Wednesday, November 30, 2011

IG letter says Serpas did nothing wrong

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 4:33 PM

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux's office has reviewed a series of questions, raised last week in a Fox 8 investigation, about New Orleans Police Department Chief Ronal Serpas' pension paperwork.

The news report found that city pension documents listed Serpas' starting date as May 6, 2010, even though he was still heading up the Metro Nashville Police Department at the time. The paperwork was even dated and notarized (by Assistant City Attorney Vic Papai) "May 6" even though that would have been impossible. Serpas' move to New Orleans was announced on May 6. He stayed in Nashville to help with recovery from a devastating flood through May 10.

(Full IG letter after the jump)

The reason for that date problem? Well, it could have been that Serpas turned 50 before May 10, his first official day as NOPD chief. From the Fox 8 report:

And there’s one line in small print on the pension enrollment form that raises more questions. It reads, "MUST BE UNDER AGE 50 AT DATE OF EMPLOYMENT”.

Then again, maybe not. As the story later notes, Serpas was already in the state Municipal Employees Retirement System from his earlier employment with NOPD. So Quatrevaux dismisses this allegation as irrelevant and instructs Papai "report his actions" (meaning the allegedly false notarization) to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Then the last question. Again from the original news report:

But there's more. Records show the city paid Interim Superintendent Marlon Defillo, a police chief's salary May 3rd through May 10th, 2010. Serpas' first day getting paid was also May 10th, for 8 hours, even though he was still police chief of Nashville until close of business that day, according to his own resignation letter. On May 10th, he was still in uniform in Nashville and consulting with his interim replacement.

The IG doesn't actually address that one. It addresses an allegation that wasn't made by anyone. From the letter:

[Allegation 2] That Serpas started getting paid by the City on 05/06/2010 even though he did not actually start working until 05/10/2010

And the IG's response:


City payroll records demonstrate that Chief Serpas began earning pay as of 05/10/2011, not on May 6th as alleged. The allegation is unsubstantiated and no further investigation is required.

But what did that story say again? Wait, I have it right here (emphasis mine):


Serpas' first day getting paid was also May 10th, for 8 hours, even though he was still police chief of Nashville until close of business that day, according to his own resignation letter. On May 10th, he was still in uniform in Nashville and consulting with his interim replacement.

The media and Quatrevaux will just have to agree to, agree, I guess, on that one.

Here's the full IG letter:

ED QUATREVAUX INSPECTOR GENERAL
November 30, 2011
Office of Inspector General
City of New Orleans
Mitchell J. Landrieu, Mayor City of New Orleans

Dear Mayor Landrieu:
On November 11, 2011 [Note: Actually November 21], news media reported the following allegations concerning the Superintendent of the NOPD, Ronal Serpas:

1. That Serpas dated forms stating that his starting employment date was 05/06/2010 even though his actual starting date was 05/10/2010, in order to qualify for additional pension benefits;

2. That Serpas started getting paid by the City on 05/06/2010 even though he did not actually start working until 05/10/2010;

3. That Serpas and Assistant City Attorney Victor Papai signed and notarized the above referenced document on 05/06/2010 even though Chief Serpas was in Nashville, Tennessee on that date.

The Office of Inspector General conducted an investigation into these allegations because Chief Serpas is a high ranking public official of the City of New Orleans. The investigation determined the following:

1. Chief Serpas signed the forms on 05/06/2010 and first reported for duty on 05/10/2010. However, this is a standard practice and we found no violation of law or policy. The New Orleans City Attorney and Director of the Municipal Police Employees Retirement System (MPERS) both stated that the dates are meaningless because the Chief had a break in service and had never applied for or received benefits. They said the Chief would be eligible for the enhanced pension under any circumstances and that the date of his 50th birthday was irrelevant. The allegation is unfounded and no further investigation is required.

2. City payroll records demonstrate that Chief Serpas began earning pay as of 05/10/2011, not on May 6th as alleged. The allegation is unsubstantiated and no further investigation is required.


3. Chief Serpas signed an addendum to his retirement member enrollment form and dated it 05/06/2010. Assistant City Attorney Vic Papai indicated that he notarized it on that same date. As Chief Serpas was in Nashville, Tennessee on 05/06/2010, and Mr. Papai was in New Orleans, it is not possible that they both signed as indicated. Matters involving attorneys are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel; the City Attorney has instructed Mr. Papai to immediately report his actions. The City Attorney has taken appropriate action, and this office has also referred the matter to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel; no further investigation is required.

Due to the public airing of these allegations, I thought it appropriate to bring the results of this investigation to your personal attention. Please contact me if you have questions or would like additional information.

Sincerely,

E.R. Quatrevaux
Inspector General City of New Orleans

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