Inspector General audit claims Orleans Parish deputies were overpaid for Carnival 2023 detail

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The New Orleans Office of the Inspector General is raising concerns about how much 2023’s extra patrol costed the City of New Orleans.

On Thursday, Jan. 18, Inspector General Edward Michael sent a letter to Chief Administrator Officer Gilbert Montaño, referencing miscalculation in overtime pay to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.

In the letter, Michael stated “OIG auditors noted OPSO’s overtime calculation for employees who signed up to work additional hours during the 2023 Carnival season was not compliant with federal law.”

As a result of the calculations, Michael said employees were paid an inflated pay rate for working additional Mardi Gras hours.

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According to the letter, funds for Mardi Gras shifts came from the City of New Orleans through a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (CEA) between OPSO and the city.

Michael said the concerns addressed in the letter are for the upcoming Carnival season surrounding the statement made by the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Council.

“Supplementary law enforcement officers ‘will be coming in to stand post along the parade route,’ and the city’s Chief Administrative Officer has said operationally, as far as using supplemental officers, Mardi Gras 2024 will be ‘modeled exactly on what we did last year,'” said Mardi Gras Council officials.

The OPSO and the New Police Department plan to bring 240 officers from 18 different agencies into the city to boost security at parades.

Audit findings revealed that the OPSO did not pay deputies the flat hourly rate for overtime hours set by the CEA, the city and the OPSO, but instead used the flat hourly rates in the CEA to calculate the overtime hourly rate.

The office is offering recommendations, “in a timely manner,” to allow the OPSO and city agencies to take corrective and preventative measures in time for Carnival.

Michael further stated that voluntary hours worked for a “premium rate” pay in excess of normal hours are not to be included when calculating overtime as stated in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

A statement from the office read that while it is essential that the city provides a safe environment during Carnival, it should also be in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

OPSO Sheriff Susan Hutson released a response to the letter, stating that over several weeks the Sheriff’s Office has cooperated with the OIG but disagrees with the statement that overtime calculation was not compliant with federal law.

This fact has been communicated over the last several weeks with the OIG general counsel. For political purposes, the OIG, at every turn, has attempted to undermine the hard work of the OPSO staff who went above and beyond to support the city when called upon.

With a limited amount of time to plan, our staff went to work planning operations in support of Mardi Gras. We disagree with the OIG’s mischaracterization of our work and payments made to staff who supported the operation to keep residents and visitors safe.

As a contracted agency providing support to the City of New Orleans for parade security, OPSO assigned OPSO personnel to work the parade during their normal work hours as opposed to a voluntary off-duty assignment. OPSO believes legal authority demonstrates that the OIG’s contention that overtime was calculated improperly is erroneous.

Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Offfice Sheriff Susan Hutson

Hutson said the matter has been investigated by the OPSO’s legal team.

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