NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The New Orleans Office of Inspector General said in a letter on Tuesday (Jan. 28) that it is involved in an investigation related to the city’s department of safety and permits regarding the Hard Rock collapse.
“This investigation involving multiple law enforcement and regulatory agencies, both federal and state, has already resulted in one federal indictment,” the letter from the IG’s office to the city council said. “The specific circumstances regarding the October 12, 2019, collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel is inherently included in the investigation.”
The IG’s office asked the council to consider the impact their investigation would have on a long term investigation with federal and state partners. It said a separate investigation would interfere with routine law enforcement procedures.
“We respectfully request the City Council defer any review of the specific circumstances surrounding the Hard Rock collapse in favor of the investigations presently underway,” IG Derry Harper said.
Mayor Latoya Cantrell also responded in a letter to City Council President Helena Moreno and Vice President Jason Williams stating her staff will not be present at the requested hearing.
“Your decision to move forward with a Special Council Hearing, in an effort to provide a forum for the public to air its frustration with the Hard Rock Hotel Collapse, is ill-advised at this time and puts the timely demolition and the ongoing investigation of the site at-risk," Cantrell said. “Given these concerns, my staff will not be present at the hearing.”
She stated that the full demolition process could begin the following week after legal agreements are solidified within the next week. However, an examination of these contracts could cause some needed parties to drop out of the project.
“A public examination of sensitive private contracts between the owner, its insurance company, the demolition company, its insurers and the like, prior to the finalization of these agreements, may cause some of the necessary parties to not participate in this complex recovery and demolition project,” Cantrell said.
According to the letter, one of the insurers may have already withdrawn due to negative publicity following comments from a council member last week.
“To politicize the collapse at this time risks undermining the most recent progress and could further delay demolition of the site and inhibit the ability to conduct an appropriate investigation,” Cantrell said.
The collapse on Canal St. killed three people.
The city recently decided to implode the remains of the building and said it supports demolishing three nearby structures.