NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Sewerage and Water Board provides vital services for everyday life in New Orleans, but some workers were in it for themselves. New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux announced Wednesday that an investigation found that some workers were stealing brass parts and selling them.
"These employees sold approximately 34,000 pounds of brass to scrapyards in the area. Most of it was new spare parts that cost the Sewerage and Water Board about $526,000," Quatrevaux said.
The brass components are part of residential water meters.
"I am shocked and appalled by the brazenness of the crimes committed," said S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant said.
The massive theft was uncovered not with the aid of informants or complaints, but with computer analytics. Quatrevaux said his office's probe determined that between January 2013 and June 2016, employees sold 34,416 pounds of brass fittings.
"You can't get away with something like that for years and years and years. People are going to notice, but yeah, it was brazen, but it was also dumb," Quatrevaux said.
"How do we know that Sewerage and Water Board employees stole this brass and sold it to scrapyards, and how do we know it was Sewerage and Water Board brass? Simply, we have photographs like this of every single transaction that S&WB took that brass and took it scrap yards and sold it," said Assistant Inspector General Howard Schwartz.
The workers also signed documents at the scrap yards stating that the property they were selling wa theirs.
Grant said 10 employees have been fired, and the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office confirmed that arrest warrants were issued for the individuals on counts of malfeasance and theft.
"The actions of these individuals tarnish the good reputation of the hard-working employees who perform under challenging conditions at the Sewerage and Water Board, and I will not stand for it," Grant said.
He said even before the probe, he began work to clean up the agency.
"Since I've been appointed executive director, 80 individuals have been terminated as a result of the stricter policy enforcement," Grant said.
And as a result of the current investigation, serious reforms have been made to security and logistics policies.
"Furthermore, we've installed new video surveillance systems and enhanced our gates, locks and intrusion detection to prevent items like these from being stolen. All Sewerage and Water Board vendors must now emboss items like brass fittings with an appropriate Sewerage and Water Board mark to ensure proper identification of this government property," Grant said.
In selling the brass, the workers settled for much less than what the S&WB actually paid for the metal.
"They paid $15.30. They sold it for about a dollar a pound," said Schwartz. "They made off with $41,000, when the brass costs the S&WB over a half-million dollars."
"Brazen and dumb - yeah. And I suggest quite honestly what I'm looking for is people who have integrity," Grant said.
No supervisors were involved, but Grant said some supervisors could end up being reprimanded. The investigation is ongoing and Grant said they will also seek restitution.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the S&WB released the following:
The individuals in question are no longer employed by the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans. Upon learning of the allegations, the S&WB took swift action, placing all individuals on emergency suspension and today none are employed by the S&WB. Of the ten identified, four were terminated, five resigned and one retired.
See below for a list of the identified individuals:
Kenneth Webster - Terminated
Keith Martin - Terminated
Sam Johnson - Terminated
Cedric Beaulieu - Terminated
Darrin Robinson - Resigned
Farid Mateen - Resigned
Marlon Hughes - Resigned
Darrell Fairley - Resigned
Chester Rollins - Retired
Traivus James - Resigned