New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux does not have the authority to audit the Orleans Parish School Board, the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal has decided, reversing a lower court ruling in Quatrevaux’s favor.
In a majority opinion released Friday, Judge Dennis Bagneris wrote that Quatrevaux’s jurisdiction extends only to “matters involving city government,” while a “parish school board is a political subdivision of the state of Louisiana.”
Quatrevaux, who can still appeal to the state Supreme Court, claims he should be able to audit the board anyway because it receives tax dollars through City Hall, which acts as tax collector for all local government agencies.
Although at least three board members have said they wouldn’t mind an audit, the School Board has argued in court that it does not get tax revenue from the city in any meaningful sense. As an independently elected board, it sets its own tax rates and simply pays the city a fee to collect the money on its behalf. That’s not the case with agencies like the Sheriff’s Office, which gets money directly from the city’s general fund.
Only one judge on a five-judge panel sided with Quatrevaux. In her dissent, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano said the majority is misreading the state law that established Quatrevaux’s office in the first place. That law states that Quatrevaux may audit any entity that receives tax dollars “through” the city, with no mention of whether the money must pass through the general fund.
“I believe the majority misinterprets the statute by ignoring its clear wording,” Lobrano wrote.
Agreeing with Bagneris were Judges Terri Love, Edwin Lombard and Roland Belsome.
Follow Andrew Vanacore on Twitter, @avanacore.