By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman admitted today that he has not paid thousands of dollars to reserve deputies working a security detail at the city’s auto impound lot since May, and he said he intends to pay them soon.
Deputies claim to be owed as much as $18,000.
Gusman’s office took over the paid off-duty detail, worth as much as $450,000, from the New Orleans Police Department after criticism of the police department’s paid details program as an “aorta of corruption” by the U.S. Department of Justice.
As many as 40 deputies – some reserve officers, other full-time employees – provide security at three city sites, running the city as much as $35 an hour for the services.
Gusman never signed a formal contract with the city for the work, he said Friday. Nevertheless, Gusman said he had been submitting invoices to the city for the work since May. The contract was signed yesterday, after The Lens began asking questions.
Gusman declined comment when The Lens broke the story Thursday, but he addressed the issue with a photographer from our reporting partners at FOX 8 News today.
“When the city asked us to do this job, we really had to scramble at the last minute,” Gusman said. “We didn’t have a contract in place before we got started as things usually happen. We’ve been negotiating back and forth on the contract. I’m glad to say that the contract has now been signed and the invoices that we’ve been sending along will soon be paid, and we’ll be able to compensate the reserves that have been working this detail.”
Gusman did not say when the deputies would be paid, or apologize for the situation.
A deputy who originally contacted The Lens about this story is pleased to hear that Gusman intends to pay the money owed.
Although on a skeptical note, the deputy added: “I’ll believe it when I have the check.”
The Lens is not identifying the deputy, who fears retribution if identified. Gusman’s office has directed deputies to not talk to reporters about the issue.
The sheriff did not appear overly concerned about the issue Friday.
“Look, these things happen sometimes,” Gusman said. “You really want to start everything off with a contract in advance, but in this case, it took us a little while to get the contract together. And like anything you’re always going to have some disgruntled people. Everybody else understood what was going on, and I think it’ll be resolved really soon.”
FOX 8 photographer Donny Pearce asked Gusman about the issue during a news conference marking the capping ceremony for Gusman’s oversized kitchen and warehouse facility, which will feed inmates at his new jail — a project on which The Lens has reported extensively.
The Lens was not notified of the news conference. Gusman’s paid publicist, Malcolm Ehrhardt, has said previously that neither Gusman nor The Ehrhardt Group would provide press releases or comment to The Lens on Sheriff’s Office matters because they believe the news website publishes inaccurate information and has unfairly targeted Gusman for negative coverage.
The press release for this morning’s event said Gusman planned to raise “a tree to the top of the facility to represent growth and grant good luck to the building.”