Peabody investigation remains in preliminary stage

Published 6:42 am Saturday, July 16, 2016

By Dawn Burleigh


Former Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator Ryan Peabody was terminated by Orange County Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton a week before the county was aware of an investigation being conducted by the Texas Rangers.

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) can confirm that the Texas Rangers are assisting with the Ryan Peabody investigation at the request of the Orange County District Attorney.
The investigation is in the preliminary stages; specifically, focused on gathering relevant information, according to a press release from DPS.

Peabody was terminated for violation of county policies, according to a previously published Orange Leader article.

Orange County policy for disaster pay allows for all exempt employees to be temporarily reclassified as non exempt employees during the pendency of the disaster. During the time of the disaster, temporary non exempt employees are paid an hourly wage in accordance with ye overtime compensation provisions set forth.

Emergency management receives a pay rate of twice the regular rate of pay for all hours working during the disaster, in accordance with Policy EM-200.

The March Flood Event was declared a disaster when Orange County issued a disaster declaration on March 12, 2016. During the disaster, all county employees who worked during the disaster turn in 214 forms, which include duties performed during the particular shift for which the employee is eligible for disaster pay status.

The disaster declaration was extended on March 19, 2016 and expired on April 8, 2016, according to a letter issued by the county judge. The letter also states the disaster pay began on March 12, 2016 and ended on April 15, 2016, the day the preliminary disaster assessment was submitted.

While most county employees 214s, obtained by the freedom of information act, stop between March 18-21, Peabody continued to submit for disaster pay through April 15, 2016.

Peabody claims, according to the 214s he turned in, he worked on Sunday, April 10 from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. and also worked from 8 a.m. – midnight. On one log, Peabody wrote from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. he reviewed reimbursement numbers, double checked primary reimburse (through FEMA) of equipment and through use. On the second log, Peabody wrote from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. he reviewed contacts and proposals from outside contractors; may need assistance with hazardous material because county may see hazardous from within city limits; not a problem if county can dispose of free of charge in May clean up event in Hardin. Then from 10 p.m. – Midnight, he filled out and doubled checked time sheet log for disaster time, per county policy.

The March Flood Event Disaster overlapped two pay periods for the county. During that time period, Peabody acquired 418.50 hours equaling $24,524.10 in disaster pay.

The disaster was the largest flooding event in the Sabine River history since 1884.

After the catastrophic flooding and the response from Orange County Emergency Management, Ryan Peabody and Orange County Judge Stephen ‘Brint’ Carlton were invited to join Texas State of Emergency Management Chief Kidd to testify at a Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety.

Committee hearings are a method by which committee members gather information to inform committee business.

At the height of the release of water from Toledo Bend Dam was equivalent to five times greater than the water from Niagara Falls.

During the event, no loss of life, no major injuries related to the flooding and zero looting was reported. At least 30 families were assisted with high water vehicles by first responders in high water vehicles so the families could evacuate the area.