Former IG calls for Ethics Review Board to postpone appointing replacement over conflict of interest concerns

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - With a short list of candidates and less than a week away from an appointment, the former New Orleans inspector general wants the Ethics Review Board to hold off on choosing his replacement. He says one of the members has a conflict of interest that could undermine the efficacy of the new IG.

"The whole thing's corrupt. It's a sham," said Former New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux.

Quatrevaux doesn't mince words.

In a two-page letter addressed to the board, Quatrevaux alleges a "decidedly unethical twist to the current selection process" for the new inspector general.

He claims the chairman of the ERB, Allen Miller, is also an attorney for the Sewerage and Water Board.

"It's almost unbelievable. The mayor appointed someone to the ethics board and later execute a contract with that person to represent the Sewerage and Water Board. It's a horrible conflict of interest. It's one Mr. Miller did not disclose on his annual financial disclosure form, and it's also one he failed to recuse himself as required by the state ethics laws," explained Quatrevaux.

Quatrevaux writes, "The conflict of interest has very real consequences that threaten the integrity and independence of the Office of Inspector General (OIG)."

He points to a contract that he says he uncovered two weeks ago as proof. Signed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu in June 2015, it employs Miller as an attorney for the Sewerage and Water Board. Quatrevaux says there's no way Miller can help to appoint the person tasked with overseeing city government and exposing abuse when he's representing the Sewerage and Water Board.

"My office has written a number of critical reports of the Sewerage and Water Board, most especially with respect to his responsibility to ensure we have healthy, clean water in the city of New Orleans," Quatrevaux said.

Quatrevaux admits he and Miller have a history. In July, Miller questioned Quatrevaux about a report on lead. Now, the former IG believes he was acting as counselor for the Sewerage and Water Board and not as chairman of the Ethics Review Board.

"He criticized the report roundly even though we had empirical evidence and it was vetted by two national experts," Quatrevaux recalled.

There is no explicit mention of any work Miller has done for the board on his firm's website, but his bio does include his appointment to the Ethics Review Board in 2013.

"How could anyone a point this man to a board that's going to evaluate the IG who's responsibility is to evaluate people like him?"  Quatrevaux questioned. "The mayor is playing games with the people of New Orleans."

We contacted the mayor's office. Representatives sent us this statement:

"As with every appointee, the Administration thoroughly vets all potential candidates for conflicts of interest that may exist. At the time of Allen Miller's appointment in July 2013, no conflicts were found. The Ethics Review Board is purposefully independent of the Mayor's office and members shall be free of conflicts. Individual board members are responsible for their own ethical requirements and conflicts checks. After a review of the matter the Administration will determine the appropriate course of action moving forward."

Now, with less than a week before the ERB is set to select the new inspector general, Quatrevaux is calling for Miller's resignation.

"Until he goes, that's a corrupted board. It's no more ethical than all the other boards it's supposed to be looking at and taking complaints on," said Quatrevaux.

We reached out to Allen Miller for comment.

He sent us this response:

"I have seen Mr. Quatrevaux's letter and commentary. I will respond with more detail at a later time.  However, I will note that the national search for the Inspector General will continue on December 20th with a public meeting and we encourage the public to participate in what has been and will continue to be a transparent process."

"Whoever they select under the circumstances is not going to have the confidence of the people or the elected officials of New Orleans," Quatrevaux said.

Quatrevaux also alleges Miller is working closely with the man he appointed as interim inspector general, Howard Schwartz. He says Schwartz has already "indicated his complicity in Miller's efforts to diminish objective assessment of the Sewerage and Water Board."

Quatrevaux points to an October meeting in which Schwartz said he was reviewing the lead exposure report and would sent out a corrected version.

Quatrevaux insists no corrections are needed.

The OIG did not respond to our request for comment.