Inspector general claims Ethics Review Board members aren't reading his reports

Inspector general claims Ethics Review Board members aren't reading his reports

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Ethics Review Board voted unanimously during their Monday meeting to seek out a search firm to identify potential candidates for the top job at the Office of Inspector General.

Ed Quatrevaux, the current IG, said the approval of a search that could cost up to $80,000 is a waste of time and money.

The Board, though, said the move, which is essentially searching for someone better than Quatrevaux at rooting out waste, fraud, and corruption, is an important step in their oversight process.

"Consistent with our duties and responsibilities as members of this board and because of the importance of the office functions of our city government, I believe that we have the obligation to consistently and appropriately review the operations of this office and this board," Board Chair Allen Miller said.

During the past eight years, Quatrevaux and his team have uncovered nearly $84 million in savings for the city and identified inefficiencies at the airport, Sewerage and Water Board and the New Orleans Police Department.

"I'm disappointed. I think it's hard not to interpret this as sort of raising an open question about the quality of the work the office does as a whole," said Nadiene Van Dyke, the assistant inspector general for Government Performance.

At the board's meeting, members of the community argued over the merits of the search, while some backed the board's efforts.

"Engaging a search firm is simply doing and carrying out the purpose of the establishment of both of these offices. It is not in any way meant to question the performance of the person," said Erika McConduit, president of the Urban League of Louisiana.

Other taxpayers were left questioning the board's motives.

"This proposed action appears to be a clear expression of your dissatisfaction with the inspector general. There are other ways to express dissatisfaction without recourse to a destructive, expensive and precedent-setting procedure," said architect Peter Waring.

Miller said the board, though, has the best interest of the city at heart.

"Every member on this board has volunteered numerous hours to serving, including committing substantial hours to come to these public meetings, like the one we're having today, as well as reviewing the detailed briefings and reports provided by the inspector general," Allen said.

However, a document obtained by FOX 8 from the IG showed everyone on the board may not be up on Quatrevaux's reports. During 2016, the IG sent the board 14 reports and a total of 98 emails. But according to a spreadsheet that shows which members clicked on the email and then opened the report, fewer than half of the reports were opened.

"Twelve percent were clicked on, 45 percent were opened, 43 percent had no activity at all. So I question, as a citizen and taxpayer, how do they know what this man is doing or not doing?" asked Patrick Lynch, a CPA who attended the meeting.

Digging further, the document shows every single board member ignored at least one report. Board member Brandon Boutin only opened 21 percent of the reports he was sent and board member James Brown only opened 14 percent of the reports. But according to the data, board member Howard Rodgers ignored every single report he was sent in 2016.

Rodgers said, though, that the inspector general's data is wrong.

"I opened all of the emails that he sends. I opened all of the emails that are sent to me by the police monitor and any information that deals with the [Ethics Review Board]," Rodgers said.

When questioned why the data showed he ignored the reports, Rodgers said he never knew the IG was tracking him.

"That's interesting because I have all of that information at my office, so if you'd like to come over and do an audit of all the stuff that I have then you're welcome," Rodgers said. "It's interesting to me that one of the things that came out that I didn't know, that he had a program where he can track who opens emails and who doesn't, because customarily when someone sends me an email and they want a receipt, I click on it that I opened it and I send them a receipt. But in this instance we didn't get that kind of courtesy. So I think we need to go back and take a look at his system to see if the system is correct."

The inspector general's office said it stands by the data, despite Rodgers claims. Lynch said the document shows him that the Ethics Review Board isn't doing everything it can for the taxpayers of New Orleans.

"It's another one of those, in my opinion, political appointments," Lynch said. "They brag and beat on their chest during the session that they do this voluntarily. Well, I don't know what they're doing, but when you don't do half of the work, what are you doing?"

The board will now submit a request for proposal to find a search firm, though they've told Quatrevaux that if he wants to keep it, he should reapply for his job.

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