Filed Under:  Local

Inspector General leaves office amid controversy, tumult

23rd October 2017   ·   0 Comments

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, the man whose job it was to root out corruption, inefficiency and wastefulness, ended his eight-year tenure last week amid a storm of controversy and criticism. His retirement, which he announced last month, comes on the heels of a scathing report by one of his deputies that alleges corruption and mismanagement within the Office of Inspector General.

The author of the report is Howard Schwartz, who the Ethics Review Board has tapped to serve as interim IG until it could select a permanent replacement.

Schwartz is reportedly considered a serious candidate for the permanent position.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that a second top deputy who was targeted in the report, Nadiene Van Dyke, is also expected to retire.

During his final week at the helm of the OIG, Quatrevaux fired Schwartz, accusing him of writing a biased and unbalanced report in order to secure the top post for himself.

Quatrevaux added that many of the more than a dozen of the employees Schwartz interviewed for the report either provided false information or were coerced by Schwartz into speaking poorly of the OIG.

Quatrevaux fired Schwartz just days after the Ethics Review Board named Schwartz the interim IG.

Despite Quatrevaux’s accusations and actions, the Ethics Review Board made it clear last week that it stands firmly behind Schwartz.

ERB Chairman Allen Miller said last week that Schwartz would assume temporary control of the OIG on Friday, Oct. 20, because Schwartz was selected for the interim post before Quatrevaux decided to fire him.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that Quatrevaux has been on the defensive ever since the ERB announced earlier this year that it would launch a national search for his replacement. Quatrevaux reportedly mounted a public fight to retain his post, an effort he would abandon after Schwartz’s scathing report was released this summer.

Quatrevaux reportedly insisted that his retirement, submitted to the ERB in July but not made public until September, had nothing to do with the report’s allegations of mismanagement and corruption within the OIG by Nadiene Van Dyke.

The report accuses Van Dyke of steering lucrative contracts to her friends and conducting audits with preconceived agendas.

Although he reportedly told members of the media several weeks ago that the report’s findings are baseless, he agreed to have a third-party investigator to look into the allegations of misconduct.

That third-party investigation never happened because Quatrevaux took an extended medical leave for surgery after a cerebral aneurysm. Because he ran out of time to oversee a procurement process, Quatrevaux looked into the report’s allegations himself, deemed them false and biased and fired Schwartz last week.

A number of local elected officials reacted to last week’s developments and weighed in on the growing chaos in the OIG.

“It’s vindictive,” New Orleans City Councilmember Jared Brossett, who authored the ordinance to separate the Independent Police Monitor’s Office from the Office of Inspector General to prevent this kind of infighting, told The New Orleans Advocate.

“Why would you release (Schwartz) right before you are about to leave office yourself?” Brossett continued. “He doesn’t want (Schwartz) to get the job.”

Although she voiced concerns about Schwartz being named the interim IG, City Councilwoman Susan Guidry said she supports a third-party investigation of the report’s allegations.

“I do not believe it is wise to appoint an interim inspector general who is currently embroiled in controversy,” Guidry said. “Our current inspector general has saved our city millions of dollars over his tenure, and I have no reason to question his judgment.”

ERB Chairman Allen Miller has also called for a third-party investigation of the allegations highlighted in Schwartz’s report.

A small but growing number of local officials are recommending changes in current New Orleans law that would prevent this from becoming a recurring problem. Current rules only allow for an existing deputy IG or OIG manager to be tapped to serve as interim IG.

While such a rule might ensure a smoother transition, it may fuel division and distrust within the OIG and prevent the agency from bringing in fresh talent with innovative ideas and strategies, at least one ethics expert told the publication.

This article originally published in the October 23, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.