By Cassie Schirm,
June 23, 2023
Orleans Parish Communication Executive Director Tyrell Morris is under investigation by the Office of Inspector General of New Orleans regarding the altering of public documents as well as a car accident he was involved in back in May. That’s according to sources within City Hall.
WDSU Investigates confirmed the investigation and accusations into Tyrell Morris before he announced his resignation on Monday.
On Morris’ birthday, May 7, documents obtained by WDSU Investigates and a phone interview with Morris say he was involved in a car accident in his government-issued OPCD vehicle.
Records show 911 calls were made but then later canceled by Morris after long wait times. No police report was ever made.
WDSU Investigates called Morris and asked him about the accident on May 11.
Morris agreed to being recorded.
Morris said to WDSU Investigates that he was heading back to OPCD and was involved in an accident on I-610 and Elysian Fields Avenue.
According to Morris, a car clipped his right bumper while trying to travel through a light in the turn lane.
Morris claims both he and the person who hit him pulled over.
He said because no one was hurt and because there wasn’t anyone available to dispatch, Morris and the driver agreed to exchange information. That’s when he said he called to cancel the call for service 20 minutes later.
“No one was injured, neither of us. I myself called it in, gave the location, gave license plate information. And then we kind of waited, but we started the process of exchanging insurance information just like as as the law requires,” said Morris. “The dispatcher advised that she did not have any units available. We waited quite a bit, like another 15-20 minutes. I asked the driver. I said hey, there’s no injury here. It’s property damage. Technically we can exchange information, but it’s on you. “
Morris said he left and drove his damaged car to his home.
WDSU Investigates obtained video of the accident from a city crime camera.
Sources say the video shows Morris swerving into the other driver.
WDSU Investigates asked Morris if the other driver was impaired.
“No, he was talking. He was totally with it. He told me he was heading to work now when he first got there,” said Morris. “We exchanged driver’s license information. All the normal stuff in an accident. And he said he was. Gonna finish going to work.”
WDSU Investigates also asked if Morris had been drinking.
“Wow. Okay, no,” said Morris. “That day I was preparing to go out of town, so if the question is ‘was I impaired?’ The answer is no.”
Morris told WDSU Investigates that he did not get a drug or alcohol test after the accident.
“We have a vehicle policy in place issued in 2019 where we did not have a policy at all,” said Morris. “So you know the agency has the parameters in place to protect our assets and any event as there is an injury or you know there may be an elevation of an ally there. The policy speaks to it but the only damage to the vehicle was the right side of the bumper.”
WDSU Investigates obtained the policy referenced by Morris. It reads:
“If injuries are reported, the operator of the OPCD vehicle(s) must take a drug and alcohol test as soon as possible. The Director of Human Resources should be contacted for the name and location of the testing facility.”
WDSU Investigates asked Morris’ lawyer if this was the only document referencing the policy, and we’re told it was.
WDSU then obtained the same document with the same title and date submitted in a 2021 audit, but found it had four less words than the one supplied by OPCD.
That document reads:
“The operator of the OPCD vehicle(s) must take a drug and alcohol test as soon as possible.”
This document lacks the portion referencing if injuries are reported.
When WDSU asked OPCD about the language difference in the policies, we received this statement:
“As you are certainly aware, electronically stored documents can be easily manipulated. It is OPCD’s position that the version of the document I provided that includes the language limiting drug and alcohol tests to accidents involving reported bodily injuries is the only true and correct version of SOP 1.3.1.”
WDSU Investigates found metadata within the documents sent by OPCD. That metadata shows Morris was the last person to modify the OPCD policy regarding the OPCD vehicles.
The documents was modified 17 minutes after WDSU Investigates emailed Morris asking about the accident in May, which was four days after the crash.
New Orleans Council Vice President Helena Moreno verified to WDSU Investigates that an investigation has been launched into how the documents were altered.
She issued the following statement:
“The information regarding an allegation of unlawful altering of an OPCD public document is in the hands of appropriate authorities who are currently reviewing this matter. Depending on the outcome of the investigation the Council will move forward accordingly.”
Sources tell WDSU Investigates that the Office of Inspector General is also investigating Morris’ accident.
That investigation is centered on why Morris never filed a police report, whether he followed appropriate policies, and whether he potentially altered documents for personal gain.