On at least two occasions during the past two weeks of hearings on Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposed 2013 city budget, New Orleans City Council members have demanded Team Landrieu consider Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson be considered for a multi-million-dollar contract to monitor the proposed New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) consent decree.
Last week, at-large Councilwomen Stacy Head and Jackie Clarkson, as well as District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, grilled City Attorney Richard Cortizas on the subject. Because Hutson's office already monitors the NOPD, hiring her for the job might help mitigate the $2 million cost allocated for the contract in the 2013 budget, one of the larger items in the total $7 million consent decree, Hedge-Morrell said.
"I think this is a ripoff," Hedge-Morrell said. "We don't have $7 million."
Cortizas said that during consent decree negotiations, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicated it wanted a third party, a company separate from city government, for the monitor's job. If the city were to choose Hutson as monitor, the feds would ask for a second monitor to monitor her office, Cortizas said.
That is perhaps why the language of the proposed consent decree would seem to prevent that from happening at all. The document identifies the monitor and the IPM as two distinct entities. It adds that the monitor is to be identified through the city's procurement process and that it is neither a public body nor an agent of one. Hutson herself testified before the City Council on Nov. 8 that she did not believe she would be able to take over the contract.
Deputy Police Monitor Simone Levine said the same when asked by Gambit last week. — Charles Maldonado