NEW ORLEANS -- The head of the Guste Homes said she was “livid” when she found out that two New Orleans police officers were arrested for payroll fraud under her watch.
Cynthia Wiggins, who manages Guste under a $3.5 million public housing contract, said she had no hint that veteran officers Quincy Jones and Rafael Dobard were under watch by the FBI for allegedly raking in city overtime at the same time they were being paid to patrol two public housing developments.
HANO chief David Gilmore, the federally appointed receiver since 2009, echoed Wiggins’ surprise and disgust.
"If these guys did what they're accused of doing, they should be immediately terminated from the police department, minimally, and prosecuted criminally," Gilmore said.
With multiple federal and city agencies now investigating the large and lucrative off-duty detail, Gilmore said he is keeping a close eye on the probe to see where it leads.
But a look backward in time reveals a troubling history attached to the officer who is the NOPD's most visible and constant presence at Guste.
Sixth District patrolman Brian Pollard (pictured right) works as the liaison to Guste as his regular police assignment. He also works there most nights as part of one of the city's largest and most lucrative off-duty details.
Pollard’s checkered history dates back to 2007, when he admitted to several counts of payroll fraud, working off-duty at Walgreens at the same time he was on the clock for the city. (See Pollard's work history)
But even though Pollard was arrested and booked with a crime, the transgression did not cost him his job. He was hit with a 30-day suspension by the department was allowed to quietly enter the district attorney's diversion program instead of being prosecuted.
Now Pollard is the point man on the same detail as officers Jones and Dobard, both of whom are suspended as they await trial.
Gilmore said if Pollard’s 2007 allegations surfaced today, he would be removed from the detail, but he now considers Pollard an officer in good standing unless proven otherwise.
But Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, is not so forgiving, especially in light of the recent payroll fraud allegations against two of Pollard’s colleagues.
"Here was a fire. Not smoke, but a fire that this officer wasn't attempting to cross the line, but had crossed the line," Goyeneche said. “He was given break after break after break, but instead of him being fired by the police department, he was reassigned to a job that gave him even more autonomy."
Wiggins said Pollard has no supervisory role, but several officers list Pollard as “coordinator” on paid detail authorization forms. NOPD officers are required to complete the forms for off-duty detail work.
The officers who list Pollard as the coordinator of the Guste detail include two sergeants who outrank Pollard, an apparent violation of department policy.
The NOPD operations manual states that, “No police supervisory officer will be supervised on a detail by an officer of supervisory lower rank.”
"A police officer has demonstrated his lack of integrity, as in the case of Brian Pollard in this particular case. And now you have him in charge of a very lucrative detail for the housing projects, it's certainly going to raise questions."
Pollard's attorney, Donovan Livaccari, said he’s not sure why the other officers listed Pollard as their coordinator, but claimed the paperwork must be a mistake.
"Well, because sometimes people think you have to put something down on a blank,” Livaccari said. “I guess he would be the obvious choice since he's assigned over there.”
Goyeneche said Pollard’s constant presence at Guste amid an expanding investigation into payroll fraud is troubling.
"A police officer has demonstrated his lack of integrity, as in the case of Brian Pollard in this particular case,” Goyeneche said. “And now you have him in charge of a very lucrative detail for the housing projects, it's certainly going to raise questions…They are in the early stages of their investigation right now, into this, and we would be naive to think this started and stopped with the arrests that were made recently."
Wiggins said she has reviewed the entire police detail in light of Jones and Dobard's arrests and has found no wrongdoing.
“If I found anything wrong, I’d be the first one to do something about it,” Wiggins said.
Federal tax records show that at in 2010, at least $432,000 was spent on the police detail, which operates almost around the clock.
The extra police presence supplements many layers of security already in place, including Guste security, HANO police and Pollard, the full-time NOPD liaison.
Many residents question why there is such heavy security at a high-rise housing complex for the elderly and disabled.
Carlton Goodwin says he was banned from the building for merely questioning the police presence.
"How much policing does it take for 85 year olds?" Goodwin asked. “I don’t think you work real hard to keep an 85-year-old in check. But maybe you do.”
Chris Kuykindall, who worked at the Guste as a maintenance supervisor, said, "There's no trouble over there at all. Never. Never. They never handle anything going on over there."
But residents say the Guste isn’t without problems, and most come from Pollard. A close look at Pollard's complaint history shows dozens of citizen complaints, most from Guste residents.
Records show that out of 25 complaints against Pollard, four were sustained. Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson said that was enough of a red flag to force Pollard into a mandatory retraining program.
According to PIB records, the complaints include intimidation, discourtesy and lack of professionalism.
“Of course, we've noticed he has a substantial complaint history. PIB has noted that,” Hutson said.
But even after going through the week-long retraining course, called the Professional Performance Enhancement Program, Pollard has continued to draw complaints from Guste residents, the records show.
“He’s continuing to get complaints,” Hutson said. “So now you need to do something different. Now you have to. One of things we would recommend is that he be monitored very closely.”
Gilmore said HANO hasn’t been made aware of the complaints about Pollard, but he vowed to keep close watch on the officer, as well as the entire Guste detail in light of the payroll fraud arrests.
“If such evidence (of wrongdoing) comes to light,” Gilmore said, “it gets dealt with harshly and swiftly, and that includes, by the way, the people responsible for managing that process, for overseeing it.“
But until he sees evidence that something is wrong, Gilmore remains a strong advocate for a heavy police presence in public housing, even at a high-rise complex filled with wheelchairs and walkers.
"The places in New Orleans that used to be thought of as the bastions of crime,” he said, “places where you couldn't go safely at night or almost anytime during the day, are now some of the safest, statistically some of the safest, places in the city."