You lie, you die.
Ah, but.....Define lie.
This week, my colleague Kim Holden reported that New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas, and several other New Orleans officials, either lied on the Chief's retirement paperwork – or made an error so foolish and obvious that if they weren't lying, they're all impervious to detail and ill suited to run a tight ship.
It seems like a niggling administrative detail – the date of Serpas' official start of employment – which was May 10 of last year.
Or May 6. Or May 11. Or maybe the 18th.
It's a little sticky, tricky and confusing, to be sure.
Documents signed by Serpas, two police department witnesses and a notary – assistant city attorney Victor Papai – are dated May 6th.
The law says all signees must be physically present at the same time.
But on May 6, Serpas was in Nashville. He arrived in New Orleans on May 10 and claims to have jumped right into his blues and started work.
But he wasn't sworn in until the next day, May 11.
And now he tells us he didn't sign that notarized document dated May 6 until, get this, May 18.
So what does it all mean? Why does it matter?
According to the NOPD pension system, you have to be hired before your 50th birthday to qualify for retirement benefits.
Coincidentally – or not – Serpas turned 50 on May 9, 2010, making him 50 if he started May 10 or later, but 49 if he started May 6.
That little difference would mean Serpas is eligible for $144,000 a year for the rest of his life upon retirement - instead of the $55,000 he would have received for his prior years on the force.
Oddly enough, Serpas was already vested in the retirement system for his former years in the police department; it didn’t matter how old he was that May.
Yeah, me neither.
So, do we have a case of high crimes and misdemeanors? Did somebody lie?
Well, define lie.
What we do have is another case of administrative impropriety nipping at the chief's heels while he tries to lead a city out of homicidal madness.
What we're left with are appearances, and it appears sloppy and suspicious, borderline stupid.
It's paperwork, administrative record-keeping, document integrity: Boring stuff.
But if they can't get the small stuff right, what can we expect when lives are on the line, a city's reputation in shambles, and there's a crisis in confidence in a police department where nobody knows what day it is?