Friday, November 13
Responding to public calls for accountability and efficiency, Eduouard Quatreveaux, the new Inspector General of the City of New Orleans, agreed today to return nearly $500,000 in budgeted funds and to give unneeded computers, weapons and one vehicle to the Chief Administrative Office for appropriate assignment to another city department or agency.
Since it's inception, controversy has surrounded the City of New Orleans' Office of Inspector General (OIG). Louisiana Justice Institute, believing that this city needs oversight that is reliable and accountable, has worked hard to provide the people of New Orleans with the tools that they need to oversee the OIG. Today we won an important victory in that struggle.
On October 27 and 29, Louisiana Justice Institute (LJI) filed public records requests from the New Orleans Ethics Review Board (ERB) and Office of Inspector General, seeking information about the Office's budgets, expenditures, and inventory for 2007 - 2009.
What we found was shocking. More than 20 Assault Weapons (the same kind used in the recent shootings at Fort Hood); High-Tech Surveillance equipment; and computer hardware and software far disproportionate to the number staff hired (including the purchase of 86 individual licenses for MS Office, at a total cost of almost $50,000).
Today, at the New Orleans City Council hearings on budget, representatives of the OIG offered to give the city back many of these excessive purchases. We believe this came as a direct result of the work of LJI to document and expose the waste in this office. The OIG also agreed to return approximately $500,000 in unspet funds to the city general fund, where it will be available to the city council to address critical budget shortfalls in public safety, health and human needs agencies of city government.
"Decisions and other actions taken by the ERB and OIG have been shrouded in secrecy, which defeats the principles of transparency and governmental accountability that these offices were established to uphold in the public interest," reports LJI Managing Co-Director Tracie L. Washington. "Today was a step in the right direction - towards accountability and effectiveness."
Louisiana Justice Institute's most recent report - PUBLIC QUERIES: Request for Answers from Public Officials - highlights these and other discoveries about the OIG and ERB. You can see the full report, plus the documents we've received from the ERB and OIG, online at nolapublicrecords.org.
While it remains to be seen if the OIG will address serious concerns about the management practices and personnel policies in LJI's report, we hope that today's announcement is the beginning of a new era of accountability from the OIG and ERB. But to make sure, we plan to keep honest eyes on the operations of the OIG and keep the pressure on for the OIG and ERB to meet the highest standards of accountablity, transparency and fairness.
For more information contact: Saia Smith, Louisiana Justice Institute, 504.872.9134
The Louisiana Justice Institute (LJI) is a nonprofit, civil rights legal advocacy organization, devoted to fostering social justice campaigns across Louisiana for communities of color and for impoverished communities. LJI understands that as a state-based civil rights organization, it can and must serve as an agent for social change in Louisiana. Its creation is responsive to a specific and urgent need to resurrect capacity for statewide, systemic, legal advocacy on behalf of those most in need of assistance - Louisiana's minority and poor residents.