Two Safety and Permits Inspectors placed on emergency suspension following FOX 8 Investigation

Suspension also added to retired inspector’s employee file

Two Safety and Permits Inspectors placed on emergency suspension following FOX 8 Investigation

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Two inspectors with the City of New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits have been placed on emergency suspension, following a series of FOX 8 reports that revealed discrepancies between city inspection logs and GPS records of the department’s vehicles.

City officials confirm that Eric Treadaway and Julie Tweeter were placed on a thirty-day emergency suspension without pay. Both are employed as a senior building inspector with the city. A third senior building inspector, Thomas Dwyer, had retired from the city on February 14, 2020. The city placed the same emergency suspension note in his employee file.

The employees will have a pre-termination hearing with the city on March 9, 2020.

FOX 8 analysis of GPS data from the Department of Safety and Permits vehicles showed discrepancies with Tweeter, Treadaway and Dwyer. The city confirmed FOX 8′s findings are part of an ongoing internal and external investigation into the department and the deadly collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site on Oct. 12, 2019. That collapse killed three men after several floors collapsed.

In the letter signed by Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño to the three senior building inspectors, the city said the suspension is a result of the Department of Safety and Permits’ ongoing internal investigation which “revealed information concerning a pattern of your failure to conduct inspections of buildings as assigned and required by your job duties, as well as subsequent falsification of public records pertaining to these unconducted inspections.”

The pattern of behavior discovered included receiving photos of job sites from third parties and uploading those photos to LAMA as though they were taken by you during an inspection, as well as the input of information into LAMA that was intended to indicate that you had been present at the job sites for the inspections in question. This failure to conduct inspections as assigned and the falsification of inspection records is a clear violation of Standard Operating Procedure Memorandum 14-02 and Employee Policy Memorandum 13-02(2)(A)(c): Standards of Professional Behavior.

-Letter from the City of New Orleans to inspectors

The three photos shown at the left are from the city's inspection system, LAMA, showing what was believed to be from a 17th floor inspection of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site by Julie Tweeter on September 16, 2019. GPS from a vehicle believed to be used by Tweeter showed she was only on the site for a few minutes.
The three photos shown at the left are from the city's inspection system, LAMA, showing what was believed to be from a 17th floor inspection of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site by Julie Tweeter on September 16, 2019. GPS from a vehicle believed to be used by Tweeter showed she was only on the site for a few minutes. (Source: City of New Orleans/WVUE-TV)

The city uses a system called LAMA to track inspections and documents related to inspections. In one case, inspector Julie Tweeter logged in the system she approved a pour on the 17th floor for the Hard Rock Hotel site and uploaded three photos to the city’s system. GPS on a vehicle believed to have been used by her shows the closest she could have been to the site was two and a half blocks away for less than ten minutes -- making an inspection on the 17th floor physically impossible.

FOX 8 also found that Treadaway also signed off on inspections without visiting the Hard Rock site, spending a large portion of one day on the other side of the Mississippi River. The city told Treadaway he also used third-party pictures that he submitted to the LAMA system to make it appear he was present at the job site.

In Dwyer’s case, FOX 8 found that a city vehicle believed to be used by him went to Costco for more than an hour and even though he claimed to inspect the Hard Rock site, his vehicle never came close to the corner of Canal and Rampart.

The March 9 pre-termination hearing will happen before the Director of Safety and Permits at City Hall. The inspectors are told in the letter to turn in their credentials and city-issued documents and equipment to the department.

.
. (Source: WVUE-TV)

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.