible payroll fraud. In August of 2017, Martinez and Strahan were clocking in, working 10-hour shifts (6 a.m. to 4 p.m.) with BRPD. But the GPS on their police cars showed their units parked at their homes for many of the hours they claimed they were at work, according to their internal affairs reports. Martinez, a 21-year veteran with the department, is accused of taking home $434.99 he did not earn. Strahan, a 19-year veteran, was paid $839.59 she did not work for.
The third officer, Ned, is a 21-year veteran. The 9News Investigators requested his time sheets going back to February of 2016 and compared them to the time he worked extra duty at the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. We found, for at least 20 months, Ned clocked in working 10 hours (5 a.m. to 3 p.m.) for BRPD. For some of those hours, he showed he was working at BRPD. At the exact same time, he was also working an extra duty job from 2 to 6 p.m., meaning the 2 to 3 p.m. hour was overlapping.
“This is a conscious choice," Goyeneche said. “This isn’t, 'I forgot to do something.’ This is, 'I know I am supposed to be at work, but I want to double dip and I want to pull down some extra money.’”
In 2016, the 9News Investigators found 24 different days where Ned allegedly double dipped and charged taxpayers $843.60 for time he did not work. Then in 2017, there were another 27 instances in which he received $932.40 that it appears he should not have. In total, that’s 51 different times we found for a total of $1,776. Compare that to the money involving the other two officers: Martinez' at nearly $435 and Strahan’s roughly $840. Strahan was suspended for 65 days, Martinez was suspended for 80 days, and Ned was suspended for 20 days. Strahan and Martinez were also demoted in rank from sergeant to corporal. Ned was not demoted. Those two cases happened while Jonny Dunnam was interim chief of police.
“I felt like sending a strong message at that point to the supervisors that they should be held accountable and held to a higher standard and by demoting them, would send that message,” Dunnam said .
When asked if Ned was demoted, Dunnam said: “Larry Ned was not demoted and the issue with demotion is civil service related. Demotion as a form of discipline isn’t the best form of discipline because of civil service."
"I think the police chief owes an explanation to the public as to why the discipline is different with respect to Sgt. Ned versus the other two sergeants,” Goyeneche said.
The 9News Investigators were scheduled for an interview with Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul. Minutes before we started, he said he was not feeling well, so his deputy chief, Jonny Dunnam, would do the interview, but the chief did stand in towards the end of the interview watching from the side.
KIRAN: Why did you feel it appropriate to demote two officers, but you did not feel it appropriate to demote the third one?
DUNNAM: Because there were more questions in regards to the supervisors and how they handled his leave.
KIRAN: So why not discipline the supervisor separately? As a police officer, do you not know that you’re not supposed to write down if you’re somewhere when you’re somewhere else?
DUNNAM: Well that’s why he got the 20 days suspension he got.
“You have done more work in documenting this than I see presented in these internal investigative files, so if a reporter can do this, the Baton Rouge Police Department should be embarrassed that they have not done it yet,” Goyeneche said. “If they falsified their work records and were paid for duties they did not perform, that is payroll fraud. That is a state crime.”
Goyeneche based that on the internal affairs report on Ned, specifically one paragraph that we read back to Dunnam.
KIRAN: There were numerous hours for which you received payment for working your BRPD shift when you were not present or completing police duties. Is that payroll fraud?
DUNNAM: Well, that’s the findings in the administrative hearing, okay. The chief doesn’t have to find probable cause in the administrative hearing.
KIRAN: What is payroll fraud?
DUNNAM: Well, it’s getting paid for time you didn’t actually work.
KIRAN: There were numerous hours for which you received payment for working your BRPD shift when you were not present or completing police duties.
DUNNAM: A lot of those hours come into question because how the leave slips were done, so there may not be probable cause to make an arrest.
District Attorney Hillar Moore said he has never been handed an arrest warrant or probable cause report on any of the three officers from BRPD. Instead, he said he was given some files and reports.
“Surely it’s problematic when you have the same agency investigating their own officers, but we’re so shorthanded, and there are so many allegations, it’s tough to have outside agencies come in to do that,” Moore said.
In June of 2014, Baton Rouge Police Lt. Dwayne Lee was accused of the exact same thing as Ned on eight different occasions. He resigned in lieu of termination and was arrested for payroll fraud and malfeasance in office. Ned’s allegations include 51 discrepancies on his time sheets.
“I don’t understand how Sgt. Ned did not falsify documents,” Goyeneche said.
KIRAN: Did Larry Ned falsify documents?
DUNNAM: Well, there were time sheets that were turned in, whether they were turned in by Larry Ned or his supervisor, were not accurate.
KIRAN: So is that falsifying documents?
DUNNAM: They were not accurate.
Dunnam said they did not have enough evidence to arrest any of the three officers.
“I think this undermines public confidence in the system," Goyeneche said. “It undermines the morale of the officers who work for the organization.”
KIRAN: Does the Baton Rouge Police Department stand by their decision of none of these three needed to be arrested?
BRPD did not seek restitution from any of the officers. They say their suspensions without pay saved the department more money than they would have gotten back from the restitution.
The 9News Investigators reached out to the officers for comment. They chose not to speak out.