State official did private work on public time

Dr. Kris Sperry, Georgia's chief medical examiner, testifies in a criminal trial In Lafayette, Georgia, in June 2015.

Dr. Kris Sperry, Georgia’s chief medical examiner, testifies in a criminal trial In Lafayette, Georgia, in June 2015. Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Georgia’s chief medical examiner has parlayed his state job into a lucrative sideline business, sometimes collecting pay from the public and his private clients at the same time, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.

Dr. Kris Sperry, who has headed the medical examiner’s office at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation since 1997, roughly doubles his $184,000-a-year government salary as a paid expert witness in court cases across the country.

But on 67 days since 2010, Sperry reported working at least eight hours for the state when he spent time out of the office giving depositions or testifying in court for private clients.

On 13 of those days, Sperry recorded a full day at the GBI but actually was appearing in court out of state.

The GBI reviewed Sperry’s time sheets after the Journal-Constitution’s inquiry. The agency docked him 226 ½ hours – the equivalent of 5 ½ weeks – of vacation time and other accrued leave to make up for the discrepancies.

At Sperry’s $90 hourly wage, the deducted time is worth more than $20,000.

Falsifying state-employee time sheets is a crime and carries a penalty of one to five years in prison.

But GBI Director Vernon Keenan said Sperry’s mistakes were accidental. He said Sperry often filed his time sheets late and relied on his memory to fill in the details.

“Sperry is a brilliant doctor but a sloppy record-keeper when it comes to his administrative files,” Keenan said last week.

The Journal-Constitution’s investigation raises other questions about Sperry’s performance, however. For more, go to myajc.com.


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