NOPD seeking a new mouthpiece, and other political notes

Wanted: Someone to help rebuild the self-described “negative reputation” of the New Orleans Police Department.

The NOPD, without an official spokesperson for months now, is on the hunt for someone to be the new face of the agency, sidekick to the superintendent and soundbite-purveyor on news issues large and small.

The spokesperson position has been vacant since late March, when Remi Braden suddenly resigned after three years on the job.

The city recently issued a request for proposals to fill the position, which pays $91,000 a year.

According to the RFP, applications are due Aug. 7. A new spokesperson is to be selected by Aug. 18.

Whoever gets the gig will be expected to perform traditional public relations duties, such as writing news releases and coordinating interviews with the media — not the forte of some former NOPD flacks — as well as a few new undertakings, such as “effectively using social media.”

Realizing the Police Department has something of an image problem, the RFP also notes that the next spokesperson will be expected to do something that could be a tall order: “rebuilding the NOPD’s brand and the brand’s negative reputation.”

Controversy over Reed lights Burns’ fire

If there is one man in St. Tammany Parish who is unequivocally happy about the turmoil surrounding District Attorney Walter Reed, it has to be Roy Burns, who is running for Reed’s job.

A grinning Burns showed up on the courthouse steps the day last month that Reed told his staff and then the public that he would not seek a sixth term, and Burns also has run two radio ads urging voters to see him as the nonestablishment candidate.

On Sunday, Burns decided to do a little bridge-building with the DA’s Office. He published a letter on his Facebook page, seeking to allay any concerns on the part of the DA’s staff that there would be a mass purge should Burns win the November election.

“Most of you will be retained,” Burns wrote in the letter. “I am not going to ask you to believe that there will not be some change, but I suggest that change will be in the positions of power, not among those who actually make the office work.”

Burns promised that, under him, life would be better for the employees.

“For too long the employees of the office have been treated like second-class citizens,” he wrote in the letter. “Those days are over, and you will be treated with respect.”

Burns and two other candidates — St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Trainor and Slidell lawyer Alan Black — have announced their intention to run for the office in the Nov. 4 primary. Reed announced earlier this month that he wouldn’t run for a sixth term.

Reed has not publicly endorsed any of the three candidates, but a source told The New Orleans Advocate that he referred to Trainor and Black as “friends” in a meeting with his staff where he announced he would not seek re-election.

Burns weighed in a second time this week, responding to a report this week by WVUE-TV and nola.com that Reed used $200,000 of taxpayer money over the years to pad his own retirement and the pensions of select staff members. This time, he issued a release promising that if he is elected, “Greed in the DA’s Office will stop.”

“It is utterly astonishing not only that the incumbent engaged in such unethical — and possibly criminal — practices but that members of his staff who knew of such wrongdoing remained silent,” Burns said. “While I believe the overwhelming majority of D.A.’s Office employees are hardworking and ethical, this could almost be called a conspiracy, even if only a conspiracy of silence.”

If elected, he said, he “will immediately request a full inspection of financial records by the Louisiana legislative auditor.”

City’s IG pats himself on the back on water move

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux took a short victory lap this week, courtesy of Detroit’s well-documented financial woes.

Quatrevaux issued a short letter Thursday noting that “two letters to the editor of the Wall Street Journal today say the failure to collect water fees in Detroit contributed greatly to its financial collapse and bankruptcy.”

He added that in New Orleans, the Landrieu administration “tried to fix that problem in 2012,” but the council failed to pass its proposal to allow the Sewerage & Water Board to cut off water to households that failed to pay the city sanitation service fee added to customers’ water bills each month. The board could cut off water to customers who didn’t pay their water bills but not to those who didn’t pay the sanitation fee.

In July 2013, Quatrevaux said, his office issued a report saying the city had failed to collect $8.5 million in 2011 sanitation fees. “Then in November 2013, the administration proposed and the council approved a measure that allows the city to cut off water service for nonpayment. It’s great to see that our city fixed this serious problem.”

Obvious implication: It was the IG’s report that changed the council’s mind and won passage of the proposal.

Compiled by staff writers Danny Monteverde, Faimon A. Roberts III and Bruce Eggler