Ethics Review Board appoints new inspector general

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans now has a new Inspector General.

After a more than three-hour process, the Ethics Review Board voted to appoint an Assistant District Attorney General out of Tennessee to the position Wednesday.

Both candidates made presentations to the Ethics Review Board and the public in attendance. The public was also allowed to weigh in before the board questioned each candidate.

The board chose between Interim Inspector General Howard Schwartz and Nashville Assistant District Attorney General Derry Harper.

A number of locals stood up to question both candidates, some expressing concerns over the way the Office of Inspector General has operated recently.

At least one city employee spoke out against Schwartz, specifically.

While several board members said they wanted Schwartz because of his knowledge and experience in the OIG, other board members were wary.

Though one board member made a motion to appoint Schwartz to the position, that motion didn't pass.

Instead, the board opted to select a new IG with no former experience in the New Orleans office for what some called "fresh start".

"I really appreciate the positive comments from those folks who felt Mr. Schwartz was not only a fine man but he needed to have that depth of experience. I would say to that particular comment, I've gone into those situations before and I understand you've got to make a real commitment every day to build the kind of relationships where you can get that kind of experience and depth of understanding," said Harper. "I'm not going to be daunted by the challenge of being a student again and having to get in there and get my fingers dirty, when I think the real challenge will be is to try to meet the expectations of the public here, which are extremely high."

The vote from the Ethics Review Board comes despite controversy from former Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux. Quatrevaux came forward last week accusing ERB chairman Allen Miller of a conflict of interest.

He claimed Miller is an attorney for the Sewerage and Water Board and that his helping to appoint a new IG corrupts the selection process, especially because the OIG has historically been critical of the board.

However, before the meeting began, Wednesday, Miller addressed the allegations.

"I have consulted with counsel on these allegations of conflict and there are no conflicts. So, with that, there's no reason for me to step aside or recuse myself or anything related to that. I no longer represent the Sewerage and Water Board," Miller explained.

We spoke to Miller during a break to ask about his service with the Sewerage and Water Board. He tells us he represented the board up until fairly recently and admits he was an attorney for the board when he questioned Ed Quatrevaux about a lead report over the summer.

The Ethics Review Board Attorney also spoke up and says he messaged Quatrevaux about the letter he sent.

"Asked him for what specific provisions he believed were at issue and never heard back from him. I sent that note to him several days ago. My independent look at it hasn't revealed any conflict," said ERB Attorney Dane Ciolino.