Former New Orleans city attorney reacts to leak in Vappie investigation
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans city attorney Donesia Turner takes responsibility for inadvertently releasing recordings tied to the investigation into NOPD officer Jeffery Vappie. The investigation was launched after a series of FOX8 investigations that show Vappie spending long hours, both on and off duty, inside the city-owned French Quarter Upper Pontabla.
Former city attorney William Aaron says he’s shocked at the leak and the questions surrounding the investigation.
“The problem you run into with anything like that is the appearance of impropriety. It’s not that something is bad, but it looks funny, it looks odd or it doesn’t look appropriate,” Aaron said.
The leaked recordings were several hours of questioning from an investigator with NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau and with the officers on the mayor’s security team, including Vappie. Aaron says since a city attorney’s responsibility is representing all city departments, that could explain why Turner was involved in the investigation.
“The city attorney’s office probably had some role relative to advising the police department and probably the Public Integrity Bureau,” Aaron said.
But Aaron questions why the investigation into the mayor and Vappie was handled by the NOPD, not an outside agency like the Office of Inspector General.
“It removes any suspicions since the mayor is actually over the police department. So you have the police investigating their boss in a sort of way,” he said.
Eric Hessler, attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans, echoed that statement.
“I think it was made clear that certain persons and parties and entities that it should have been handled by an independent third party,” Hessler said.
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Hessler is concerned about the state of the Vappie investigation. But he’s also concerned that these tapes were released to easily, while his agency has had problems getting these types of files for their own cases.
“We literally had to file suit and go to court and fight for them to hand over completed investigations to be used in the defense of police officers at disciplinary hearings. They fought us on that and now the city attorney’s office is apparently just giving it out like popcorn,” Hessler said.
And Aaron says the officers that gave testimony could also be concerned about their comments now being made public.
“It wasn’t just a very short snippet of information. It was a lot of questions, a lot of answers. It has a lot of people talking,” he said.
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