Attorney General Landry To Use Empty Space In Benson Tower, Rented Since 2009

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The new attorney general is moving his New Orleans-area offices to space rented by the state but left vacant for at least six years.

         Under a deal reached in 2009 to keep the Saints in New Orleans, state-approved bond sales let owner Tom Benson buy several properties next to the Superdome. Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration also agreed to pay about $8 million a year to rent most of a 26-story building.

         Attorney General Jeff Landry told lawmakers last week that he plans to move his New Orleans staff into the ninth floor this summer. The move is expected to save about $339,000 a year on other rented offices in New Orleans and Kenner, The New Orleans Advocate’s Jeff Adelson reported.

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         The state agreed to lease 320,000 square feet of space. That worked out to 17 floors. Other state agencies moved into most of that space, but former Attorney General Buddy Caldwell refused to take the floor set aside for his offices.

         In response to a 2014 audit, Caldwell said Benson Tower did not meet his office's needs. In particular, he said, the tower did not provide 24-hour access to parking, and his office could not afford the cost of moving its employees.

         Shortly after taking office last month, Landry met with the Division of Administration and was told about the empty space.

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         "Recognizing the savings to the state, the attorney general immediately agreed" to move, Landry spokeswoman Ruth Wisher said.

         The audit in 2014 said the state was paying above-market rates for the office space.

         "It doesn't expire until 2025. The state is stuck in this agreement until then," said Cody Wells, spokesman for Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

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