The Ethics Review Board of the City of New Orleans (ERB) has responsibility for overseeing the Office of Inspector General (OIG), enforcing the city’s ethics code, and promoting ethics awareness through education and training.
On July 20, 2016, the ERB released its annual report for 2015, which is available for download here: 2015-00-00 ERB Annual Report.
The ERB’s work in 2015 included the launching of the Ethics Review Board’s ethics training for city employees, elected and appointed officials, and members of boards and commissions. The training is based on the use of ethical dilemmas associated with real-life circumstances posing ethical dilemmas of the kind that city employees and officials, members and staffs of boards and commissions, and others might be expected to encounter in their specific situations, as well as exposure to relevant ethical provisions of the city and state ethics codes. Recipients are selected and training is designed in consultation with the ERB and conducted by the Hackett Group, a local consulting firm. In December of 2015 the first two ethics training sessions occurred for members of the city’s Department of Safety and Permits. A total of 31 city inspectors took part in sessions on December 14 or 21. A summary of evaluations by 2015 participants is available for inspection on the ERB website (www.nolaerb.gov). In preparation for becoming state-certified ethics trainers, members of the Hackett Group took part in trainings sponsored by the State of Louisiana. As of this writing training sessions have been completed in 2016 for 25 support service and engineering personnel of the Sewerage and Water Board and 25 engineers and managers in that same agency. Plans are being made for 15-20 members of the mayor’s office, the city council and the finance department to take part in the training in the coming year.
Independent Police Monitor
The year also brought intense public discussion about whether the Office of Independent Police Monitor (OIPM) should remain within the Office of Inspector General or be separated from it. The result of this debate was a decision by city council to place a charter amendment on the ballot in November 2016. The measure would provide for the separation of the OIPM from the OIG and the assignment of agreed portions of the money set aside annually by charter for operation of the OIG, OIPM and ERB. In the new institutional arrangements, the OIPM would report to the ERB, as the OIG now does, and presumably be subject to the same accountability as the OIG. The council also passed an ordinance requiring that ERB members file annual financial disclosure statements.
In October 2015, the ERB retained attorney Dane S. Ciolino as its general counsel. A respected expert in legal and governmental ethics, he is a professor in the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. His expertise will add great value to the work of the ERB.
As a matter of efficiency, the ERB decided not to replace its former full time executive director, accepting instead the offer of Inspector General Quatrevaux to assign a member of his staff, Ms. Jessica Lang, to assist the ERB part time. As of the end of 2015, the arrangement was working well. It will be reviewed annually.
I noted in previous reports that, while the relationship between an inspector general and public officials will inevitably include tensions, it need not be adversarial. In the arena of government ethics, the best of possible worlds is a strong, independent office of inspector general and a senior elected official who sees that office as an ally in the quest for effective, efficient, fair and law-abiding government. Those powerful stars continue to be aligned in New Orleans. This matters because around the world, good government has been shown not just to make government less wasteful and corrupt, but also to increase economic opportunity and reduce racial and other inter-group tensions. Whoever cares about those two matters cannot allow waste and corruption to contaminate public institutions.
Should you have comments, questions or suggestions for the Ethics Review Board, I encourage you to visit our website www.nolaerb.gov click on “Contact” and complete the comment form. If you would prefer to call, our number is (504) 681-3208.
Michael A. Cowan, Ph.D.
Ethics Review Board, City of New Orleans