Since New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux took office in 2009, his fight against fraud and waste in government agencies has saved taxpayers $95 million.
That is according to his own calculations, but even if he is unlikely to sell himself short, his annual budget of around $3.5 million has clearly turned out to be quite a bargain.
The Ethics Review Board clearly isn't going to reappoint him when his term expires in the fall, however. At its meeting Wednesday, the board approved a contract with consultants to vet potential replacements, and chairman Allen Miller, not for the first time, gave Quatrevaux a rough time. Miller on this occasion took issue with a Quatrevaux report that alleged the Sewerage and Water Board kept the public in the dark about the risks of lead contamination.
The Ethics Board used to think Quatrevaux was the very model of a municipal inspector general, and unanimously voted, under a different chairman, to raise his salary to more than $205,000 last year.
But if Quatrevaux has a fault, it might be in the area of office harmony. He lived to rue hiring Susan Hutson in 2010 to work in his office as Independent Police Monitor, for instance, as relations soured to the point where they quit talking and she moved out to run her own show last year.
That spat was likely one of the reasons the city's Ethics Review Board soon started making noises about giving Quatrevaux the heave-ho. If so, any doubt about his fate has now been removed with revelations of palace intrigue at the heart of his bailiwick.
Just as two of his top aides eye his job, one of them trashes the other in an internal report. The report was leaked to the media on the eve of the Ethics Board meeting where the search for a new inspector general was confirmed. Fancy that.
In the report Howard Schwartz, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, levels such serious allegations against Nadiene Van Dyke, Assistant Inspector General for Government Performance, that he recommends calling in the district attorney. Her attorney repudiates a report he characterizes, not implausibly, as “corrupted by personal bias.” A third party will now be called in to look into Van Dyke's alleged abuses.
At this rate, there will be nobody left to help Quatrevaux keep an eye on the rest of municipal government. Investigators appear to be fully occupied investigating one another.
Whatever conclusions the outside review reaches, it will give the Ethics Board a handy stick to beat Quatrevaux with. If Van Dyke is guilty as charged, then Quatrevaux has connived at practices in his own office he would never condone in his capacity as a watchdog over other government agencies.
If the report is a put-up job, he is presiding over such turmoil as a senior administrator should never countenance.
Either way, this is a more serious blow than the Hutson brouhaha that apparently brought the knives out in the first place. Quatrevaux could hardly be blamed for failing to get along with Hutson; the contradictory terms of her employment made that inevitable. Although her job title proclaimed her independent, and Quatrevaux did not have the authority to fire her, her office was officially styled a “division” of his and he got to decide how much of his budget to allocate to her.
The only way to keep them from each other's throat was to hive off Hutson's operation and New Orleans voters duly adopted the charter amendment required for that to happen.
But there is no doubt who was boss when Van Dyke, according to Schwartz, retained and overpaid a friend as a media consultant, doctored reports to suit her “personal agenda,” suggested lying to City Hall about credit card purchases and demeaned black colleagues.
One way or another, new blood is needed. It seems a fair bet that, come October, the inspector general will not be named Quatrevaux, Van Dyke or Schwartz.
Email James Gill at firstname.lastname@example.org.