City Hall computer seized amid ‘Smart Cities’ investigation

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 3:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The New Orleans Inspector General’s Office has seized a computer from a City Hall IT employee.

An attorney for Christopher Wolff says the seizure is related to the ongoing “Smart Cities” investigation.

The City Council recently asked the I.G.’s office to investigate how Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration negotiated a citywide wifi contract to provide internet to low-income neighborhoods. The multimillion-dollar project was also pitched as a way to create a private, “city directed” internet provider to compete with Cox and AT&T. It also called for the installation of thousands of “smart city” devices, like street lights and traffic signals, which could collect data to improve city services and be sold for profit.

The city’s utility director, Jonathan Rhodes, had a working relationship with the company Qualcomm, which won the contract for the work.

Rhodes’ company, Verge Internet, had dealings with Qualcomm, but he says his company was never designed to profit from his work as a city employee.

One business founded by Rhodes and Wolff has worked as a “pro bono” consultant for Qualcomm.

Qualcomm eventually pulled out of the deal.

Councilmembers grilled Rhodes last month about deleted emails. Councilmember J.P. Morrell called it a “bad deal” with significant ethical concerns.

Cantrell says the council was disrupting her administration and costing the city millions.

Wolff’s attorney says there is no need for his client’s name to keep coming up during the investigation because he’s done nothing wrong and was acting within the scope of his job.

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