As the great Mark Twain once wrote, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
I want to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone whose call I missed or whose text I was unable to return. I suffered some unexpected medical issues, but I am back in the saddle and available to whoever might need me.
Please do not hesitate to call about any investigations, questions, or legal matters. Take advantage of the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan. I look forward to hearing from you!
On March 3, 2023, the members of the New Orleans Civil Service Commission had their monthly meeting. On March 11, 2022, the Civil Service Commission approved some lump sum payments to police personnel in order to improve Retention and Recruitment. This also applied to the incentives for NOFD and NOEMS.
In order to be certain the payments were legal, the Civil Service Commission sought an opinion from the Attorney General. The Attorney General ruled favorably on the payments, but, generally, decisions based on an Attorney General’s Opinion delay the effectiveness of the item until the date of the positive ruling, which was received in July 2023.
In this case, the Fraternal Order of Police was very concerned that if the payments were pushed back to July 23, 2023, it would seriously impact the employees’ confidence in the administration’s reliability as it relates to promises it makes. In its Opinion, the Attorney General stated that the Civil Service Commission could revise its motion to March 11, 2022, so that the City Council could approve the change to March 11, 2022, and the payments could be made by March 11, 2023.
The Civil Service Commission received a letter from Councilman Joe Giuruso requesting the Civiil Service Commission consider a revision of the motion to change the effective date to March 11, 2022, so the Council could approve the change and the checks can be cut on March 11, 2023.
The Civil Service Commission unanimously voted to add the measure to the agenda and then unanimously voted to make the revision. The Council will consider the revision at its earliest opportunity and we will advise you when the checks will be issued.
The Fraternal Order of Police would like to to thank the New Orleans Civil Service Commission, Councilman Joe Giurusso, the New Orleans City Council. Mayor LaToya Cantrell, CAO Gilbert Montaño, and Superintendent Michelle Woodfork for making this a priority.
Earlier today, CAO Gilbert Montaño published CAO Policy Memo #148. That policy addressed the 10% pay increase for all city departments during Mardi Gras 2023. We received quite a few phone calls asking about the status of the $26/hr. increase for police personnel that had been mentioned previously.
Last weekend, NOPD Superintendent Michelle Woodfork put out a message saying that she and her team were going to figure out a way to increase the pay for all police personnel during this Mardi Gras. The limitation they were working with was that officers had to be working on contributing to Mardi Gras to qualify for the $26/hr. special rate of pay. This evening, Chief Woodfork called to tell me that they had come up with a plan and it would include every officer.
Chief Woodfork said that all NOPD officers will receive an additional $26/hr for the 2023 Mardi Gras season. The extra pay will start 3 hours before the first parade rolls and stop 3 hours after the last parade is over for any given day.
The FOP would like to thank Chief Woodfork for working this out so everyone can benefit from the special Mardi Gras rate of pay. When you see the Chief walking the parade route, make sure you let her know how much you appreciate it. I also want to thank FOP Labor Chairman Sgt. Willie Jenkins for all of his tireless work representing FOP members. When you see Willie on the parade route, make sure you have a list of things for the Labor Committee to work on to give him.
Have a safe Mardi Gras and don’t forget to have fun. The FOP would like to again thank Superintendent Woodfork and her leadership staff. We would also be remiss if we didn’t thank Personnel Director Amy Trepagnier, CAO Gilbert Montaño, and Mayor Cantrell. All of these City Leaders were more than willing to work with the FOP to benefit all police personnel.
On Monday, January 23, 2023, I received a phone call from Superintendent Michelle Woodfork. She wanted to explain that she was committed to paying all NOPD employees the same. So, while it remains possible that all NOPD officers will receive a 10% premium pay and a $26/hr. special rate of pay, Chief Woodfork is not going to allow some people to get the premium pay and the special rate of pay while others do not.
The Crescent City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police is also committed to getting NOPD parade personnel, NOPD District personnel, and law enforcement officers from other agencies who have come to help get Mardi Gras Krewes back on their regular routes. As I said at the end of last week, it sounded like a plan was coming together, and, as Col. John “Hannibal” Smith used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” I hope everyone understands the importance of plans coming together.
Today, a Press Release was issued by the Mayor’s Office that appeared to say that some NOPD officers would be paid one thing and another group of NOPD officers would be paid more during Mardi Gras. The Press Release suggested that the officers who were not being paid as much as their peers could work paid details (extra work after their regular 12-hour shifts) to make up the difference. This article appeared on NOLA.COM seemed to confirm that. The FOP said that was unacceptable.
The message to FOP members is that we have not given up yet. Once plans are solidly in place, I will be happy to share details with our members. Until then, we continue to work with the Mayor’s Office, the CAO’s Office, the Director of Personnel, the Civil Service Commission, Superintendent Woodfork, the NOPJF, and others to make sure that Mardi Gras pay is equitable.
On behalf of Sgt. Willie Jenkins and the FOP Labor Committee and myself, Claude Schlesinger, and the Legal Committee let’s work on quelling the rumors that are making the rounds. I will post an update once I can share more.
I know many of you have seen information regarding Mardi Gras compensation coverage due to our staffing shortage.
While I welcome any assistance from outside law enforcement to ensure we have a safe carnival season, my position has been and will always remain all officers should receive equal compensation across the board regardless of their respective duties.
As you are aware Mardi Gras coverage is a collective effort throughout the department which require officers who would normally work their regular police duties to engage in parade coverage which ultimately results in other officers in the districts working additional hours and days to supplement the loss for those assigned to the parade route.
Furthermore, we are bound by our oath of office to protect the entire city despite special events coverage; therefore, all officers should receive equal compensation.
In the coming days, we will finalize all aspects of the 2023 Mardi Gras plan including the compensation levels. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure equity in compensation for all officers.
I will provide an update to the rank and file of NOPD with all information once completed.
I appreciate your hard work in preparing for this upcoming Mardi Gras season.
Thank you for your continued dedication to our community.
I and other FOP Board members have received numerous phone calls from other officers asking about a rumor that the City of New Orleans would be paying officers from other jurisdictions $50/hr. to come to New Orleans and work the parades and other assignments working its way up to Mardi Gras and $75/hr. on Mardi Gras Day. After having received a phone call from FOP VP Willie Jenkins, III and since I had not heard anything official about this, I sent an email to New Orleans Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño to see what I could find out. I immediately received a text from Ms. Montaño asking if he could call me on the telephone.
Mr. Montaño explained that he was currently working with his team on two (2) separate plans to bring pay for current NOPD employees up to at least $50/hr. for the period leading up to Mardi Gras Day and at least $75/hr., if not more, for Mardi Gras Day, February 21, 2023. This temporary pay increase will be legal and justifiable because NOPD officers will have to supervise officers from other jurisdictions — at least help them out and call for a rank, if necessary.
Mr. Montaño told me that he anticipates that these plans may be considered by the New Orleans Civil Service Commission on January 20, 2023. The next stop would be at the New Orleans City Council on February 2, 2023 for approval by the City Council. Put those two dates on your calendar, it may be necessary to attend in support of these two plans.
I also got a call from a former NOPD officer who now works at another law enforcement agency. I must say that he sounded better and I am happy about that. He told me how his rank had explained the New Orleans Mardi Gras invitation and then, knowing he had come from New Orleans, asked if it was worth $75/hr. to work during Mardi Gras. While his answer had been no, my answer would have been yes.
First, $50/hr and $75/hr are good wages for working Mardi Gras. Second, it would be terrific experience for any outside agencies. Other cities have tried to have a New Orleans style Mardi Gras only to have the party turn into a brawl. Third, you won’t get this type of experience anywhere else. I am sure someone is thinking “they have big crowds in New York all the time and they seem to manage.” Have you ever been to New York for a special event? It is not the same. My daughter and I were in New York for the 4th of July and waited in a long line, put into pens without access to restrooms, food, water, etc. and left there for what would have been hours. I say what would have been hours because we split and went back to watch the fireworks on television at the hotel. I was glad we were allowed to leave.
I had fun at every Mardi Gras I ever worked. I worked on the parade route, in the districts, on motorcycles, on horseback, and in the lead vehicle for parades. It was fun. If I had been paid $50-$75/hr. or more, it would have been more fun.
While there is an occasional incident at Mardi Gras, I can say in all honesty that I didn’t see any or have to work any. I may have had to maneuver a parade around one, but it was not a big deal.
In short: If you are a law enforcement officer from another agency who has an opportunity to come to New Orleans to work Mardi Gras, I would do it. It is fun and the pay is good. If you are a law enforcement officer employed by the NOPD, put 1/20/23 and 2/2/23 on your calendar. You too should be making at least $50 and $75 per hour and we need to make sure we support CAO Montaño’s efforts to make it so.
Time us running very short for active NOPD officers to complete the survey on benefits for recruitment and retention. You should have an email in your inbox from FOPNO if you are an active member of the NOPD police. The emails were sent on Monday, 11/21/22, and 11/25/22. The link should be in that email and it should work until 8 PM tonight (11/28/22).
I want to thank all of you who participated in this survey. Special thanks goes to Council President Moreno and her staff and Labor Committee Chairman Willie Jenkins, and Labor committee member detective Marylou Agustin for putting a lot of effort into this project.
I also want to thank President Powers for his enthusiasm about the project and Jim Gallagher for distributing the information to our members. Last, but not least, I want to thank the FOP members who took the time to complete the surgery
Remember, for those who have not completed the survey, you have until 8 PM on 11/28/22. So, there is still time. We will see what the survey results are later this week.
Active NOPD members of FOP Crescent City Lodge #2 should check their email from 11/21/22 and 11/25/22, look for an email from the FOP about Recruitment and Retention Benefits, and open it up. Inside, there will be a link to a survey that will help members of the City Council decide what types of benefits to add, remove, or change to improve NOPD recruitment and retention. If you do not answer the anonymous survey, your thoughts on the matter will not be considered. However, if you take a few minutes and complete the survey, you may be able to help the City Council decide what benefits or types of benefits they should try to implement to improve NOPD recruitment and retention. Please complete and submit the survey. Also, not everyone reads their emails or looks at Signal108 (this website). Please pass this information on to your colleagues. If they have already submitted the survey, they should not submit another. However, the more individuals who complete the survey, the clearer the picture becomes relative to what benefits or types of benefits our current officers would value the most.
Please look at your inbox on Monday, November 21st, 2022, and look for an email from FOPNO that is titled NOPD Retention Survey. You could also have that same email in your inbox dated today, Friday, November 25th, 2022. Again, please only submit one completed survey per active officer. However, if you started the survey but did not finish or finished the survey but did not submit it, you can still do that if you do it soon.
If, for some reason, you believe that your personal and/or work email address is incorrect in the FOP’s records, please contact us and let us know so that we can straighten out any mistakes. It is important to have accurate information in the FOP’s records. There are beneficiary cards that need to be completed. Addresses need to be accurate. Phone numbers need to be accurate. And the FOP should have your personal email address. Remember, you have no expectation of privacy as it relates to the contents of your work email address. You can avoid that privacy problem simply by signing up for a free Gmail account, Outlook account, Yahoo account, or Protonmail account (https://pr.tn/ref/PVD1E5VEJQVG). If you have any questions about email accounts or about an expectation of privacy, please feel free to call me and I will do my best to explain the situation.
In any event, please take a minute to find the email from this past Monday (11/21/22) or from Friday (11/25/22) so that you can complete the survey and have your voice counted amongst the others in determining what types of recruitment and retention benefits you personally find valuable and desirable.
When I sat down with Council President Moreno to discuss this survey, that was the goal — To identify the benefits or types of benefits that officers would find valuable and desirable so that we can attack the current manpower shortage and give current officers something that they will be able to use moving forward and become the best recruiters we could possibly have. Finally, we are hoping these benefits will make the NOPD more competitive for new hires and lateral hires. We are competing with agencies from coast to coast all of a sudden. If you are working up north and you don’t like the cold, come on down to New Orleans. We have never experienced lake effect snow in New Orleans.
Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey. You cannot get anything done without sharing your thoughts and ideas on the topics we are trying to do something about. Here is your opportunity. Let’s get this done. I also want to thank Council President Helena Moreno, her Chief of Staff, Andrew Tuozzolo, Sgt. Willie Jenkins, our Labor Committee Chairman, and Det. Marylou Agustin for taking the time to do a deep-dive into these benefits for all of our sakes. Last, but not least, thank you for taking the time to complete and submit the survey. Please spread the word. This is only for active employees of the New Orleans Police Department.
In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” or “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Plenty of things are changing. Are they really staying the same? I wrote a similar blog entry in July of 2015 — more than 7 years ago. What I am convinced of is that things are, indeed, staying the same.
There have been more complaints and, therefore, more investigations into paid details. I suppose paid details are low-hanging fruit. With the possible exception of ignoring the rule that says one can only work 16 hours and 35 minutes, in any capacity, on any one day. Of course, the media jumped on it. How does this sound “Officer Smith worked more than 100 hours in addition to his full-time job as a police officer? How is that possible?” It is possible. There are 168 hours in a week.
Details are easy picking. Any good reporter can make it look like our public servants are doing something wrong by earning six figures. People tend to believe what they hear in the news. That includes police officers. So, when the news reports that there are 26 police officers who have somehow broken the rules as they relate to off-duty paid details, people tend to believe that. Even police officers tend to believe these allegations, even though they know better.
I can tell you, dear reader, that almost every single instance that appeared to be double dipping was, in fact, an error on somebody’s part. In addition, I can also tell you that the vast majority of those errors were made by somebody other than the police officer working the paid detail. Of course, between PIB and OIPM, they came up with the single most onerous solution possible. Their unwritten goal must have been to make the fix to a problem that didn’t really exist as difficult as possible. See, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The federal government decided that they were going to take a look at 16 of these cases involving paid details, allegedly. They issued 5 target letters to five individual police officers which told the officers that their information rate related to paid details was being presented to a grand jury. The target letters did not say the officers were about to be arrested or were to appear in court to defend themselves or anything like that. One thing that I am convinced of is that the federal prosecutors are going to be very disappointed. They are going to find the same thing that I found.
First of all, paid details are privately contracted business affairs between the police officer and the entity or person hiring that police officer. The City of New Orleans jumped through many hoops to make sure everybody understood that a police officer working a paid detail was not working as a city employee at that moment. In fact, that whole question went as far as the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, which agreed with the decision from the Eastern District of Louisiana that a police officer working in off-duty paid detail was not acting as an employee of the city of New Orleans.
Whatever arrangements are made between the officer and the person hiring the police officer are between those two parties to a contract. The city does not want to be a party to the contract. They want to take $5 an hour out of what a police officer makes and fund their own office to schedule and pay these officers through the ADP payroll system (OPSE). That may seem on its face to conflict, but they simply want to be a pass-through for the information and the money. Well, that’s what they got. They got that and more details than they could possibly schedule and organize. The end result was paid details that went and continue to go unfilled, details that appear to be filled by employees of the City of New Orleans but are not. They appear to be details that are subject to some kind of supervision by the City of New Orleans. Nope.
I am not going to spend much more time on this because I did not intend for this to be a blog entry about paid details. One example: There is a school that hired a police detail to keep an eye on the kids in the morning during drop-off. The school wanted the officer to work for one hour (60 minutes). The school asked the officer to report between 7:00 am and 7:15 am and stay until 8:00 am when the school’s carpool ended. In exchange, the school was going to pay the police officer 2 hours – from 6:00 am to 8:00 am. Now, the officer is not actually performing any work for the school from 6:00 am to 7:00 am. Let’s say the officer got off of work at 7:00 am. This might have led to a situation where the officer was working for NOPD from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am and the same officer was working for the school from 6:00 am to 8:00 am.
On its face, it looks like this officer was double-dipping between 6:00 am and 7:00 am. However, the appearances are inaccurate. The officer only performed work for NOPD from 6:00 am to 7:00 am. If the officer worked in the same district that the school is located in, it might only take 2-3 minutes for the officer to get to the school. So, in our hypothetical, the officer gets to the school at 7:05 am. He then works for the school until 8:00 am.
Public Payroll Fraud states:
“A. Public payroll fraud is committed when:
(1) Any person shall knowingly receive any payment or compensation, or knowingly permit his name to be carried on any employment list or payroll for any payment or compensation from the state, for services not actually rendered by himself, or for services grossly inadequate for the payment or compensation received or to be received according to such employment list or payroll; or
(2) Any public officer or public employee shall carry, cause to be carried, or permit to be carried, directly or indirectly, upon the employment list or payroll of his office, the name of any person as employee, or shall pay any employee, with knowledge that such employee is receiving payment or compensation for services not actually rendered by said employee or for services grossly inadequate for such payment or compensation.”
Paragraph 1 of La. R.S. 14:138 addresses the person defrauding the state, and paragraph 2 addresses the person facilitating the fraud committed in paragraph 1. In our hypothetical, the question is whether the officer committed payroll fraud between 6:00 am and 7:00 am. The answer is a resounding no.
In order to violate a criminal statute, there has to be criminal intent.
“Criminal intent may be specific or general:
(1) Specific criminal intent is that state of mind that exists when the circumstances indicate that the offender actively desired the prescribed criminal consequences to follow his act or failure to act.
(2) General criminal intent is present whenever there is specific intent, and also when the circumstances indicate that the offender, in the ordinary course of human experience, must have adverted to the prescribed criminal consequences as reasonably certain to result from his act or failure to act.”
Fraud crimes are specific intent crimes. So, the officer had to actively desire the prescribed criminal consequences. La. R.S. 14:138(A)(1) only applies to work done for the government (public payroll). The officer would have had to “knowingly receive payment or compensation, or knowingly permit his name to be carried on any employment list or payroll for any payment or compensation from the state, for services not actually rendered by himself, or for services grossly inadequate for the payment or compensation received or to be received according to such employment list or payroll.”
Between 6:00 am and 7:00 am, the officer was paid by both the NOPD and the school. However, the officer performed the work required of him by the NOPD. The officer did not violate the necessary aspects of the statute by not rendering the services required of him by himself or by performing those services in a grossly inadequate manner. The school, a private organization, did not gain anything on the public’s nickel. Also, the school, a private business, is free to pay the officer however it wants.
I have this whole discussion of paid details under the heading “Why I Still Love the FOP.” Click here to read the original from July 2015. Why does this remind me why I still love the FOP? Because the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan provides me, as the attorney, and my client, all the resources we need to prove these allegations incorrect. Someone printed a report of payroll data, and then the data from that report was compared to a report of OPSE payroll data. Nobody ever verified the accuracy of the data in any of the reports. There is nothing wrong with working hard to support one’s family. That is all that is happening here. If anyone else believes differently, I don’t know what to say.
The FOP’s Legal Defense Plan will allow all FOP members to continue defending themselves until they are cleared. It will happen. I love being associated with the FOP.