IG consultant raises concern after soliciting city job

IG consultant raises concern after soliciting city job
Published: Aug. 13, 2015 at 8:27 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2015 at 9:33 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The head of the New Orleans City Council's regulatory committee says he wants to talk with the inspector general about a recent incident which he likens to a shakedown.

A consultant hired by the IG to give a critical review of the way utilities are regulated by the council has now offered his services to straighten out the problems his report points out.

It was a 122-page inspector general's report, which took the city council to task for the way it regulates utilities.

"That report was based on information two years prior to the report coming out," said City Councilman Jason Williams, who chairs the council's utility committee.

The report points out that the between the years between 2011 and 2013 the council spent $3.8 million a year for utility consultants.

It said that much of that work could be handled in house, but it was the main consultant used in the report that has created concern.

"I was hoping our inspector general would have vetted someone before spending over $100,000 to have him critique what was going on in the city," Williams said.

David Boonin is an outside consultant used to write the report. But on July 27, five weeks after the report was issued, Boonin solicited the city for consultant work himself, saying in a letter, "I suggest you retain me immediately to address those issues, outlined in his report."

"It doesn't smell right, if you're considering old meat, just smell it, and this doesn't smell right," Williams said.

The OIG addressed the issue in an email to City Hall.  Assistant IG Nadiene Van Dyke wrote that the city's regulatory responsibilities were not 'improperly guided by Boonin's efforts to solicit additional consulting work.'

"We will ensure that all future contractual arrangements include safeguards... to maintain our  standards," she added.

Williams says the consultant was paid for through a private grant, which he says raises more questions about possible conflicts.

The money to hire Boonin, came from the RosaMary Foundation, a Louisiana charitable trust, that has awarded $1.4 million in grants to 53 organization in addition to the OIG...everyone from the YWCA to the Bureau of Governmental Research.

"For this guy being paid with private funds, and then suggest that the administration hire its own, and then, in less than a month, solicits the job for himself, that's deeply concerning," Williams said.

IG Ed Quatrevaux issued a statement saying he "was disappointed to learn that Mr. Boonin had solicited additional work from the city after the conclusion of the contract. However, Mr. Boonin's contract with the OIG had concluded and there was no breach of state ethics rules."

The IG went on to say that it "stands by the conclusions and recommendations in the report."

Quatreveaux, also says the RosaMary Foundation did not recommend the consultant and did not specify what project the funds be used for.

FOX 8 also reached out to David Boonin, who said any comments from him would have to go through the IG.

To read Boonin's letter, click here.

To read the OIG's utilities report, click here.

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