NEW ORLEANS - The City of New Orleans placed a taxicab inspector on emergency suspension without pay, after an incident Saturday night involving a French Quarter tour guide.
In a statement released late Monday, Communications Director for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Garnesha Crawford said, “We expect City employees to respond to citizen complaints, and when they do to treat citizens with respect. We take these allegations very seriously.”
French Quarter tour guide Wendy Bosma wants criminal charges filed against taxicab inspector Wilton Joiner after she says he pinned her against a car when she wouldn't hand over her permit.
New Orleans Police say the inspector told them a conflicting story.
Bosma called it the latest in a pattern of harassment on the part of the city's Taxicab Bureau.
She said Monday that she had just finished one of her stories in front of a group of 28 tourists Saturday outside the LaLaurie Mansion at the intersection of Governor Nicholls and Royal Streets.
City Taxicab Inspector Wilton Joiner approached her and asked for her permit. It’s the third time Bosma said she has been approached by Joiner in recent weeks.
But Saturday was different. Joiner asked Bosma for her permit. She says she showed it to him, but he kept asking for it to take it. He eventually snapped it off the lanyard on her bag.
She protested, asking why Joiner was taking her permit. After an exchange of words, Joiner called the NOPD. In the meantime, Bosma took back the permit.
“He threw me against the car, twisted my arm behind me until I gave him my license back,” Bosma said.
It’s dark, but the incident was caught on video.
Bosma says she questioned him about what city codes she might have been breaking. For example, tour groups have to stay 50 feet away from each other and they can only have 28 people per group.
“I said, what for? What am I doing? He says this is my supervisor. Points behind him to Malachi [Hull].
Malachi says 50 feet. I said there's nobody else around here,” she said.
Malachi Hull is the head of the New Orleans Taxicab Bureau.
Why he was at the scene Saturday is unclear. But a number of companies have been complaining about inspector Joiner's tactics, and about what they see as harassment of their licensed tour guides, like Bosma.
“I don't know where he came from or what his agenda is, but he is clearly on a mission to, in my opinion, rid the French Quarter of the walking tours in the evening, the walking ghost tours,” said Sidney Smith, owner of Haunted History Tours, the company Bosma works for.
Smith says the confrontations between city inspectors and tour guides escalated about a week and a half before Halloween.
The tour guides say the intersection of Governor Nicholls and Royal is the area where they're having the most interactions with city inspectors because it’s one of the most popular places for tour guides to stop.
“That house is considered to be the crown jewel of all ghost stories. It was owned for a while by Nicolas Cage,” Smith said.
It’s the corner where New Orleans’ most haunted mansion stands: the LaLaurie Mansion.
And that’s where the confrontation between Bosma and Joiner happened Saturday night.
But Joiner isn't a police officer. He's an inspector. An attorney for the tour company says he has no right to lay a hand on her.
“No member of the Taxicab Bureau or any other authoritative figure has the authority to batter someone. It's a crime,” said attorney Tom Schlosman.
The NOPD said they got conflicting reports from Bosma and Joiner, meaning, each one says the other was the aggressor.
NOPD Spokesperson Remi Braden said detectives are looking for additional surveillance video that might show it more clearly and that, "This matter is obviously still under investigation, and appropriate action will be taken once an accurate account of the incident is verified."