Financial advisory firm begins audit of city's criminal justice system

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Public Financial Management Group (PFM), a Philadelphia-based advisory firm that specializes in government finance, this week began a two-month-long financial and operational review of the city's entire criminal justice system. Its findings will ultimately be used as a guide in writing the departmental budgets for the New Orleans Police Department, the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and the city's court system, Criminal Justice Commissioner James Carter said today at a meeting of the Orleans District Law Enforcement Council.

David Eichenthal, director of PFM's Chattanooga, Tenn. office, who's leading the project, said the company will conduct a full review of those departments' budgets, identify operational deficiencies in each and propose new and theoretically more effective strategies.

PFM has a consulting contract with New Orleans government going back to 2007, when it was hired for just under $1 million to develop a five-year plan to fix the city's finances. That yearlong contract has since been renewed five times — a total value of nearly $4.5 million over the five year period, city records show.

Eichethal said PFM staff have already begun reaching out to "key stakeholders" (meaning high-ranking police and sheriff's office officials, judges and other court personnel) for interviews.

"All these folks will be contacting you," Carter said to meeting attendees, including NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas, Sheriff Marlin Gusman and Municipal Court Chief Judge Paul Sens. "This will literally determine our budgeting process.

PFM will be back in town on April 23 and May 7, one week before and one week after April 30, when the city puts out initial requests for departmental budget offers for the 2013 fiscal year. PFM is scheduled to have a draft report completed by late May or early June.

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