OPSO deputy chief resigns after critical audit released

OPSO deputy chief resigns after critical audit released

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Effective Monday, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman accepted the resignation of his second-in-command, Chief Deputy Jerry Ursin. The resignation came after the Louisiana Legislative Auditor released a report critical of the way the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office handles off-duty details worked by its deputies.

Sources said Ursin is expected to face federal charges soon in connection with the detail program after an investigation by the FBI.

Ursin is mentioned in the audit as a Sheriff's Office employee who helped arrange and coordinate security details for the private business of Col. Roy Austin, who retired from the OPSO last year. The legislative audit reveals that Austin operated his private security company while on the clock with the Sheriff's Office.

The auditor also found ineligible employees received state supplemental payments between the years 2011 and 2014. That number totaled $1,026,083 from the state of Louisiana for potentially ineligible clerical and non-enforcement employees. This may have been a violation of the Louisiana Constitution and state law.

Sheriff's deputies worked off-duty details during their scheduled work shifts. The audit states:

"From October 1, 2010 to November 4, 2014, OPSO paid 16 deputies $4,698 for the same hours during which these deputies appear to have performed off-duty security services. By performing off-duty security services during their regularly-scheduled work hours, these deputies may have violated OPSO policies and procedures for off-duty details and state law."

The report also said the OPSO failed to properly advertise bids for renovation of the House of Detention. The report said from March 2012 to March 2013, OPSO made payments totaling $231,820 to Gulf State, LLC for renovations performed on shower stalls.

Despite being a public works project, the agency failed to publicly advertise the project according to the Public Bid Law. An unlicensed contractor was used and work was done without a written contract. The auditor also found materials that did not conform to the bid specifications were used.

All of these are possible violations of the Louisiana Constitution and state law.

Read the full report here.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman released the following statement in response to the audit:

"Earlier today, a report was issued by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.  A detailed response was filed with the Legislative Auditor by our legal counsel and is available on the Legislative Auditor's website.

"We strongly disagree with the position taken by the Legislative Auditor in challenging the entitlement of some OPSO deputies to receive State Supplemental Pay.  As the Legislative Auditor himself admits, there is a process under Louisiana law to raise the issue of whether a deputy is entitled to State Supplemental Pay.  An independent board of review (the Deputy Sheriffs Supplemental Pay Board) hears all such objections and passes on the initial application of each deputy to receive State Supplemental Pay.  Any challenge is heard by the supplemental pay board and any adverse determination may be appealed to the courts.

"I believe my office has fully complied with the law and if any objection can be made to a deputy's entitlement to receive State Supplemental Pay, the objection must be filed with the independent board of review.  The Legislative Auditor does not make the determination on State Supplemental Pay issues.

"Commissioned deputy sheriffs who have been employed for more than one year and who have received the required training are entitled to State Supplemental Pay.  The only exception to this rule is if it is established that the deputy was hired primarily to perform purely administrative duties. 

"Our legal counsel has considered this law and reached a determination in the case of each deputy who receives State Supplemental Pay that the deputy is eligible for State Supplemental Pay in accordance with the law.  No appeal of any of these determinations has been filed with the supplemental pay board.  We are prepared to respond to any such appeals when and if they are lodged with the supplemental pay board.

"It is noteworthy that the Legislative Auditor challenged only 56 of the nearly 500 OPSO deputies who receive State Supplemental Pay.  Of those 56 deputies who were identified, only 38 are still on staff.

"We disagree with the Legislative Auditor's interpretation of the law regarding State Supplemental Pay. The Attorney General has ruled that State Supplemental Pay is to be liberally construed in favor of allowing supplemental pay.

"The report also outlined the activities of Roy Austin. Those activities were independent of OPSO business and related to a private business that Austin allegedly created. Austin retired from the OPSO last year and is longer affiliated in any capacity.  The Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office continues to cooperate fully with each step of the investigation involving Roy Austin.

"The report further examined one small contract to seal the shower stalls in the now closed House of Detention.  This particular contract was handled improperly in that the contractor with the low bid was not properly licensed even though the bid documents required a properly licensed contractor.  The chief procurement officer, who was responsible for vetting the bidders for that contract, was terminated and is no longer affiliated with the OPSO."

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