Saturday, October 31, 2009

The New Orleans Ethics Review Board's Questionable Hiring Practices

Featured below is an excerpt from the recent Louisiana Justice Institute report A Vote of No Confidence: The Case for Re-Organization of the New Orleans Ethics Review Board and Office of Inspector General. We continue to highlight sections of this report in this space because we believe that the debate over the future direction of these institutions is important to New Orleans' future. You can download the complete report at

Below, we highlight more reasons that the Ethics Review Board has squandered the public trust - questionable hiring practices overseen by the Board.

Executive Director Jill Poutré

If the ERB would serve as a catalytic agent for governmental accountability in New Orleans, no doubt there would need to be strong leadership at its helm. However, based on the recommendation of then Inspector General Robert Cerasoli, the the ERB hired Jill Poutré to serve as its Executive Director, when she was an inexperienced 22 year old college senior, who had not yet graduated. Mr. Cerasoli had been Ms. Poutré’s college instructor. The ERB did not advertise the executive director position even though the salary and benefits come to $90,000/year. The duties of the ERB executive director include management of the budget for the office, handling of evidence, scheduling hearings, reports, and investigations. However, at the time of her hiring, Ms. Poutré had no relevant job experience, and never worked in a full-time professional position. Her previous employment was working part-time at a window treatment business with compensation of $10/hour.

Inspector General Eduoard Quatrevaux

In the wake of Robert Cerasoli’s departure from the Office of Inspector General, the ERB launched a nationwide search to find his replacement. That search ended in early September 2009 with the hiring of Edouard Quatrevaux. As a result of the OIG’s lack of established hiring protocols, there are several major issues with the search and subsequent selection process.

From public records, it appears that the Inspector General position was advertised inconsistently in several places. The Inspector General position that was posted on the Career Builder website in the “Accounting and Audit” area, where many people with accounting backgrounds, but no experience or certification as an Inspector General, applied.

The same can be said for applicants who found the position posted on the website, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners website, the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws website, the Association of Local Government Auditors website, and the Institute of Internal Auditors website. Thus, the applications were insufficient. The advertisement instructed applicants to send their résumé, letter of interest, three letters of recommendation, and college transcripts by August 31, 2009.

Overall, it appears that sixty-two (62) of the sixty-four (64) rejected applications were missing one or more critical items. Although the OIG cast a wide net for its job search, it resulted in few qualified applicants. Of the 68 applicants who applied, only four, according to the Ethics Review Board (ERB), were deemed qualified to serve as the Inspector General. According to the ERB, the other 64 applicants “were found ineligible due to lack of Certified Inspector General (CIG) certification and/or inability to meet the four (4) year absence from the City requirement per City Code Sec. 2-1120 (3) (h).” One of the four, Gary Weishaar, does not list CIG certification in his résumé. Another, current IG Quatrevaux, appended his application package on August 21, 2009 to include notification of his CIG certification on that date.

The office announced the hiring of its new IG on September 3, 2009, just three days after the final application deadline.

While the ERB is not responsible for the deficiencies in the majority of the applications, the decision to hire an IG from a weak pool of applicants is entirely an ERB decision. This search, which lasted more than six months, yielded only four qualified candidates. It is understandable that the office was eager to fill its top position in a timely fashion, but the rationale of the hiring committee to make a selection among only four qualified applicants is questionable.

It is unclear how many individuals have CIG status, and how large the pool of individuals qualified for the Inspector General position really is. The designation of CIG status is conferred by the Association of Inspectors General, a national organization of which certified Inspectors General are members. The Association of Inspectors General did not respond when inquired about their program and its former attendees. There is no way to know if a pool of four was representative of only a small number of people being qualified for the post, or if the search simply yielded few results from a much larger pool.

The lingering question is why Mr. Quatrevaux was selected to be interviewed for a position that he did not qualify for, while so many other candidates with equal, if not better qualifications, were not selected to be interviewed. For the public, the issue is whether the OIG has the best person at the helm, and whether there was a level playing field for every non-CIG candidate, like Mr. Quatrevaux, to be interviewed for the position of the Inspector General.

Interim Inspector General David Westerling

The ERB appointed David Westerling – a former Cerasoli colleague in Massachusetts – as the Interim Inspector General during Inspector General Edouard Quatrevaux’s leave of absence. Prior to the appointment, Mr. Westerling (pictured above) worked in the OIG as the Supervisory Forensic Engineer. However, the ERB’s appointment of Mr. Westerling may have violated the Article XIII, Section 2-1120(3)(i) proscription, [n]o officer or employee of the office of the inspector general shall hold office in any political party or political committee, or participate in any political campaign of any candidate for public office, or make any campaign contribution or campaign endorsement, while an officer or employee of the office of inspector general.”

Mr. Westerling was elected to public office as Town Moderator of Harvard, Massachusetts in 2003 and served until June 9, 2008. Westerling back-dated his resignation letter, and his notice to the Harvard Town Hall (written from his home in Harvard) was not received until June 11, 2008 – nine (9) days after he began work at the New Orleans OIG, which is a clear violation of the New Orleans municipal code. Further, there is no evidence he resigned all political affiliation associated with that position.

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