Susan Hutson, the city’s independent police monitor, is coming out swinging against Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux for trying to get her fired, claiming in a lengthy public letter that he has mistreated black employees in his office and has a “vindictive and vengeful personality.”
Hutson’s letter, which was released late Wednesday night, was her first public comment since Quatrevaux recommended her termination to the city Ethics Review Board on Sept. 24.
Both of the offices fall under the purview of the board, but their respective leaders are now locked in a political battle. The seven-member board, which is appointed by the mayor, is expected to vote on Hutson’s future on Oct. 23.
Meanwhile, five members of the City Council, led by Councilman Jared Brossett, moved to insert themselves in the dispute on Thursday by introducing an ordinance that would insulate the police monitor from the inspector general.
The ordinance would provide a set funding stream for the police monitor, expand the number of positions in the office from three to 12, grant the monitor subpoena power and raise the threshold for firing the chief monitor from a majority to a two-thirds vote of the Ethics Review Board.
The ordinance also states that the police monitor retains the power to “produce reports without the approval of the Office of the Inspector General,” a key sticking point between the two.
It was not immediately clear whether the proposed changes would require a City Charter amendment, which would need to be approved by voters.
Quatrevaux claims Hutson has consistently failed to work effectively with the New Orleans Police Department and that she “crippled” her own office by upsetting a federal judge with the release of a video showing an officer striking a juvenile inmate.
Hutson, for her part, is now laying out a wide array of disagreements with the city’s top watchdog over everything from their differing styles to funding to specific police misconduct investigations. Most pointedly, Hutson also suggests that Quatrevaux has made his office a difficult place for black women to work, a claim she has made in the past.
She ends her letter by raising Quatrevaux’s “treatment of African-American employees in general.” She says she is the sixth black person and fifth black woman that Quatrevaux has sought to fire.
“This unsupported and factually deficient attempt to diminish and misrepresent my work and besmirch my character is the most concrete example yet of Mr. Quatrevaux’s vindictive and vengeful personality,” she writes of his attempt to fire her.
Hutson does not list other specific allegations of discrimination or racially biased conduct on Quatrevaux’s part, but she does say that “to deny that there are race and gender politics at issue here is to deny the facts.”
Quatrevaux did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Pointing to Quatrevaux’s complaints about her investigations into the killings of Wendell Allen and Justin Sipp, Hutson also alleges that he “has completely distorted the facts regarding these two investigations into the deaths of two young African-American males at the hands of white police officers.”
Quatrevaux argued that the monitor’s report on Allen’s killing created the appearance that Hutson was trying to influence a sentence reduction hearing for an officer convicted in the shooting. It was released years after the shooting itself but just a day before the hearing was scheduled to take place.
A memorandum of understanding between the Police Department and the police monitor specifies that Hutson’s reviews of Public Integrity Bureau investigations should be finished within 10 days of when those investigations are closed.
Hutson countered that her office has been inadequately funded by Quatrevaux and forced to rely on the help of pro bono professionals, slowing the review process.
And while Quatrevaux pointed out that Hutson has never released a review of the Sipp killing, Hutson responded by saying the NOPD investigation into Sipp’s death remains open.
Hutson also disputed Quatrevaux’s account of a tense in-chambers meeting with U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who is overseeing the NOPD’s reform agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The July 14 meeting centered on Hutson’s release of a video showing fired NOPD Officer Terrance Saulny hitting a juvenile in custody.
Morgan reportedly attempted to impose a “protocol” on Hutson for the release of future documents related to police misconduct investigations. According to Quatrevaux, Morgan ordered the Police Department not to release documents into Hutson’s care because she “stated that she would unilaterally release information without any coordination.”
Hutson dismissed that claim as hearsay from a man who was not present at the meeting. She never claimed she would release videos in the future on her own, she said. In the Saulny case, she added, she felt she had to release the video under the state’s public records law.
“In fulfilling my duties, I am not going to make closed-door political deals in which the public is removed from access to critical information about its Police Department,” Hutson wrote. “If anything, it would have been unethical to agree to such a ‘protocol.’ ”
A woman answering the phone Thursday at Morgan’s chambers said the judge would not comment on the dispute.