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New Orleans permitting office at the center of criminal bribery probe

Sources told WWL-TV that city inspectors have a mandatory meeting Monday morning to talk about being audited

NEW ORLEANS — There’s a criminal investigation into bribery by current and former employees in the city of New Orleans permitting office, sources with direct knowledge of the probe tell WWL-TV.

A widening of the existing federal investigation of the city’s Safety & Permits Office was first reported Friday afternoon by our partners at The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate.

The newspaper cited unnamed sources that said a criminal investigation goes beyond the indictment of former city building inspector Kevin Richardson on a corruption count. The grand jury indictment accused Richardson, who hasn’t worked for the city since 2015, of taking bribes from developers to approve permits for buildings that were not up to code or hadn’t actually been inspected.

That indictment also accuses Richardson of bribing a fellow city official, a permit analyst in the Safety & Permits Department who is not named. Sources tell WWL-TV that permit analyst still works for the city, and other current employees could also get caught up in the probe.

The issues appear to go back years, well into Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s eight years in office. But Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration told the newspaper that the Richardson indictment prompted a review of the current department.

Sources told WWL-TV that city inspectors have a mandatory meeting Monday morning to talk about being audited. The city only recently implemented GPS tracking and other oversight of inspectors to make sure they were showing up for inspections and performing other assigned tasks, the sources said.

The Mayor's office said they will comply with authorities and have requested their own internal investigation into the matter.

"Mayor Cantrell is fully committed to ensuring that each of our City Departments fully complies with any and all governing authority, including regulations, city, state and federal laws.  

Following the indictment of Kevin Richardson, Mayor Cantrell has requested an internal investigation into possible misconduct in Safety and Permits. We remain committed to cooperating with any ongoing, external investigation that may exist."

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