Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Inspector General of New Orleans …



Since we went to press, Robert Cerasoli has resigned. We'll have more about this next week.

This article was adapted from an entry by Kevin Allman on bestofneworleans.com:

Robert A. Cerasoli (pictured) has just released his first report, 15 months after he became New Orleans' first-ever inspector general, "Interim Report on the Management of the Administrative Vehicle Fleet."

City ordinances limit the number of take-home vehicles to 60 (50 for the mayor's office, 10 for the fire department), but Cerasoli's investigators found 273 vehicles. The mayor's office alone accounts for 73 of them; mayor Nagin himself has both a 2005 Lincoln Continental (insured value: $37,500) and a 2007 Ford Expedition ($33,042.25). The list details a fleet valued at more than $4 million, and the mayor's 2009 budget includes another $2 million for a "vehicle replacement program."

Nagin told WWL-TV that the 60-car limit was an  "outdated ordinance." By Thursday, as the City Council attempted to finalize the 2009 budget, Nagin had backed down a bit. In a written statement to the council, he promised to respond in writing to Cerasoli's report by Jan. 30, "and not to purchase any administrative vehicles this budget year." The council is expected to vote again on the car program this week.

When Cerasoli arrived from Boston to set up the Office of the Inspector General, he needed inventory tags — the little bar-code stickers that offices use to keep track of computers, monitors and other workplace valuables. He called City Hall to get some. It was one of his first, but not his last, surprises when it came to New Orleans city government.

"The city does not know all its assets," he says. "The city does not have a list of all its real property and all its movable property. They don't have inventories of anything. When we called people [at City Hall] to ask them where they get their inventory tags, they said they don't have any. They don't buy them.

"You can't steal what you don't own," he says wryly. "See what I mean?" 

As Cerasoli walks down Baronne Street he passes a New Breed cab parked at the curb. "Hey!" says the driver, sticking his hand out the window for a shake. "Thank you," Cerasoli mutters, shyly but sincerely. The scenario repeats itself six times in four blocks: a pedestrian stops in his tracks and exclaims, "Great work!"; a motorist stops in the intersection at Perdido Street and waves him through enthusiastically.

"To me, coming from Boston, it seems so decadent," he says softly "seeing all these people, doing all the things that they're doing."

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