Thirty minutes after last week's special New Orleans City Council meeting on the proposed federal consent decree for the Orleans Parish Prison adjourned, Sheriff Marlin Gusman offered a blistering assessment of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's "last-ditch attempt" to shirk his end of the multi-million dollar agreement. Landrieu warned of mass layoffs, furloughs, operating cuts or some combination of all three in the face of what he called the consent agreement's $22 million annual cost for five consecutive years.
Gusman said he had "no idea" where the mayor's office came up with that $22 million figure. However, a July 2012 email from Gusman's attorneys to the city, submitted to federal court, notes that $22 million is in line with the sheriff's own numbers. Because that estimate is based primarily on personnel costs, most of that cost would appear to be long-term, if not permanent.
Gusman declined to provide his own estimates of the consent decree's net impact on his budget. He repeatedly stressed the necessity of the consent decree but refused to concede that OPP operates unconstitutionally.
"The things in the consent decree are things we want to do," Gusman said. "We want to have that oversight. That gives the public confidence." — Charles Maldonado