Zurik: Investigators grill mayor’s security about travel and Vappie’s HANO board appointment
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An investigation that started with questions about New Orleans Police Officer Jeffrey Vappie’s timesheets quickly expanded to include questions about his time spent with Mayor LaToya Cantrell inside a city-owned apartment.
Newly obtained recordings from the Public Integrity Bureau’s investigative interviews with Officer Vappie and fellow members of the executive protection team, Robert Monlyn, and Charles Ellis, show investigators asked about traveling with Mayor Cantrell and Vappie’s mayoral appointment to a public board.
Taxpayers paid Officer Vappie to provide protection for Mayor Cantrell on more trips than any other member of her executive protection team. On a few occasions, Vappie traveled first class with the mayor.
Prior to Vappie joining Mayor Cantrell’s security, no officer ever traveled with her.
“At some point, you have started traveling,” a PIB investigator asks Vappie’s partner, Officer Monlyn. “When did that happen, do you remember?”
“I don’t remember offhand,” Monlyn begins. “It was definitely after there was two threats towards the mayor. Two white guys that threatened (her), two separate ones, and I think like around that time, right after. Somewhere around there.”
While Monlyn said security threats were the reason executive protection went on trips, Ellis, now retired, never mentioned any threats.
“The mayor didn’t start traveling until Vappie came on,” Ellis told a PIB interviewer. “Once he came on, we were told by the mayor’s scheduler, Katrina Simmons, that ‘hey guys y’all are gonna start traveling with the mayor.’”
Ellis said he started preparing his things - getting a passport and luggage ready for his turn in the rotation.
“And I never got called at all,” Ellis said.
Investigators also asked Vappie about his appointment to a public board. Mayor Cantrell appointed Vappie to the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) board even though he had no experience in public housing.
“I had a talk with my boss, which is the mayor,” Vappie said. “I was asking her how would one start their career outside of law enforcement in another civil service - another capacity of serving the public. And she made mention of various boards; the NORD, HANO being one of the boards. And when the HANO position came available, I was asked if I would be interested.”
“Who asked you?” the interviewer asked.
“The boss,” Vappie replied.
Fox 8 uncovered instances where Vappie attended HANO board meetings while also on the clock for NOPD - being paid by taxpayers. Legal experts say it could be payroll fraud. Vappie says he was instructed to go to the meetings by his boss.
“Was there any reason why you would attend that board meeting while you’re on the clock for NOPD?” the interviewer asked.
“Yeah, absolutely; with the permission of the mayor. She made... she wanted me to attend those meetings. It was one meeting every Tuesday of the month,” Vappie replied.
“You received no instruction from an NOPD supervisor to attend that meeting?” the interviewer asked.
“None. No. I had instruction from my boss who I was working for at the time, the mayor,” Vappie answered.
“And the mayor instructed you to go to the meeting while on the clock?” the interviewer continued.
“That’s correct,” Vappie said.
Monlyn called Vappie’s appointment to the board “strange.”
“I don’t know any other police officer on any board,” Monlyn told investigators.
Vappie’s coworkers told PIB investigators some of his actions, exposed in a series of Fox 8 investigations, were embarrassing and tainted the office and the job to which they have dedicated their lives.
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