Filed Under:  Local

Public calls for greater scrutiny in selecting IG finalists

18th December 2017   ·   0 Comments

Before it began interviewing finalists seeking to fill the post of New Orleans Inspector General, the Ethics Review Board gave residents a chance to weigh in on the finalists and the selection process Wednesday, FOX 8 News reported.

Responding to public requests, the Ethics Review Board voted to allow the public to play a more significant role in the process by allowing the finalists to make presentations to the public and allow residents to weigh in on the candidates at a later date.

The finalists are vying to replace New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, who stepped down in October citing health issues.

Quatrevaux’s departure came in the midst of turmoil related to a scathing report authored by one of the office’s deputy generals, who is vying to replace his former boss.

That assistant IG, Howard Schwartz, is among the four being considered to succeed Quatrevaux. The others are David Harper of New Mexico, Derry Harper of Tennessee and Patrick Sullivan. of Virginia

Schwartz, who has an FBI background, was fired by Quatrevaux earlier this year but the Ethics Review Board still allowed Schwartz to serve as interim IG until a replacement for Quatrevaux could be found.

The Ethics Review Board said that a fifth candidate, Richard Holmgren of Texas, withdrew his name from consideration the second weekend of December.

“This is a critical office in city government that is supposed to be the rock-star, but right now the public is asking who’s watching the watchdog. The next leader needs to re-instill confidence in this entity,” said FOX 8 Political Analyst Mike Sherman.

There were calls for the finalists to be brought to an open session for questioning by some audience members.

“And I think it would serve our community and serve good government in New Orleans if there were an opportunity for those candidates to appear and be questioned by members of the public,” said Michael Avery.

A few former NOPD officers who had worked with Schwartz previously rose at last week’s meeting to publicly support him for the job.

“There is no wishy-wash with Howard. It’s what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong,” former NOPD Commander Louis Dabdoub said.

“I cannot imagine any other candidates applying for this job to be more qualified than Howard Schwartz,” said Charles Watkins, who also worked for the police department.

No one in the sparse audience rose to speak for any of the other candidates for the job.

Quatrevaux said he fired Schwartz over a report written against a co-worker that Quatrevaux did not deem credible.

“There’s the I.G.’s response to Mr. Schwartz’s report. None of these things can be overlooked and they create, they maintain the cloud over the I.G.’s office. We have excellent candidates who can come in and start fresh,” said City Councilwoman Susan Guidry.

The Ethics Board said the candidates favored a closed-door vetting. None appeared to be at the public meeting.

But Sherman said transparency is key, especially for an office like the inspector general which is tasked with rooting out corruption and wasteful spending.

“We’ve live-streamed a lot of things that weren’t available years ago, if government wants to continue increasing confidence, transparency is the way to do it,” said Sherman.

Before heading to the executive session the board voted unanimously to allow public scrutiny of the candidates who make the cut after the closed-door vetting.

“I envision it being a public statement by the candidate and then questions, and/or comments by the public after that,” said Board Chairman Allen Miller.

“It would be wise to have a meeting in public for the public to vet these candidates,” said Sherman.

The Ethics Board meets again Dec. 20, and the finalists could be subjected to public questions then.

Until recently, the Office of the Independent Police Monitor was part of the New Orleans Office of the Inspector General. Susan Hutson, the Independent Police Monitor, sought to become a separate public agency, citing concerns about autonomy and budgeting issues.

This article originally published in the December 18, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.