NEW ORLEANS —The city of New Orleans is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars after off-duty police officers worked paid details and the clients didn’t pay up, public records show.
“It is absolutely time to pay up,” said New Orleans Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano.
The city’s delinquent list, for lack of payment, includes more than 400 people, entities and businesses.
Last February, Carnival season was in full swing as the Krewe of Nyx rolled on the traditional Uptown parade route. And like many of the New Orleans-based Carnival krewes, Nyx used off-duty New Orleans police officers to work security on the route.
Records show even though the work was done by the officers, and the due date for payments was Feb. 20, Nyx still owes over $7,700 to the city and the Office of Police Secondary Employment, or OPSE.
It’s almost three months past due.
“That is dollars that can come back into the city for services rendered,” said Montano.
And that $7,700 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to delinquent accounts.
“How much money is OPSE owed right now?” asked WDSU investigative reporter Travers Mackel.
“Over $500,000,” said Montano.
“Is that a problem?” asked Mackel.
“Sure, absolutely,” said Montano.
City records obtained through a public records request show that from Jan. 1, 2017, through this month, more than 400 people, entities and business are delinquent. The past-due amounts range from just a couple of bucks to $51,000, and the city is serious about collecting.
“Once again, let me be very clear — the mayor and our administration will actively and aggressively as possible make sure the taxpayer is protected,” Montano said.
But it now calls into question: is OPSE working if so much money is outstanding?
“It was created because there were problems with the police maintaining their own police detail system,” said Rafael Goyeneche, with the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
OPSE was created in 2012 under the federal consent decree, moving the lucrative paid detail industry into City Hall and out of the hands of individual officers. The federal government once referred to the old pay detail system as the aorta of corruption. And a series of WDSU investigative reports in 2011 were credited with leading to sweeping changes inside the NOPD and city government.
The MCC says the system works, clients just need to pay up.
“This is the only entity, when it was created, that managed details for law enforcement,” said Goyeneche.
And after WDSU Investigates got the list, people started paying.
Covenant House owed just over $3,000. Once WDSU called it about its delinquent payment, it cut a check that day. Parasol’s Bar owed more than $6,000 for St. Patrick’s Day 2017, but minutes after WDSU’s calls, it paid up.
The University of New Orleans owed $13,000. It paid one day after WDSU reached out.
“It’s different when someone in the media calls as opposed to someone with OPSE saying, ‘Where’s our payment?'” said Goyeneche.
And while the city hopes checks start rolling in, it understand that may not be reality. “Unfortunately in the business and government worlds there is a thing called bad debt; people that will not pay, and we have to adjudicate through court,” said Montano.
And that’s what the city says it does. It takes some people to court over delinquent payments. Other clients are allowed to work out payment plans with the city, and some just do not pay.
Many groups WDSU reached out to responded that the delinquent payments are just an oversight, and they planned on correcting them. WDSU mentioned Nyx in this story. After WDSU contacted that krewe, it said a payment would be made by week’s end.
Since its inception, OPSE successfully collected more than $30 million in payments from clients.
Ronnie Burke with the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade tells WDSU he’s making a payment of more than $18,000 in full on Thursday morning, and was not aware of the delinquent balance until our story aired.
Julie Lea with the Krewe of Nyx showed us an emailed receipt, confirming that she’s now paid the more than $7700 delinquent balance that krewe owed.
And, Competitor Group LLC, which city records show owes more than $51,000 for the Rock-n-Roll marathon, sent us the following email attached below, claiming it paid the delinquency balance last month. Although city records, issued to WDSU last week, indicate otherwise.
“While your records from the city indicate that we owe the City of New Orleans the amount listed, I have confirmed that payment for the same amount was sent on April 20 to the following location: City of New Orleans, c/o Gary Joseph Jr, 1300 Perdido St. Ste 1W15, New Orleans, LA 70112-2114.”
“Whether the check has been deposited seems like a clerical question you would need to follow up with the city on.”