Cantrell decides against hiring Warren Riley for top post in her administration

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Former New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Warren Riley. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Former New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Warren Riley.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell will not be hiring former New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley for a high-ranking position in her administration, Cantrell's office announced today.

In a statement, Cantrell said "Mr. Riley’s qualifications are undeniable," but "I have listened to the people of New Orleans on both sides, and I have decided not to move forward with his employment."
Riley had been considered for the position of Director of Homeland Security & Public Safety in Cantrell's new administration, and two sources close to the administration told Gambit that Cantrell was ready to name Riley to the job May 2 when she announced several other major appointments. In the hours before her announcement, though, she changed her mind and announced she was "pressing 'pause'" on Riley.

Had the appointment gone through, Riley would have overseen the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), the New Orleans Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
Riley led NOPD after the Danziger Bridge shootings of 2015, and while he was not chief during the shootings themselves, he was in charge of the department during the coverup of the incident that left two dead and four wounded.

Update:

In a statement, Riley says he "learned this morning in a telephone conversation with Mayor LaToya Cantrell that she has rescinded her official appointment of me," which he says was imminent prior to Cantrell's announcement of a hiring "pause" — Riley says he "was preparing to return to City Government, having undergone employment administration processes, including security and background checks and a drug test."

Riley also says he was introduced to Cantrell's team as Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety and held a group session with law enforcement officials before a meeting with Cantrell 30 minutes before her press conference announcing roles in her administration. At that meeting, Riley says, Cantrell "informed me that she was putting a pause on my appointment."

Riley's statement also included an offer letter from Cantrell, dated April 22, offering Riley an annual salary of $180,000.

"Today's decision by Mayor Cantrell to reverse her initial decision and rescind my appointment is concerning on several levels," Riley said. "I am aware of the rumors and untruths being spread questioning my personal character and professional reputation."

Riley's statement also addresses the Danziger Bridge shootings and incident reports to "set the record straight."

Read Cantrell's statement and Riley's statement below.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell:

“While I believe that Warren Riley is uniquely qualified for a role as our City’s Director of Homeland Security & Public Safety —- with a resume that includes serving as the Federal Coordinating Officer overseeing seven federally declared disasters in just over four years —- I have listened to the people of New Orleans on both sides, and I have decided not to move forward with his employment.

“Mr. Riley’s qualifications are undeniable. As one of a select team of Federal Coordinating Officers who serve as the president’s representative on federally declared disasters, he has been a leader in crisis response and emergency preparedness on the national level.

“But here in New Orleans: the pain is too great. The untreated and lingering trauma so many of our residents still struggle with, the post-traumatic stress that still informs how we all look back to that flashpoint, makes it untenable to move forward with Mr. Riley as part of our new administration.

“Addressing the trauma still lingering from Hurricane Katrina will be a priority for my administration. We will be sensitive to the struggles of our residents and neighbors that endured, and that stayed through the storm. In many instances, in those days, government was part of what they had to struggle against. In closing the door on this hire, I want to send a clear message that under my administration — the City government is not going to be part of the problem. We are going to move forward, together."

Warren Riley:

Regrettably, I learned this morning in a telephone conversation with Mayor LaToya Cantrell that she has rescinded her official appointment of me (letter attached), as City of New Orleans Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety. After six-weeks of rigorous interviews and vetting, it was determined that I was the most qualified candidate for the position. I am deeply disappointed and the Mayor's reversal comes as a complete surprise.

Throughout the interview process, Mayor-Elect Cantrell indicated that she was impressed with my twenty years of local law enforcement leadership, international emergency relief work and experience managing and coordinating the federal response to Presidentially declared disasters with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Specifically, after a thorough review, I obtained top secret clearance from the Department of Homeland Security.Appointed by two presidential administration's as the lead federal coordinating officer, I managed fourteen federally declared disasters around the country. The U.S. State Department selected me to assist with the assessment of the collapse of the criminal justice system in Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake. I was a lead adviser to the Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control on the Flint, Michigan water crisis. And, as a lecturer and keynote speaker, I have addressed international audiences about disaster management response and recovery.

Prior to the scheduled May 1, 2018 Cantrell Administration Cabinet Appointments News Conference Announcement, I was preparing to return to City Government, having undergone employment administration processes, including security and background checks and a drug test.

On the morning of the May 1 news conference, I was introduced to the Mayor's new leadership team as the Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety. Following that introduction, at the Mayor's direction, I conducted an introductory group session with the leadership including, the NOPD Police Chief and the Director of the Office of Secondary Employment, as well as, the Fire Chief, the Crime Commissioner, and the Chief of Emergency Management. I was given a tour of the Office of Emergency Management. Shortly thereafter, Mayor-Elect Cantrell notified me, asking if I would meet her in the Council Chamber to discuss the upcoming news conference that was scheduled to be held in 30 minutes. Upon our meeting, the Mayor informed me that she was putting a pause on my appointment.
Today's decision by Mayor Cantrell to reverse her initial decision and rescind my appointment is concerning on several levels. I am aware of the rumors and untruths being spread questioning my personal character and professional reputation.

Let me set the record straight. First and foremost, to all of those who lost loved ones during Katrina, they have always had my absolute sympathy and prayers. Related to the Danziger Bridge incident. At no time was I on the bridge. At no time did I have communications with officers during the incident.At no time did I give any orders related to actions that transpired on the bridge. At that time, I was directing rescue operations from temporary police field office located at the Harrah's Casino.

Regarding, the police department incident report, I did not read the report in its entirety but, I was briefed multiple times by the Chief of Detectives concerning the incident. The incident report was submitted to the Orleans District Attorney's Office. The District Attorney obtained indictments. Officers went to trial in Orleans Criminal District Court. The case was ultimately dismissed by the presiding Judge. Subsequently, the case was tried in federal court. As then Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, I followed all standard operating procedures related to this incident.
I love New Orleans and was humbled to be called again to serve, under the first female Mayor, in the year of our Tricentennial. It is with great regret that I will not have the opportunity to bring my commitment to community and wealth of national and international emergency management and law enforcement expertise to the great, historic and progressive City of New Orleans.


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