Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Louisiana Justice Institute Releases Report and Recommendations on Office of Inspector General and Ethics Review Board

Since it's inception, controversy has surrounded the City of New Orleans' Ethics Review Board (ERB), and its governance of the Office of Inspector General (OIG). In recent weeks, actions taken by the board and employees of the office, as well as revelations of past conduct, have badly tarnished the reputation of both offices, and public disapproval has grown. Louisiana Justice Institute, believing in the importance of an Office of Inspector General, has stepped into the discussion with a new report that highlights both the problems of the office as well as clear solutions.

The new report released today - A Vote of No Confidence: A Case for Reorganization of the New Orleans Ethics Review Board and Office of Inspector General - presents the governance structure and mandate of the ERB and OIG, a summary of the currently known controversies involving these offices and their genesis, and recommendations for structural change that can restore public trust in these fledgling offices so that they can perform the work required for effective governmental oversight.

The report is available online at: http://www.nolapublicrecords.org/sites/default/files/docs/governance/A%20Vote%20of%20No%20Confidence%2010-20-09%20Final.pdf

"The Ethics Review Board has fumbled its fundamental public duty, which is the hiring of a qualified Inspector General for the City of New Orleans. Additionally, there is public concern regarding the break-ins in OIG offices involved in reporting problems within the office, and the hiring of unqualified personnel to serve in high-level positions at the ERB and OIG," reports LJI Managing Co-Director Tracie L. Washington. The decisions and other actions taken by the ERB and OIG are shrouded in secrecy, which defeats the principles of transparency and governmental accountability that these offices were established to uphold in the public interest. "The management of the OIG and the ERB has created dysfunction, preventing these offices from pursuing their mandates, which New Orleans residents believe are critical," states Washington.


The Louisiana Justice Institute recommends that the New Orleans City Council immediately mandate a suspension of all substantive functions of these offices to conduct a full management audit that examines all the functions, activities, transactions, and governance of these offices. This management audit must begin with an assessment of the governance of the ERB and OIG that determines whether the missions and functions of the ERB and OIG overlap in a way that creates confusion and inefficiency.

Furthemore, the personnel practices of the ERB and OIG must be overhauled. The internal turmoil concerning hiring, termination, and qualifications of candidates - and the troubling issue of potential conflicts of interest in hiring personnel who served in elected offices that are subject to investigations by the OIG - has led to public disdain and the lack of confidence in the ERB and OIG to ethically and effectively fulfill their missions.

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