James Gill’s column on July 19 took the Ethics Review Board (ERB) to task for transgressions reported by Professor David Marcello. As usual, I enjoyed Gill’s wit and sense of irony and there’s some truth to what Marcello wrote, though not much of significance.
The ERB is composed of non-compensated citizens who meet six times a year. Its annual budgets averaged $177,367 between 2012 and 2015, at least three-quarters of which paid for staff. The discretionary funds available to the ERB averaged only $39,253 during the same period. In contrast, the city’s operating budget exceeds one-half billion dollars per year. I like to say that we don’t audit petty cash, and government doesn’t get much smaller than the ERB budget.
Our assessments of local government entities and programs are based on the assumption that fraud and waste are present everywhere. That’s why we are working now at the airport, the NOPD, and the S&WB — where significant money is spent. We also select projects based on their potential impacts on public safety such as the Electronic Monitoring Program and DWI case processing. It would not be a prudent use of public funds to expend precious staff resources on an audit of the ERB budget or a review of ERB compliance when there are so many higher priority entities and programs on the OIG strategic plan.
inspector general, city of New Orleans