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Nearly three months after the head of its troubled human resources department was fired, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has hired her successor.

Trina Bowie started work as HR director for the Sheriff’s Office this week, the agency’s general counsel, Blake Arcuri, said Wednesday.

Her salary was not immediately available. 

She replaces Johnette Staes, whose tenure ended Feb. 21, shortly after the Sheriff’s Office hired a consulting firm to review whether the HR department was complying with best practices governing background checks and other functions.

Bowie comes to the agency in charge of New Orleans’ jail after spending a little more than a year in a similar position at the Capital Area Transit System, the public transportation provider in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Before that, she spent years performing HR duties for companies such as Walmart, ACE Cash Express, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Corporate Management Inc., a health care management company.

The Sheriff’s Office hired Bowie after interviewing six finalists drawn from a pool of 23 applicants, according to a federal court filing. The office has not responded to a request for the names and résumés of the other finalists.

Sheriff Marlin Gusman and interim jail administrator Darnley Hodge Sr. jointly agreed to hire Bowie, according to a report filed as part of the Sheriff’s Office's agreement with the federal government on improving operation of the jail.

Officials at the Sheriff’s Office hope Bowie will help turn around a severe drop in personnel. The agency counted 800 employees in July 2017, but the number had fallen below 680 as recently as March, with hiring frozen in the wake of Staes’ departure.

“The HR director has already been informed that recruiting and retention is OPSO’s current first priority,” jail officials told the court.

Hodge’s predecessor, Gary Maynard, brought Staes aboard at a six-figure salary to stem turnover at the agency and speed up the hiring process for new employees. But Staes drew negative attention after at least two jail employees were fired within weeks of their hiring in May.

One faced allegations of smuggling marijuana into the lockup for an inmate accused of murder; the other was facing charges in connection with a domestic dispute.

Staes’ position appeared to become untenable after it was revealed that Maynard had hired her even though she had bounced checks on multiple occasions between 2008 and 2011, including at a preschool, a clothing store and a car dealership. She wasn’t convicted of a crime, and it appeared she ultimately repaid what she owed.

Maynard stepped down and was replaced in mid-February by Hodge, who fired Staes within days.

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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