News Feature | January 11, 2017

Water Workers Accused Of $500,000 In Theft From New Orleans Utility

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

bourbon st reg new

Authorities are going after ten former employees of the New Orleans water utility on allegations of theft.

The former Sewerage and Water Board (S&WB) workers “are being arrested on theft charges after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) said they stole more than $500,000 in brass fittings from the utility system and sold them at local scrap yards,” The Times-Picayune reported last month.

“The employees .... stole so many brass fittings that the OIG's office estimates that 6,300 water meters could have been installed with the stolen property,” the report said.

The names of the employees were released by the water utility, according to The Times-Picayune. In a statement, the utility told The Times-Picayune:

The individuals in question are no longer employed by the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans. Upon learning of the allegations, the S&WB took swift action, placing all individuals on emergency suspension and today none are employed by the S&WB. Of the ten identified, four were terminated, five resigned and one retired.

The district attorney’s office has obtained arrest warrants for the employees, according to the report.

The office of New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux “teamed up with the Sewerage and Water Board to investigate the brass for cash scheme,” WGNO reported.

According to a statement from Quatrevaux’s office, utility employees “sold approximately 34,416 pounds of brass to scrap metal yards in the New Orleans area. The S&WB purchased these brass fittings at approximately $15.30 a pound which resulted in a loss of $526,565.”

The utility has responded to the allegation by implementing protocol changes, according to the statement from the OIG’s office:

The S&WB has implemented significant changes to its security and logistics policies and procedures as a result of this investigation. This includes the recent hiring of a Deputy Director of Security and contracting with a new security firm to patrol and safeguard S&WB plants and facilities. This increases institutional controls over property procurement, warehousing and inventory. Furthermore, S&WB has installed new video surveillance systems and enhanced its fencing, locks and intrusion detection.

S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant said at a news conference, per The Times-Picayune, that he was "shocked and appalled by the brazenness of the crimes committed. I have zero tolerance for the theft of public property or any violation of the public trust."

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Labor Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Bourbon Street Between Bienville and Conti, French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana 3," ken lund © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/