New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux released his final report on the controversy involving Police Commander Edwin Hosli on Friday, concluding as expected that Hosli violated Police Department policy when he formed his own company to manage a group of off-duty officers hired to review traffic camera footage.
The report also dings former Director of Public Works Robert Mendoza for ignoring City Hall policy when he expanded a contract with the company that collects money from parking tickets without informing his superiors or the City Council.
But the report, which comes more than two years after the inspector general began looking into the issue, is unlikely to fan the controversy any further, showing little evidence of any direct involvement by Police Chief Ronal Serpas.
Hosli’s contract to review the traffic footage caused outrage when it came to light in 2011 because of his close relationship with the city’s top cop, whose driver and son-in-law ended up working for the private company that Hosli had formed to handle the traffic camera work. And earlier this month, the inspector general released an analysis showing that Hosli and some other officers overbilled the city by as much as $9,000, a finding that is not mentioned in the final report.
Instead, its conclusions focus narrowly on the question of whether Hosli or Mendoza violated city policy in establishing a process to review the camera footage, finding that both men broke the rules.
Mendoza, who was fired by Mayor Mitch Landrieu a few months after Hosli’s arrangement became public, told the inspector general that he initially requested on-duty police officers to handle the traffic camera work, which is the norm in other cities. But he said that Police Chief Warren Riley told him none could be spared.
So instead of getting on-duty officers, Mendoza decided to look into hiring off-duty cops to review the traffic footage as a paid detail, the type of extra-hours work that officers do to supplement their income. Senior managers at American Traffic Solutions, the company that sold the city its “red-light camera” system, told the inspector general that New Orleans is the only municipality they knew of that used paid details for the work instead of on-duty officers.
Mendoza said he asked Zepporiah Edmonds, the head of his department’s parking division, to find the necessary officers for paid details and started using “Hosli’s detail officers” to do the work beginning in September 2010, a few months after Landrieu took office. Mendoza said that he met with Serpas in November and the chief told him the same thing that Riley had, that he couldn’t spare on-duty officers and that “a detail would be the way to go.”
Edmonds told the inspector general she picked Hosli based on the recommendation of NOPD Lt. Joe Valiente. No one else told her to hire Hosli, she said.
The report notes that Serpas claimed he had no hand in the decision despite his friendship with Hosli, quoting him as saying, “I didn’t tell people who to hire for details.” In the meantime, the report says that Mendoza hired a company called Affiliated Computer Services, which was already collecting fines for the city from parking tickets, to also start collecting the money from red-light camera tickets. However, he apparently did not tell his bosses or the City Council, a violation of city rules.
Hosli then also violated policy by setting up a limited-liability corporation, Anytime Solutions, to collect payments from ACS for reviewing the camera footage. The police department doesn’t allow officers to form outside companies for detail work.
Although Hosli was suspended and then put on desk duty while the inspector general and the FBI investigated the case, he ultimately came through the scandal relatively unscathed. State and federal prosecutors recently declined to bring criminal charges, and Hosli was reinstated last month with back pay and benefits. He did, however, keep a three-day suspension for using a company to manage details in violation of NOPD policy.
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