NEW ORLEANS -- The finances of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's office were put under a microscope during two days of testimony that wrapped up Thursday in federal court. It is all part of the process to determine who will pay for reforms under a sweeping consent decree to improve conditions at the parish prison.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman took the witness stand to explain that the city will need to give him extra funding to bring OPP up to required constitutional standards.
Attorneys for the city, meanwhile, tried to show that the sheriff's office already gets enough money from a severely strained budget.
"What the city is saying is,” Chick Foret, WWL-TV legal analyst, said, “that we have properly funded that prison for years, but Sheriff Gusman has mismanaged the resources that we have given him."
Foret said U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk will have wide discretion in deciding how the costs will be divided.
"Additional millions of dollars are needed to abide by the consent decree. The city doesn't have it,” Foret said. “The sheriff doesn't have it. And it will be interesting to see where Judge Africk decides that money has to come from."
Another round of hearings will kick off in two weeks so that Judge Africk can formulate a ruling. But Africk noted that the replacement prison under construction is shrouded in mystery, and he wants to know more.
Some unanswered questions will be answered by the next set of hearings on August 5.
Gusman and his design team are required to reveal what modifications are going to be made to the prison going up behind me to accommodate the mentally ill and a variety of medical facilities as required by the consent decree."
Until then, the multi-million dollar tug of war will continue as the city and sheriff make their cases.