By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |

Operations of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Department have long been shrouded in secrecy. For decades, even City Council members were rebuffed in efforts to pry line-by-line financial information from former Sheriff Charles Foti.

Now in response to a public records request filed six months ago by The Lens, Sheriff Marlin Gusman has provided the most detailed disclosure yet about the department’s revenues and expenditures – from pension liabilities to bulk purchases of mattresses and hamburger patties.

Gusman discusses his 2011 budget with the City Council

The accounting also reveals amounts paid to various contractors with which the department maintains relationships.

We invite readers of The Lens to join us in close scrutiny of the 2009 budget.

We have already requested further documentation on several items, which Gusman’s attorneys have estimated will take four to six weeks. These include:

• Underlying statements for cash and investments held by Gusman’s Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District. The taxpayer-supported bonding authority was established under Foti, and has generated over $100 million in funding for capital projects since then. Right now, it appears Gusman is sitting on $77 million in cash and investments associated with the district. We have also sought statements showing how much interest has been earned on the investments.

• More detail on the revenue derived from inmate telephone calls. Gusman’s accounting shows a 2009 total of $1.8 million in revenue from a service provided to inmates at a cost of just $140,000 to his office.

• More detail on revenue derived from inmate work release. Gusman’s accounting shows $150,000 earned from work-release programs, but does not make clear who employs the inmate labor or for what purpose.

• Credit card statements from Gusman’s office for 2009 and 2010. Gusman’s accounting shows $7,000 spent on a Visa card in 2009.

• More detail on travel expenses for Gusman’s office, which totaled $31,000 in 2009.

• More detail on Gusman’s payroll accounts. The accounting shows a total of just $17 million going in and out in 2009, while Gusman told city council that his personnel costs for the year would be $37 million.

The sheriff’s budget for 2010. 

Update, Oct. 7, 2011: The Lens has removed the budget document temporarily, at the request of the sheriff’s office, because it contained social security numbers. The Lens intends to repost the document as soon as possible after this information has been redacted.

The full, 7,500-page budget is contained in a fully searchable pdf file.

To facilitate review by Lens readers, we’ve broken it down into a series pdf documents, as follows:

• Cash on hand, FEMA grants receivable, and state, federal and city revenues.

• Inventory: Warehouse, computers, cell phones, quartermaster, purchasing, and spoilage.

• Accounts payable.

• Payroll liabilities: Insurance, pensions, bond fees.

• Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District assets.

• General fund revenues: FEMA, city of New Orleans daily credit, inmate telephone.

• Sheriff’s office: Credit card, public relations, travel, cell phones, office furniture, special projects, classified advertising.

• Maintenance costs.

Feel free to get in touch with your suggestions for further inquiry.