Embattled state IG looks to New Orleans for a fix

Embattled state IG looks to New Orleans for a fix

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Louisiana inspector general said it didn't have to come to this.

"We have independent measures in place that allow us to wade into the toxic cases, and by that I mean that ones that are going to upset the people in this building," state Inspector General Stephen Street told the House Appropriations Committee on Monday.

Now, on the eve of a house vote to de-fund the office that has identified tens of millions of dollars in fraud, Street says there must be a better way.

"It is sometimes difficult to go yearly in front of an investigative committee knowing that some of the cases we investigate have ruffled feathers," Street  said.

For the short term, the IG is hoping that state lawmakers restore his funds this year. For the long term, he's looking at the New Orleans inspector general as a model.

"I think it's time to look at protected funding for the inspector general's office," said Street.

Funding for the New Orleans inspector general's office is locked in as a percentage of city revenues.

"I don't have to convince anyone to give me an appropriation. It's set in the budget and automatic. It's three-quarters of 1 percent of the city's budget," said New Orleans IG Ed Quatreveux.

Quatreveux is hired by a review committee that is sealed off from politics. He said it's time for the state IG to be set up in similar fashion.

"There's an easy way to fix it, and that's funding based on the state budget," said Quatreveux.

"It would have to be in the form of a constitutional amendment, and the politics of that will be difficult at this time, given the budget shortfall," Street said.

Some state lawmakers have suggested that if the IG is eliminated, the attorney general and state police can pick up the slack, but that's something that the IG says is easier said than done.

"They don't have the protections we have that allows us to investigate not worried about blowback," said Street.

Street hopes that "blowback" won't be too severe on Thursday when the full House votes on whether to provide funding for his office

The New Orleans inspector general said the state IG is critical. Quatreveux said there are hundreds of people trying to steal from Louisiana right now.

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