Tour guides say city investigator has been harassing them for weeks

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 11:33 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 8:21 AM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - Monday night, ghost tours were out in full force in New Orleans.

But some tour guides say the most frightening part of their job recently has been dealing with a city investigator.

“Violently threatening people,” said Haunted History tour guide Jennifer Vallas. "He's threatened me."

Vallas was referring to Wilton Joiner, an investigator with the New Orleans Taxi Cab Bureau, which oversees tour groups.

On Monday, the city suspended Joiner without pay pending the outcome of an investigation after he allegedly left bruises on a tour guide Saturday.

“He slammed up against the car so I would give him my license because I refused,” said Haunted History tour guide Wendy Bosma, who claims Joiner tried taking her license away after giving her a citation for violating a city rule that tour groups must be at least 50 feet apart.

Bosma denies she violated the rule.

Tour guides say Bosma’s case is not an isolated incident. They say Joiner has been harrassing tour guides for weeks, parking nightly in a spot near Royal and Governor Nicholls.

“When I have 28 grannies from Toledo on my tour who just want to enjoy their big night out in the French Quarter and this thug with a badge comes and shines a flashlight in their face, what does that say about our city?” said Haunted History tour guide Andrew Ward.

Guides like Ward say Joiner would stop tours near the LaLaurie Mansion and demand to see the guide's license. Then, he would tell the group to move along.

“There are no city ordinances whatsoever require me to move off the sidewalk,” said Ward. “He's stepping on my First Amendment rights for freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.”

The LaLaurie mansion has become a must see spot for many ghost tours in New Orleans because of its infamous history, but some neighbors say the number of nightly tours has become a nuisance.

“They're very loud and there's usually lots of them, and they don't always follow the rules,” said David Whiddon, who has lived across the street from the Lalaurie mansion since 2011. “Since the taxi cab bureau has been enforcing the rules, it's been much better and we really appreciate them enforcing the rules.”

But some tour guides say the taxi cab bureau went beyond enforcing the rules to stepping on their rights.

"We expect city employees to respond to citizen complaints, and when they do to treat citizens with respect. We take these allegations very seriously,” city spokeswoman Garnesha Crawford said in a statement.

The NOPD says it received conflicting reports about Saturday's incident, which remains under investigation.

This marks the second time Joiner has been suspended. He was also suspended in 2011, but was later cleared of all charges and reinstated.

 

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