9News Investigators: City hired worker despite criminal history

Keith Harrison (Source: CrimeStoppers)
Keith Harrison (Source: CrimeStoppers)
(Source: Kiran Chawla/WAFB)
(Source: Kiran Chawla/WAFB)
(Source: Kiran Chawla/WAFB)
(Source: Kiran Chawla/WAFB)
(Source: Kiran Chawla/WAFB)
(Source: Kiran Chawla/WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It was Dec. 19, 2014, when Keith Harrison, 33, is accused of pulling down power lines and electricity poles knocking out power to businesses in the 12,700 block of Florida Blvd.

"There was a loud bang, and everybody came outside," said Crystal Peters, who could not get to work because of the downed lines. "There were live wires everywhere and the rain, so it was a pretty dangerous situation."

Harrison was a maintenance worker for the East Baton Rouge Department of Public Works, but he was not authorized to drive any DPW vehicles.

Still, police said Harrison used the city's dump truck to steal three loads of limestone worth $1,200. He allegedly sold them on a side and pocketed $800. While unloading the last load, he left the bed of the dump truck upright and caught the power lines above ripping three poles and leaving damage worth $100,000.

After a warrant was issued for Harrison's arrest, he turned himself into police Thursday night. Two others accused of helping Harrison and receiving $500 each were also arrested, Kevin Coleman and Donald Moore.

"This was a disappointing incident. It's disturbing that we had employees that did that. We all feel it's an embarrassment to our department," said DPW Interim Director Bryan Harmon.

So if Harrison was not authorized to drive any DPW vehicles, how did he drive off with a dpw dump truck?

"They had a superintendent's meeting out at the lot which he worked. As those supervisors and superintendents went in the meeting, they had directed some of the work crews because it was kind of a rainy day. They directed them to do some of the preventative maintenance to the trucks," said Harmon.

Harrison was hired by DPW in Sept. 2014.

The 9News Investigators looked through Harrison's past and found a criminal history dating back to 2000.

  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (2000)
  • Flight from an officer (2001)
  • No driver's license (2001)
  • Manslaughter (2003)
  • Illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (2005)

Harrison pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge. Despite the criminal history, Harrison was working for the city.

Harmon: "There's a mindset and goal to give people opportunities and second chances."
WAFB's Kiran Chawla: "So DPW will hire someone who is guilty of manslaughter?"
Harmon: "No, DPW is not. We're not seeing the information. DPW is hiring based on the list being provided to us."

Harmon said the city's human resources accepts applications for job openings. He said they are supposed to do background and criminal checks, not DPW. Human resources then sends a list of names to DPW who are qualified for the job.

Harmon: "We have people on staff who have had records in the past."
Kiran: "Would you say this one basically fell through the cracks. We're talking charges of drug paraphernalia, flight from an officer, armed robbery, manslaughter and the list goes on."
Harmon: "And again, that's the first I've heard of this."

The 9News Investigators also looked at criminal histories for the other two arrested. Donald Moore had a clean slate. Kevin Coleman however, had two DWI charges dating back to the 1990's. Harmon said both have been with the city DPW for more than 20 years.

The power lines and poles on that stretch of Florida Blvd. have since been repaired and replaced. Harmon said Harrison is responsible for the $100,000 cost, but if he cannot repay the city, it could fall on the taxpayers.

Harrison has since been fired. Moore and Coleman are suspended without pay and in the process of being terminated.

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