NEWORLEANS- Officials from the City of New Orleans and the U.S. Justice Department Thursday winnowed down the list of companies vying to become the federal monitor over the city's police department.
Five firms from across the country will now move to the next round of consideration for the multi-million dollar monitor contract.
The monitor and their group will oversee the city and the NOPD's implementation of the decree for at least four years. They will compile reports, conduct interviews, check on compliance, and ultimately report back to a federal judge. The monitor is as a key player in the process.
Thursday's public meeting, which was mandated by the court, is the first of five meetings to be held prior to the final selection of the consent decree monitor.
The groups making the first cut are: The Bromwich Group, of Washington, D.C.; OIR Group, of Pasadena, Calif.; Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, of Washington, D.C.; Elite Performance Assessment Consultants of Thousand Oaks, Calif.; and Hillard Heintze of Chicago.
Though the Department of Justice wants to move forward with the decree, Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants to halt it. His administration has filed court motions seeking to vacate the whole decree. It claims the feds acted in 'bad faith,' misled the city on several issues, and has a 'pattern of misrepresenting the facts.'
Just days into office, Landrieu invited the Justice Department to investigate the NOPD, though the feds would have come regardless. He espoused the benefits of such a decree up until recent months, when finances appeared to be an issue.
U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan has yet to rule on the city's motion to toss out the decree. Until she does, the process chugs along as planned.
About a dozen citizens and another dozen consultants or bidders attended the meeting in a conference room in the Superdome. Assistant city attorneys and deputy mayors sat at one table. Attorneys and representatives from the U.S. Justice Department sat at another table.
The hearing was formulaic, with city and federal representatives reading off the list of bidders, chiming in occasionally with critiques of the proposals. Twelve different groups had submitted bids.
The citizen attendees roundly criticized the process and occasionally shouted down the city's representatives. They complained of the one-day notice of the meeting, of the lack of handouts and information regarding the bids, among other claims.
'Go on with your dog and pony show,' community activist Sandra Wheeler Hester told them. 'This is disrespectful to the public.'
Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin said the administration, in bucking tradition by other mayors, holds its public proposal process in the open in an 'effort to be transparent.'
'We are doing this in public,' he said. 'It is unusual. It is not required.'
Randolph Scott, of Community United for Change, laughed off the city's claims.
'I don't know how y'all can sit here and talk about transparency when you are trying to opt out of this process,' he said.
Eventually, after a brief huddle, the city's representatives highlighted two companies they wanted to include in the process going forward. The Justice Department chose three firms.
These groups all have representatives with some police or oversight experience.
The Bromwich Group is led by Michael Bromwich, who previously worked as a monitor over the Washington, D.C. police force and later the Virgin Islands Police Department. He was appointed to lead the reorganization of the federal Minerals Management Service in the wake of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The group includes former police leaders from Boston and Albuquerque. Their bid is about $9.1 million.
Elite Performance Assessment Consultants have executives with civil rights experience and a history of auditing public agencies. The point person, Dawn Reynolds, is a public safety performance auditor and has served as a prosecutor, public defender and judge. Her assistant is a longtime fraud investigator who has done audits of the Los Angeles Police Department. The group's price tag is about $8.9 million.
The Hillard Heintze team boasts several nationally-recognized experts, including Terry Hillard, a former Chicago Police superintendent. Arnette Heintze is a Baton Rouge native and former Secret Service agent. This group includes former police chiefs from Boston, San Jose and Cincinnati. Their price tag is just above $7 million.
OIR Group includes company executive Michael Gennaco. He previously served as Chief Attorney of Los Angeles County's Office of Independent Review and also in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Other team members have audited and monitored the Los Angeles Police Department during its consent decree as well as several other cities. The proposed price: $7.7 million.
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton have former police chiefs from Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Arlington, Texas, on its team. 'Stated simply, one would be hard-pressed to come up with something that we have not dealt with before,' the group's proposal stated. The company's bid came in at $7.9 million over four years.
The next public meeting will be held at 8 a.m. April 2 in the Superdome. The city's evaluation committee and the Justice Department's committee will interview the five companies at this time.