Finding something that Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has done right would test the skills of the greatest sleuth, and New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux must be glad that isn’t his job.
Instead, Quatrevaux is tasked with identifying misdeeds and inefficiencies in public agencies, and Gusman continues to provide him with plenty of opportunities.
Their latest spat is over the electronic monitoring of defendants awaiting trial, which, according to Quatrevaux, has “just wasted the people’s money” under Gusman’s stewardship.
If Gusman’s office ran the ankle bracelet program with the same care it puts into the drafting of official statements, it’s no wonder Quatrevaux had such a field day. In his response, Gusman’s press office misspelled Quatrevaux’s name and averred his comments “smacks” of grandstanding.
Well, these French names can be a bit of a challenge for Americans, but surely they teach subject/verb agreement in flack school. The facts were too much of a challenge, too. The cases Quatrevaux looked at covered not two months but six.
The response did get the year right, however. It was 2012. No doubt cataloguing the various screw-ups that plagued the monitoring program is time-consuming work, but that was so long ago that the Sheriff’s Office is entitled to question whether Quatrevaux’s findings remain valid.
Their assertion, naturally, is that they are not and that, indeed, the monitoring program has proved a “success” since the National Institute of Justice was called in to suggest improvements soon after Quatrevaux finished gathering the information for his report.
Those improvements were not enough to save the life of a pizza delivery man shot in September by a youth wearing an ankle bracelet who had twice violated the terms of his court order without any intervention from the deputies who were supposed to be keeping tabs on him. Such derelictions, according to Quatrevaux, were standard operating procedure.
After the shooting, the Sheriff’s Office claimed to have acted in accordance with “progressive corrective guidelines established by the National Institute of Justice for juvenile clients.” It is unlikely that the family of the pizza man found much consolation in that or agreed that the monitoring program was a “success.”
If Quatrevaux thinks the monitoring program has been a waste of money, he also took issue in April with the scale of the waste. In his report at the time, Quatrevaux concluded the Sheriff’s Office was overbilling the city $100,000 a year as a result of sloppy bookkeeping, excessive overtime and an office rental 12 times the going rate.
The Sheriff’s Office, presumably aware how damning Quatrevaux’s latest report would be, announced last month that it would wash its hands of ankle bracelets in the new year.
That, says Mayor Mitch Landrieu, leaves the future of electronic monitoring in doubt, although he has always favored it as cheaper and less disruptive than locking suspects up and noted it works well “across the country.”
But then Quatrevaux is by no means Gusman’s only habitual detractor. Landrieu, at permanent loggerheads with Gusman over the cost of running the city slammer, is not going to miss any chance to take a dig either.
“The IG basically said the sheriff didn’t do a particularly good job at handling it,” Landrieu said. “I think we have to go back to ground zero and talk through who’s supposed to do it, when it’s supposed to be done and how are we supposed to pay for it because, based on the inspector general’s report, there really wasn’t much there to begin with.”
According to Quatrevaux’s report, in two-thirds of the cases where a defendant violated the court order releasing him for electronic monitoring, there was no record of any response by deputies. Landrieu must have a strong suspicion that NOPD or a private contractor could do a better job, and it is hard to believe he would seriously consider letting go of the ankle bracelets.
Quatrevaux, meanwhile, has been assailing Gusman on all fronts. He complained, for instance, about the secrecy of the deliberations leading to the choice of a company to provide inmate health care. As further evidence that Gusman has multiple dectractors, City Council members subsequently denounced the price of that contract as obscene.
Quatrevaux, in a complaint to the state Ethics Board, also has accused Gusman of a conflict of interest for hiring his own campaign treasurer to audit Sheriff’s Office accounts. Gusman calls that allegation “baseless and false,” but the scrutiny is so relentless that he must wish he could keep tabs on Quatrevaux’s movements.
If only someone would tell him how to do it.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.