Zurik: Vappie’s return to Mayor Cantrell’s protection detail scuttled, NOPD federal monitor says
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The federal monitor overseeing the New Orleans Police Department consent decree said Tuesday (March 7) he blocked an attempt in December to have Officer Jeffrey Vappie reinstated to Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s executive protection detail while still under internal police investigation.
Jonathan Aronie, the Washington DC-based attorney and lead monitor of the NOPD’s consent decree, made the revelation in response to a Fox 8 question submitted for a public hearing on the NOPD’s compliance progress.
“Yes, there was an effort to put Officer Vappie back on the mayor’s executive protection team, prior to the completion of the PIB (Public Integrity Bureau) investigation,” Aronie said. “When the monitoring team found out about it, we reached out to multiple members of the NOPD leadership team, who quickly and effectively quashed that effort.”
Aronie did not elaborate on where the request originated, nor did he explain who denied it. Shaun Ferguson retired as the NOPD’s superintendent on Dec. 22 and was replaced by interim superintendent Michelle Woodfork.
Cantrell was asked at a Jan. 4 press conference at City Hall whether she had asked Ferguson to reinstate Vappie to her protection team. She denied making such a request.
“No, what I did was making sure the investigation is moving, and it needs to be and I believe it will be coming to a close,” Cantrell said. “But it’s about fairness, it’s about making sure that we’re doing the right thing, and definitely not wanting any of that to be caught up in any changes.”
Fox 8 asked the mayor’s communications team Tuesday night for a response to Aronie’s revelation and for an explanation of who made the request to reinstate Vappie to Cantrell’s protection team.
Gregory Joseph, the mayor’s communications director, responded, “At no time since she was sworn in has Chief Woodfork attempted to reassign Officer Vappie to executive protection.”
Vappie has been reassigned to a property forfeiture desk job while under PIB investigation into payroll and timesheet irregularities uncovered in a series of Fox 8 investigations.
“This is, I think, a bad look for the office of mayor,” says Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
Video evidence obtained from a public camera through a public records request showed Vappie and the mayor spending long hours together in the city-owned Upper Pontalba apartments and on several trips out of town. Vappie’s wife filed a petition for divorce, alleging that her husband had confessed to her about having an extramarital affair with the mayor.
Cantrell evaded questions about the divorce petition’s claims in January, saying, “That is a personal matter, as it relates to the Vappie family, and it’s none of my business and quite frankly none of yours. As it relates to my involvement or the false allegations, I’ve responded to that. I get them all the time, and they just haven’t stopped. It’s really interesting. They haven’t stopped and I don’t expect them to.
“As I’ve stated, you know, based on the false allegations that come my way, by the time I finish this job, literally, you know, accused of sleeping with half the city of New Orleans -- both genders and all pronouns. I’m known as Teedy sometimes and Teddy other times. So, with that, false allegations, you know, that’s basically all I have to say about that.”
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