New Orleans Inspector General Seeks To Fire Police Monitor

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The city's inspector general is now trying to fire its police monitor, as they continue to struggle over how much oversight the inspector general should have.

         A lawyer for New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson tells The Advocate’s Jim Mustian and Matt Sledge that Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux sent a letter Thursday seeking to fire Hutson.

         The firing would have to be approved by the city's Ethics Review Board after an Oct. 23 hearing. That could set off a contentious discussion, with strong racial overtones, over the police monitor's appropriate level of independence.

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         Quatrevaux hired Hutson in 2010, but in the years since then the two officials have clashed repeatedly over how autonomous the independent police monitor is. Under a City Charter amendment approved by voters in 2008, the police monitor reports to the IG's Office, but the extent of Quatrevaux's control over the woman he hired has been a matter of continual dispute.

         "I've read the letter. There's nothing fresh, nothing new," said Ron Wilson, Hutson's attorney. "The allegations are baseless."

         Quatrevaux left the office early Friday and did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Suzanne Wisdom, a lawyer in his office, said it would be inappropriate for the office to discuss an ongoing "personnel matter."

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         "We think it's sort of retaliatory. She's been asking for a separation," Wilson said. "She intends to defend against the allegations."

         Last year, Hutson, an African-American woman, alleged that Quatrevaux, a white man, had created a hostile work environment for her. The board voted 6-0 in December to dismiss that claim.

         After that issue was settled, the two parties moved toward crafting a city charter amendment that would have fully separated them.

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         The sticking point, both sides said, was how much money each office would get from the city budget after the political divorce.

         Wilson said Quatrevaux listed at least three causes for firing Hutson in his letter.

         One was a report Hutson recently issued on the New Orleans Police Department's investigation into the killing of Wendell Allen, which Hutson did not submit to Quatrevaux for approval.

         Hutson has long maintained that she is required only to give Quatrevaux advance notice of public reports.

         Another issue cited by Quatrevaux, Wilson said, was the monitor office's decision to release the video of a fired NOPD officer striking a 16-year-old inmate with shackles.

         Quatrevaux believes he is the custodian of records for Hutson's office, meaning that only he could decide whether to release public documents such as the video, according to Wilson.

         Hutson refused to agree to a deal whereby she would not release public records, Wilson said.

         Another issue cited in Quatrevaux's letter, Wilson said, involved a claim of "unethical conduct" relating to comments Hutson made on television in 2013 regarding complaints that police officers were downgrading crimes in the French Quarter to make them appear less serious.

         According to Wilson, Quatrevaux said Hutson greatly exaggerated the number of complaints by saying there had been "dozens."

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