Chief Deputy Resigns After Being Named In State Report
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Orleans Parish sheriff's chief deputy resigned Monday after a state report said he spent time on duty working for a company that was paid $2 million to provide off-duty officers for private security.
A one-sentence statement from Sheriff Marlin Gusman said he "has accepted the resignation of Chief Deputy Jerry Ursin," but not why Ursin resigned.
A report released early Monday by legislative auditor Daryl Purpera said Ursin and Parish Prison Chief Gary Bordelon spent time on duty working for Austin Sales and Service, owned by Lucien Roy Austin when he was a colonel in the sheriff's office.
Austin may have broken the law both by running a private security company and by doing its work while he was on duty, and the sheriff's office paid 16 deputies nearly $4,700 for work while they actually were doing off-duty security work, the report said.
Emails indicate that Ursin apparently helped the company handle invoices and coordinate schedules for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the 2013 Super Bowl and the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, Purpura wrote.
Gusman said in a statement earlier Monday that Austin retired last year and the sheriff's office is cooperating fully with an investigation of his activities.
The state report also said the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office appears to have paid 56 non-eligible employees more than $1 million in state money, Purpera said.
Clerks, mailroom, facility management, kitchen and other administrative workers received state supplemental pay even though they were assigned to "purely clerical or non-enforcement duties" between January 2011 and September 2014.
Several said they were assigned to work eight hours a week at a jail to qualify for the pay, according to the audit.
The audit also alleged that the sheriff's office also failed to follow public bid law when waterproofing inmate showers.
That "one small contract" was indeed given to a contractor who was not properly licensed, and the chief procurement officer who was responsible for that contract was later fired, Gusman's statement said.
In a response released with the audit, lawyers for Gusman say the deputies who got state supplemental pay were eligible for it.
"There is just no support for your claim that 50 percent or more of a deputy's time must be spent in law enforcement duties for the deputy to be eligible for state supplemental pay," they wrote.
Gusman wrote Monday that an independent review board must approve each deputy's application for state supplemental pay and hears all objections. That board, not the legislative auditor, decides such matters, and the attorney general has ruled that the law should be "liberally construed in favor" of allowing the pay, he wrote.
"It is noteworthy that the Legislative Auditor challenged only 56 of the nearly 500 OPSO deputies who receive State Supplemental Pay," his statement said. "Of those 56 deputies who were identified, only 38 are still on staff."