THIBODAUX, La. (WVUE) – Lafourche Township President Archie Chaisson has vetoed a council-approved measure to give a pay rise to the township coroner, who is under criminal investigation for allegedly padding his paychecks by performing potentially unnecessary autopsies has.
Chaisson says the ongoing criminal investigation into Dr. John King and concerns about spiraling costs would have prompted him to veto the plan, which would increase the coroner’s salary and allow him to charge for performing autopsies.
As the council debated the regulation last week, Chaisson said he had concerns about the changes.
“I still have concerns about the fee structure and whether, as Councilor (William) Adams says, someone will be encouraged to do maybe more autopsies than we need,” Chaisson said.
Chaisson also confirmed during the meeting that he received a letter from Attorney General Jeff Landry saying Dr. King is under criminal investigation by the Louisiana State Police. That letter came after the municipality asked the AG’s office for advice on whether it was legal for King to pay himself fees to perform autopsies, which he did without the council’s approval.
Fox 8 reported in February that King was charging up to $500 per autopsy. In 2022, these fees helped King raise an additional $54,000 on top of his salary. dr Patrick Walker, who used to work in the coroner’s office, told FOX 8 King fired him and another doctor who was doing autopsies so he could collect the money himself.
Coroner accused of padding paycheck with potentially unnecessary autopsies
“I think he’s doing it to subsidize his income,” Walker said. “Because as a coroner you get… a salary. And you should not charge the coroner or the parish for any additional post-mortem fees.”
During last week’s council meeting, Council member Armand Autin said the regulation aims to clear up the paperwork. King had been collecting salary plus fees for years, and Autin said the changes would align the community with what King was already doing. However, some other council members raised concerns, including council member William Adams.
“I don’t want to touch that at all. I’m sorry it’s just too much about the investigation, the news, Lee Zurik, I don’t see how we can address this now because of the investigation,” Adams said. “Well, I don’t want to touch that at all. I think we should just leave it alone and wait for the investigation and wait for all reports to be ready. I heard there’s paperwork to clear. Perhaps I do not know. But I stay away from that as much as possible.”
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When the issue came to a vote, five council members voted in favor of the increase and sent the measure to Chaisson’s desk. On Monday (April 3), Chaisson vetoed the measure and set out his reasoning in a letter to Chairman Autin.
According to Chaisson, allowing the community coroner to collect fees was unnecessary and could cost taxpayers too much money. He also said the ordinance could have unintended consequences for the ongoing criminal investigation into King.
Chaisson declined FOX 8’s request for an on-camera interview and said his reasons for vetoing the measure were included in the letter to Autin. King’s attorney has not responded to FOX 8’s latest request for comment.
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