Mayor Cantrell says she did nothing wrong in Warren Riley matter

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - We could find out soon if former New Orleans police chief Warren Riley will take legal action against Mayor Latoya Cantrell for offering him the homeland security director's job and then moving in another direction.

Riley put out an lengthy statement calling the mayor's decision a complete surprise. He also released a letter Wednesday that was signed by him and Cantrell. It offered a salary of $180,000 a year to be director of public safety and homeland security. At the bottom, it says "to accept this job offer, please sign." Which Riley did on April 22.

That was eight days before Cantrell said: "Based on the uptick, I would say in the community as it relates to Warren Riley, I determined to press pause at this time."

Cantrell said she made her decision after talking with family members of those killed on the Danziger Bridge after Katrina.

Now Riley is firing back. He put out a statement saying that he was not on the bridge and had no communications with officers during the incident, repeating statements made in a FOX 8 interview in 2010.

Reporter: "How could you guys not have known?"

Riley: "They clearly stated that they would ensure that nobody above Lohman knew about this, that they would make sure. Lohman sat in COMMSTAT for the next four years. Not a person in that room had any idea anything like that. It's like you raise your kids and people ask, 'how didn't you know?' They didn't want you to know."

Riley was referring to Lt. Michael Lohman, who was sentenced to four years in a federal prison for the Danziger cover-up. Riley's  statement went on to say he was looking forward to serving under the first female mayor, and he said "It is with great regret that I will not have the opportunity."

The signed agreement says the offer is conditional on completion of a background check and drug test, which Riley did authorize.

And Wednesday night, this statement from Mayor Cantrell: "The proposed position was of 'at will' service to the city and without privilege of civil service standing."

Mr. Riley's offer letter was for an unclassified position, serving at the pleasure of the mayor.

"It was and is within the mayor's discretion to continue evaluating the hire, and ultimately to elect not to move forward," Cantrell's statement said.

We reached Warren Riley by phone, and he deferred all comment to his attorney. A spokesman for Riley wouldn't respond to a question about whether or not there may be legal action. But Riley's attorney is expected to say more on the matter Thursday.

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