Criminal Justice

Live blog: Sheriff’s Office budget poked, prodded in federal court

If the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has complied with a federal judge’s demands to produce key budget documents in a timely manner — issued sternly after the office failed to do so last month — the public will learn a great deal more in court this week about how the jail operation is financed.

I will continue to live blog the hearing starting at 8:30 a.m. here. Wednesday’s live blog appears below.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk reprimanded Sheriff Marlin Gusman for giving plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit the key information just hours before a long-scheduled June 24 hearing.

“This type of late production is unacceptable,” Africk said.

Though he held a hearing that day that covered some broad-brush information, he postponed the rest of the hearing a month.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued the Sheriff’s Office in April 2012, and the U.S. Justice Department joined the center in demanding reforms at the long-criticized Orleans Parish Prison. Gusman then pulled the City of New Orleans in as a co-defendant, saying it has the legal responsibility to finance a major portion of the prison complex’s operation.

The lawsuit is being taken in phases by Africk. He’s already ruled that the deplorable conditions of the prison require major reform, in the form of a federal consent decree, calling the complex “an indelible stain on the community.” He’s now holding hearings to determine how much of the financial responsibility for an overhaul lies with the sheriff and how much with the city.

The Sheriff blames the city for lack of funding, and the city blames the Sheriff for misuse of funds.

At the June 24 hearing, the sheriff fielded questions from the city’s attorney in this case, Harry Rosenberg, who likened Gusman to the Wizard of Oz operating secretly behind a curtain. When asked specific questions about his budget, such as how much money was in the office bank account, the sheriff often could not answer, saying that the city should ask his employees instead. He named accountant Elizabeth Boyer as one such employee.

Rosenberg complained, “Ms. Boyer told us she couldn’t give us this information. We’re in between a rock and a hard place.”

The sheriff’s attorneys assured Africk that Boyer would be ready to testify at the next hearing.

The sheriff also has delayed producing details of the new jail facility that he is building. The plaintiffs say the new $145 million complex will not resolve unconstitutional conditions because it lacks medical facilities and separate housing for mentally ill prisoners.

Live blog, Day 2

Live blog, Day 1

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
About Sara Rahman

Sara Rahman is a third-year law student at New York University, where she serves as an editor of the New York University Review of Law and Social Change. She reports on criminal justice issues as an intern for The Lens. Originally from New Orleans, she graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 2005 and Yale University in 2009.

  • benelux

    An external auditor is an audit professional who performs an audit in accordance with specific laws or rules on the financial statements of acompany, government entity, other legal entity or organization, and who is independent of the entity being audited.[1] Users of these entities’ financial information, such as investors, government agencies, and the general public, rely on the external auditor to present an unbiased and independentaudit report.

  • benelux
  • benelux

    Why the hell is this hearing even going on? If this man is allowed to be the external auditor, the whole proceeding is a waste of money and a scam.

  • benelux

    Oooohh..I don’t think the sheriff likes to be ordered around. Hopefully, Africk will have some follow through when Gusman fails to comply. I’d bet money he fails to comply.