NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans city officials on Monday told WWL-TV they found “potential discrepancies” in their inspection records for the Hard Rock Hotel shortly before the structure collapsed in October and killed three workers.
“As part of our ongoing investigation into the Department of Safety and Permits, we are evaluating potential discrepancies in the department's inspection records,” Beau Tidwell, a spokesman for Mayor LaToya Cantrell, said in an emailed statement. “The outcome of our departmental assessment will dictate next steps, which may include discipline up to and including termination and/or referral to law enforcement authorities.”
Tidwell acknowledged the potential discrepancies after WWL-TV reviewed GPS data that tracks inspectors’ whereabouts and found no record of any inspector taking a city vehicle to the Hard Rock Hotel construction site on Oct. 1, the day that other city records indicate a key final inspection of the upper floor slabs was conducted.
In early November, Tidwell told WWL-TV that the Oct. 1 inspection was “performed to check for code compliance with the rebar prior to concrete pours on October 1, 2019.” He said at the time that the inspection was also done to document job progress.
City records showed building inspector Julie Tweeter conducted the inspection and approved the pouring of concrete on the top floor. Workers on the job told WWL-TV the concrete was poured on Oct. 4 and crews began removing temporary shoring supports on Oct. 7. Five days later, on Oct. 12, the top floors suddenly pancaked.
Early in 2019, the city started tracking city inspectors with GPS units every time they went out on an inspection. A former city inspector pleaded guilty last year to taking $65,000 in bribes to approve construction work, at times without doing the actual inspection.
GPS records provided to WWL-TV on Monday show 22 Safety & Permits Department vehicles went on assignments and made 157 separate trips on Oct. 1. The records don’t show which inspector used which vehicle, but they do show that none of the vehicles got within 4 blocks of the Hard Rock that day.
WWL-TV has reached out to Tweeter and the city to ask if there’s an explanation or another way she could have performed the inspection in person without a location closer to the Hard Rock site showing up in the GPS data.
Tweeter did not respond Monday evening. Tidwell said the city was advised that Tweeter has retained an attorney.