Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson appeared to pick up a few important allies Wednesday in her ongoing feud over funding with New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux.
After Hutson laid out her case for seeking $338,000 more than the roughly $500,000 Quatrevaux has set aside for her office in 2015, some members of the City Council began brainstorming ways to change the rule prohibiting them from appropriating money directly to Hutson’s office.
Hutson and Quatrevaux have engaged in a long-standing disagreement about fundingfor the police monitor’s office, which is entitled by law to three employees but must rely on the inspector general for anything more.
Hutson said Wednesday that unless her office receives money for a mediation program and to hire three additional employees, it won’t be as productive or effective as it could be. Quatrevaux has indicated no intention of giving her more money.
That puts the council in a bind. The Independent Police Monitor’s Office falls within the inspector general’s budget, and the council by law can’t tell him how to spend the money he receives. His annual appropriation is a fixed percentage of the city’s total general fund budget.
But Councilman Jason Williams and Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, in particular, appeared eager to find a way to get more money in Hutson’s hands directly. “It seems like what we’ve created, in some cases it feels like, is this fight within (the IG’s Office), and that doesn’t seem to be sustainable or healthy,” Cantrell said before calling on aides to the council and administration to explore what the council could legally do to assist Hutson’s office.
Hutson was not scheduled to make a presentation to the council during its annual budget hearings, but Williams said he asked specifically that the office be added to the hearing schedule, calling the relationship between the two officials “unhealthy.”
Quatrevaux and Hutson ended up making back-to-back appearances before the panel. Quatrevaux did not mention the police monitor’s request for additional funding in his presentation.
The police monitor “would be relying on the inspector general to come in here and say all of the things that we heard from them today and from the public about them, and that’s not what happened in the inspector general’s presentation,” Williams said. “And it’s never going to happen. So I think there’s some structural dynamics that we’re going to have to address moving forward so that this independent police monitor can be independent and do the work that is their mission.”
The inspector general’s budget is set by the City Charter at 0.75 percent of the general fund, or about $4.45 million in 2015, up from $4.2 million in 2014, with that money going to his office, the Ethics Review Board and Hutson’s office. Quatrevaux decides how much she and the ethics board get.
Just how the council will achieve its goal of sending more funds to the police monitor was left unresolved at the end of Wednesday’s meeting. Even if the panel funds the Inspector General’s Office “above and beyond” the allocation determined by the formula, Quatrevaux can still spend the money as he sees fit, Councilman James Gray said.
The council does have the ability to require the IG’s Office to fund additional positions and functions, some suggested.
Cantrell said she wants to have such a change ready to be introduced at the council’s meeting next week.
“We’ve needed a champion,” Hutson told the council. “We thank you for having all these champions up here today.”
Hutson’s request for additional funding includes $120,000 for the Community Police Mediation Program. The IG’s budget sets aside $18,377 for the program, down from $99,934 last year. Several supporters, including the heads of police unions that often butt heads with the monitor’s office, spoke in favor of that request Wednesday.
The police monitor said she also needs an additional $122,773 to hire a staff auditor and a contract data analyst.