Bob Cerasoli's Legacy

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The news couldn’t be much worse: New Orleans Inspector General Bob Cerasoli is leaving. He will return home to Boston today (Friday, Jan. 30) for health reasons. Somehow I can’t help feeling his personal cancer scare — so far, the growths detected and removed from his neck have not been malignant — are metaphoric of the cancer inflicted upon city government by official corruption, incompetence and arrogance. This is indeed a sad day in New Orleans, but I cannot blame Mr. Cerasoli one bit for wanting to be near his family at this time. We should instead be grateful that he gave us the time and energy that he has.

 

 

One thing I learned from Hurricane Katrina is that bad news isn’t final. In the aftermath of the storm, I was constantly amazed at how, not long after “bad news” arrived, somehow something good came of it. I know this may sound Pollyannish, but I swear it happened time and again in those dark days after Katrina. Bad stuff would happen, it would knock me for a loop, and then — usually after I decided I needed to deal with whatever was in front of me at the time — something amazingly good would happen. I hope that’s the case for the Inspector General’s Office and the city’s Ethics Review Board.

 

Bob Cerasoli set a high standard. He gave us a template for what the office must become. He taught us to demand more and better from our elected officials. He set things in motion. Above all, he gave us hope. We owe it to him — and ourselves — to keep his drive alive. He always said this effort was not about him, but about the job and the need for transparency, integrity and accountability at City Hall. Now it’s up to us to make sure his words prove true.

 

The city’s Ethics Review Board chairman, Loyola University President Rev. Kevin Wildes, issued a statement praising Mr. Cerasoli and announcing his interim replacement.  It reads in part:

 

“I have asked Leonard C. Odom, First Assistant for Criminal Investigations, to serve as interim inspector general. Leonard’s career as an inspector general is long and distinguished.

“He has more than 30 years of experience in management; income tax and internal affairs investigations; knowledge of financial, performance and compliance audits; fraud, political corruption and contractor fraud investigations; internal safety and security; ethics programs and general investigations.

“Leonard is a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Inspectors General and has served as its president for the past two years. Previously, he has served as Inspector General for the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA); Regional Inspector General of Investigations for the U.S. Department of Treasury; and Assistant Chief, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Most recently, he served in the Inspector General’s Office of Washington, D.C. as Assistant Inspector General for Investigations.

“The New Orleans Ethics Review Board will begin a national search immediately to fill the position of City Inspector General. As the ordinance specifies, we will only consider someone who is a Certified Inspector General.”

 

Good luck and God bless, Mr. Cerasoli. And thank you for giving us hope. That is the greatest legacy you could have given us.

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