Sorrento reviews officer’s status

Wade McIntyre

SORRENTO – The Town Council met in executive session Thursday to discuss the employment application of a controversial non-paid auxiliary reserve officer who is performing administrative duties in the police department.

Michael Ray Liker, hired in March 2008 by Police Chief Earl Theriot, was initially issued a police car, although he lives outside the parish in Garyville. Liker, during his tenure with the department, has been in charge of maintenance and repair of the vehicles in the police fleet, and been placed in charge of the department when Theriot is out of town.

The outcome of the meeting was not available by press time Thursday night.

In a Weekly Citizen story last year that focused on how he channeled police car repair work to businesses outside the parish, Liker was described as operating as the number two in command in the department.

“I’d like to correct you on that,” Mayor Brenda Melancon, who has engaged in a running battle with Theriot over his salary and accountability in the department, said Tuesday. “I think Liker is the number one officer in the department.”

On his Sorrento application form obtained by the Weekly Citizen, Liker claimed to be a retired captain formerly employed full-time with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department from 1985 to Feb. 2, 2008.

Sources at the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans say Liker was never a captain with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. They say he served only as a reserve deputy for a few years while working  at a detention facility and community development projects.

Town officials said Thursday they learned that Liker’s post certification as an officer was expired when he applied to work in Sorrento.

Liker eventually resigned from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office while under internal investigation, according to those in the Metropolitan Crime Commission who have investigated his past history and record.

Liker worked at the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office from November 1990 to April 9, 1992, but did not disclose on his Sorrento employment application that he worked there. He was under investigation at the department when he left and and his commission was not renewed, accoridng to officials.

Sorrento Councilwoman Troy Braud, who has criticized Theriot for allowing Liker too much authority in the department, Tuesday accused Liker and Theriot of public intimidation.

She said when she recently obtained a copy of Liker’s employment application, which is a public document,  she began hearing around town that Liker threatened to arrest her and “lock her up in jail” if any of the application information “got out.”

“I feel like they were trying to shut me up,” Braud said. “I have deep concerns that they (the police department) are passing by my house a little more than normal.”

Councilman Randy Anny said that Liker was “in an intimidation mode”  when he approached the councilman this week as he was erecting campaign signs for his mayoral campaign in Sorrento.

“He said if Troy didn’t bring the application back she was going to jail,” Anny said.

Liker was yelling, cursing and screaming and would have arrested Braud if Anny had not intervened, the councilman said.

Anny expressed dismay that Liker  would act in such a manner over Braud’s possession of a public document.

“I even called the District Attorney to see if it was a public document,” he said.

The threats against Braud and the realization by council members that Liker falsified his application led to Thursday’s executive session. The status of two other police department employees was also on the agenda.

One of the employees, Matthew Mills, is a former full-time Sorrento officer who recently has been working at the department as an unpaid reserve officer, and Theriot asked the council to re-hire him at the regular meeting Tuesday.

The council declined to hire Mills Tuesday after heated discussion, and it is not clear why he was under discussion in the executive session.

Theriot Tuesday described Mills as a qualified officer, but Councilman Larry Lee’s motion to hire him died without a second.

Anny said that when Mills was hired the first time, the council did not go through all of the steps when checking out his qualifications, and Braud said the council hired Mills on the basis of Theriot’s recommendation.

Mills complained that he had been working as a reserve and the council had just told him “I’m good enough to work here” but not good enough to be paid for the work, and he walked out of the council chambers.

Melancon said the main issue keeping Mills from being hired was “his attitude when he was here.”

Later as the meeting wound to a close, Theriot rushed out of the council meeting on a call. He was joined by Mills and other officers who drove off to the scene of a fight. They returned to the police office a few minutes later and Theriot reported that the fighting was under control.