It’s hard to disagree that the rapprochement between New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux and Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson is “a big win for the entire community.”
So says David Marcello, who, as head of Tulane’s Public Law Center, is quite the expert on the city’s Ethics Review Board, to which the city’s two watchdogs answer. They can doubtless both function better now that they are not at each other’s throat.
Still, neither could inspire much confidence if we were to judge by their recent exchange of compliments.
The inspector general, in urging the board to fire the police monitor, denounced her as unethical and incompetent. Her response was to call him a racist and a sexist with a “vindictive and vengeful personality.”
Unless both got it wrong, that big win was far from unalloyed.
Whether they have since revised their views, we may never know; for, in burying the hatchet, they pledged to “refrain from publicly criticizing or commenting on one another except as it pertains to (their) respective missions.” They sat down in City Councilman Jared Brossett’s office to sign their agreement last week, and posted a video of the historic occasion online.
Whether or not this was a big win for the entire community, it was certainly one for Hutson. She emerged with every one of her demands met.
Quatrevaux has until now controlled her budget and insisted that he has the right to supervise her work. The city charter makes her operation a “division” of his and they have always shared office space.
She refused to knuckle under, however, and maintained that independent meant independent and that she was entitled to hold NOPD accountable without any interference.
Quatrevaux complained that she had “failed to relate effectively” with NOPD, which is under a consent decree to rein in its plentiful supply of rogue cops.
The feud came to a head when Quatrevaux wrote to the ethics board calling for Hutson’s termination a couple of weeks ago.
He will “forthwith rescind that request immediately” — there will evidently be no dilly dallying here — under the agreement that also makes their two offices “separate and apart.”
Until now, Quatrevaux has funded the police monitor’s operation at his discretion from the .75 percent he receives from the city’s general fund budget. Henceforth, he will keep .59 percent and she will get .16 percent, a significant increase, she says, on what Quatrevaux has allowed.
Meanwhile, Quatrevaux and Hutson will no longer have to exchange frosty glances when they arrive for work each morning. He will provide $92,500 so she can set up an office of her own.
Quatrevaux issued a statement claiming that he had proposed a split on these terms in January, and was now “pleased that the Police Monitor decided to accept the offer.”
Why she would have hesitated to do so is a mystery, since she couldn’t possibly have done any better and Quatrevaux would then have had no reason to request that she be fired had they reached an agreement back then.
Quatrevaux added that his letter urging the ethics board to terminate Hutson had “unfortunately” been “misinterpreted as an effort to eliminate the office,” when his “intention was to strengthen it.”
Maybe so, but obviously not with Hutson running it. He would never have done a deal with her if he believed the ethics board would do his bidding.
That seemed much less likely once the City Council intervened. Brossett and four of his fellow members introduced an ordinance to give the police monitor a set budget and increase its staff from three to 12.
The ordinance would also grant the monitor subpoena power, and specify that the inspector general had no authority to vet reports on NOPD. It would also require a two-thirds vote of the ethics board to approve an inspector general’s termination recommendation.
Hutson, in her response to Quatrevaux’s ethics board letter, averred that “there are race and gender politics at issue here,” which is always possible when a white male public official clashes with a black female one.
But it was difficult to determine where the advantage lay on this occasion. The ethics board, which reappointed Quatrevaux a couple of years ago, is all male and has a black majority, as does the City Council.
Anyway, Quatrevaux evidently checked the political winds and saw they were blowing in the direction of a big win for the entire community.
Editor's note: Thursday's column, which concerned the agreement that made New Orleans Police Monitor Susan Hutson independent of Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, stated that Quatrevaux “claimed” to have proposed such a deal in January, together with the budgetary arrangements that were finally adopted. In fact, he did so in a letter to Hutson, which he released last week.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.