Ethics Review Board reappoints IG Quatrevaux for another four years

Saying Inspector General Ed Quatreveaux has prevented millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse while helping to send unscrupulous employees packing, the Ethics Review Board on Monday voted 4-0 to reappoint him for another four-year term as City Hall’s top watchdog.

The board made its decision after about 50 minutes of discussion in an executive session that followed comments from 10 people. Most criticized Quatrevaux for not being tough enough on the New Orleans Police Department and for allegedly short-changing the independent police monitor, the part of his Office of Inspector General tasked with investigating claims of abuse and fraud at the New Orleans Police Department.

Among the results Quatrevaux touted in an end-of-the-year news release late in December were investigations that resulted in 10 indictments and 10 convictions, potential loss prevention that exceeded the OIG’s budget “several times over,” a review of Aviation Board credit cards that found $20,000 in illegal donations, $300 tips and other misspending, and life, property and casualty, and vehicle liability self-insurance reviews that identified $691,000 in waste.

Ruthie Frierson with Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans said the creation of an inspector general’s office in New Orleans has been so successful that it spurred neighboring Jefferson Parish to follow suit. St. Tammany Parish has also been exploring the creation of an IG. Frierson was joined by Bob Brown, managing director of the New Orleans Business Council and Byron Harrell, president and CEO of Baptist Community Ministries, in lauding Quatrevaux’s efforts.

Rommel Madison, whose brother Ronald was gunned down on the Danziger Bridge following Hurricane Katrina, said he supported the Inspector General’s Office, though he did not mention Quatrevaux by name.

Still, there were a half-dozen other speakers who said that Quatrevaux should not get another four years.

Donald Chopin noted that Quatrevaux has in previous years returned to the city unspent money from his budget. That, he said, should instead be moved to the police monitor. “Basically he has no oversight,” Chopin said. “He needs to be more community-friendly.”

Activist Norris Henderson said he supports an inspector general in the city but that Quatrevaux has been too soft on Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas. He noted, for instance, that Serpas’ pension paperwork was allegedly signed and notarized on May 6, 2010, the day Serpas was appointed superintendent.

Though the notarization makes it appear the signatories were in the same place, Serpas was actually in Nashville, where he was previously the police chief. Meanwhile, Assistant City Attorney Victor Papai, who notarized the document, was in New Orleans, as were the witnesses.

Quatrevaux reviewed the matter but found no wrongdoing on Serpas’ part. Instead, he raised questions about Papai’s actions.

“I don’t see comprehensive change since this office has been around,” said the Rev. Raymond Brown, another activist. “What is the IG’s office doing to satisfy our citizens? Where’s the money going?”

Before the board voted to reappoint Quatrevaux, board secretary Laura Rouzan said that speakers’ concerns had been noted.

“We have heard you. We are listening. We are representing,” she said.

Board Chairman Michael Cowan said that Quatrevaux’s last four years of work have been “excellent.” He was preparing to make further remarks when he was interrupted by speaker Eloise William and Dyan “Mama D” French Cole, who began to shout at the board.

William’s and Cole’s disruption prevented Cowan from speaking further, and the board finally voted.

Quatrevaux’s term expires in October.

Quatrevaux, who was not present for Monday’s reappointment, was one of a half-dozen finalists the Ethics Review Board considered in 2007 before it named Robert Cerasoli the city’s first inspector general.

Cerasoli resigned his post in January 2009, citing health reasons, and Quatrevaux was again one of three finalists. The Ethics Review Board hired him, from among 65 applicants, in September 2009.

Loyola University President the Rev. Kevin Wildes, former chairman of the Ethics Review Board, said after Quatrevaux’s selection that he was the second choice behind Cerasoli when the first IG was selected, and would have been chosen for the job if Cerasoli turned it down.

Voters in 1995 approved revisions to the City Charter that created the ethics board and an inspector general. Neither, however, was established until fall 2006, when the City Council voted to set up the office and board.