On Monday — days after a report that the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits is the subject of a federal corruption probe — two department employees were put on “immediate emergency suspension,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Communication Director Beau Tidwell confirmed Tuesday morning.
Last week, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reported that federal prosecutors are investigating “allegations of wide-ranging corruption” in the department. That investigation has already led to one indictment.
Tidwell said that Monday’s suspensions were “the result of an investigation regarding the Department of Safety and Permits.”
The Mayor’s Office did not name the suspended employees or their positions. And it was not clear if the suspensions were related to the federal probe, an internal city investigation or both. After confirming the suspensions, Tidwell did not immediately respond to The Lens’ follow-up questions.
In August, US Attorney Peter Strasser announced the indictment of city Building Inspector Kevin Richardson for allegedly accepting and paying out bribes. According to the indictment, from 2011 to 2019, Richardson accepted payments from “individuals seeking favorable inspection reports” on properties that didn’t comply with building codes or had never been inspected at all.
Richardson is also accused of paying bribes to an unnamed city permit analyst, the indictment says, in exchange for issuing permits without required documentation and review.
Citing unnamed sources, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reported that the investigation that led to Richardson’s indictment is ongoing and broad in scope. The newspaper’s sources said more indictments should be expected in the future, according to the article, and that Cantrell is expected to “clean house” at the department as a result.
That article also reported that Cantrell requested an internal investigation into the Department of Safety and Permits.