by Kevin Allman
Reacting to the unfolding traffic-cam paid-detail brouhaha, Mayor Mitch Landrieu called a last-minute press conference at City Hall this morning to announce the immediate unpaid suspensions of NOPD 8th District Commander Edwin Hosli and Robert Mendoza, head of the city's Department of Public Works, the agency which oversaw the process in which Hosli's company, Anytime Solutions, received a lucrative contract to examine photos taken by the city's traffic cameras.
NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas was not present; Landrieu said he was at a mandatory training course in Baton Rouge.
In a unusual move for this mayor, Landrieu made his statement and left the City Hall press room without taking questions.
Under the jump: Landrieu's statement.
"Today, I am announcing that I have called for the immediate suspension without pay of NOPD 8th District Commander Edwin Hosli and Department of Public Works Director Robert Mendoza - pending an investigation into their roles in the Red Light Traffic Camera paid detail.
The suspension will remain in effect until the investigation is complete, but will not exceed 120 days.
In the interim, Commander Jeffrey Walls will take over at the 8th District and chief engineer Nguyen Phan will serves as director of the Public Works Department.
Just one year ago I came into office vowing to the citizens of New Orleans to reform every area of city government — particularly the police department.
Since taking office my administration has worked to implement key best practices and put in place initiatives to right the ship and restore public confidence in City Hall and the NOPD.
The poor and questionable judgment of using city funds to pay off-duty police officers to perform police duties not only contradicts those efforts but is incredibly troubling and dysfunctional.
It is even more disturbing when it is done through a city contract that was never written to authorize such an arrangement.
After learning of this practice, I instructed Chief Serpas to immediately move all duties concerning the photo safety camera program to the NOPD’s Traffic Division. That is where it is today.
Let me be clear — I take the recent allegations concerning this program very seriously which is why I immediately turned the matter over to the Office of Inspector General.
I have also tasked City Attorney Nannette Jolivette-Brown to do a thorough review of how paid details are being used within city government for city business.
But this recent controversy around NOPD details and the city’s traffic camera program only highlights just how deeply imbedded the problems with details are within the NOPD.
I find it troubling and commit to the public to make it right.
Last month I gave Chief Serpas a strong directive to submit a plan to me by May 15th that will completely overhaul the detail system.
It is broken.
It is pervasive.
And the status quo will not be tolerated — not on my watch.
We will fix it and we will get it right.
My commitment to reform the NOPD is firm but our efforts will be unsuccessful if we do not completely and totally transform the way paid details work.
I refuse to - nor can our citizens - wait on a federal consent decree to change the way the NOPD operates.
The public deserves a city government that works in its best interest — not against it. My administration will continue to build on the foundation we have laid in my first year.
We will continue to cut smart, reorganize and reinvest.
And we will continue to keep the citizens informed of our efforts to right this ship.
This morning I re-emphasize my vow to the citizens of New Orleans that we will continue to work day and night - and that we remain committed to do whatever it takes to restore credibility and public trust in the NOPD and at City Hall.