Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced Wednesday that lawyer and activist Tracie Washington will serve as the sheriff’s compliance officer, a new position that Gusman was required to create under the terms of a federal consent decree requiring various reforms at the city’s jail.
Washington, no stranger to controversy, will act as a “liaison” between the sheriff’s office and the independent monitor hired by the federal court to ensure the required reforms are being carried out. Her duties will include making sure documents and records are maintained, Gusman said in a news release. She was part of a committee named last year to help choose an administrator for the jail, another new position the consent decree mandated.
Gusman had agreed to fill the position by June 1.
Washington will be paid $80,000 a year, according to a spokesman for Gusman.
Washington, who briefly served as general counsel to the Orleans Parish School board and is president of an advocacy group called the Louisiana Justice Institute, has been something of a lightning rod at times. She tangled bitterly and publicly with members of the City Council, in particular Councilwoman Stacy Head, over the council’s decision to demolish and redevelop the so-called “Big Four” public housing complexes.
Later, the Louisiana Justice Institute obtained copies of thousands of emails sent and received by council members, selectively publishing some of them, starting with several embarrassing emails sent by Head. The council sued Washington to block the further release of emails.
Gusman has often quarrelled with the council and the Landrieu administration as well, sparring over how large the new jail facility now being constructed should be and how much funding he needs to run a constitutional jail, among other issues.
In a statement, Gusman praised Washington for having “a proven track record of building strong relationships and fostering civic engagement among a wide range of groups.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on May 29 to include Washington’s salary.
Follow Gordon Russell on Twitter @gordonrussell1.