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Scathing report from OIG's office echoes WWL-TV investigation into ex-director of juvenile jail

Many of the employees’ complaints about Webster, who resigned in April, were previously exposed in investigative reports by WWL-TV.

NEW ORLEANS — The three-and-a-half year tenure of Kyshun Webster as director of New Orleans juvenile lockup was plagued by spotty attendance, questionable spending and an attempt to get the facility to take his ailing pet dog and pay hefty veterinary expenses, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by the city’s Office of Inspector General.

Many of the employees’ complaints about Webster, who resigned in April, were previously exposed in investigative reports by WWL-TV, especially long-standing concerns about his irregular presence at the troubled lockup.

Inspector General Ed Michel included those findings among several others in a 22-page report entitled, “Allegations of Neglect of Duty, Misuse of City Property and Abuse of Office," by Kyshun Webster.

Webster, however, strongly defended his tenure at the lockup, both in statements to the IG’s investigators as well as in an interview with WWL-TV.

“On the way out of the door, people make up a bunch of stories,” Webster said in the interview. “But I didn't go to work every day to be everyone's favorite. I went to make changes on behalf of vulnerable children.”

During Webster's time as director of the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center, also known as JJIC, there was no shortage of employee complaints.

“The conditions become uncomfortable,” one employee told WWL-TV on a condition of anonymity. “Some people get ran off, and that's the honest truth, just ran off from the job.”

Another employee, who also requested anonymity, said, “If it's not to his satisfaction, once again, he's going to go off and start yelling and screaming.”

Shortly after Mayor LaToya Cantrell elevated Webster from interim to permanent director in 2019, he came up with a solution that would mute the employees’ complaints about his “yelling and screaming” according to an employee quoted in the IG’s report.

City records obtained by WWL-TV show that Webster ordered his office sound-proofed. The project ultimately cost the city nearly $17,000.

The records obtained by WWL-TV show that Webster not only ordered the sound-proofing, but sent this angry email to the building superintendent when the project was slow to get started.

The email begins, “My patience is growing short with regard to your follow-up and execution on the soundproofing project. We have been talking about this since your hire in July. Like most projects that I have asked you to treat with priority, this too have seemingly fallen by the waste side (sic).”

Records show that the total cost of the project was $16,669.04.

Michel said Webster could have saved the city money with a much simpler solution.

“I simply shut my door and I lower my voice. I don't have to spend $15,000 in city resources to sound-proof my office,” he said.

The findings in the report include Webster's spotty attendance and the questionable introduction of Webster's personal pet into the lockup to be used as a service dog.

Webster as director of the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center, the city's juvenile jail even revealing Webster's deal with the city to spend as many as five hours a week running his Kenner insurance business.

On Webster's attendance, the report stated, “The complainants allege that Kyshun Webster...does not report to work on a regular basis and that his absenteeism is affecting the operation of the JJIC.”

“I don't see that this is a job you can do part-time,” Michel said. “It requires boots on the ground, all the time.”

The IG found that over a one-year period through October 2021, Webster's electronic key card was only used 13 times to enter the building. Webster told an IG investigator that he bypassed the electronic system much of the time, but he defended his work attendance. As for running an outside business, Webster was unapologetic.

“It was no secret that I had other business interests,” Webster said in the interview with WWL-TV before the IG’s report was released. “So we followed all of the city rules with disclosing that I had business interests.”

WWL-TV revealed that a letter of termination for Webster was drafted on Jan. 13, the day after four teenagers escaped from the lockup. The IG’s report states that Webster’s direct supervisor, the city’s director of the Office of Youth and Families, Emily Wolff, said that ultimately the letter was never delivered because it would be misconstrued that he was being fired due to the escape.

In the report, Wolff stated she confronted Webster about the allegations of absenteeism and he responded “by saying he was working remotely due to health issues.”

Webster ended up taking a leave of absence from the $143,000-a-year job on March 18 and resigned for good on April 29. Three days later, he began working as a consultant for newly elected Sheriff Susan Hutson, who paid him nearly $37,000 dollars for about five weeks of work.

We later learned about the sound-proofing of Webster's office through a public records request. That became another item in IG's report, quoting one employee in detail.

“The former employee frequently heard Dr. Webster in his office, yelling and screaming at JJIC employees,” the report states. “The former employee felt that Dr. Webster acted unprofessionally when he berated other employees.”

In his interview with WWL-TV Webster conceded he has a loud voice, but said he ordered the sound-proofing because meetings involving confidential information could be overheard by people outside of this office.

“That had nothing to do with just my voice. It had to do with faulty construction,” Webster said.

As for the Webster's dog Lacy being brought to the JJIC, the report questions why public resources money were spent on a sickly and incontinent dog that was not a trained service dog and generated “multiple complaints” by employees. An attempt to get the JJIC to pay an unauthorized veterinary bill for the dog was rejected and the dog was ultimately put down.

“Ms. (Dichelle) Williams (then-Superintendent under Webster) stated that once the dog was in the JJIC facility, Dr. Webster did not want anything to do with it,” the report states. “She advised that JJIC staff members were uncomfortable with the dog being in the facility and the juvenile residents did not like the dog.”

Webster, however, defended his idea of using Lacy for “pet therapy, saying he received permission from the city.

Overall, Webster gave himself strong marks for changing the policies and atmosphere at the long-troubled lockup, formerly known as the Youth Study Center.

“The goal was to transform the facility from being a punitive to a rehabilitative facility, which I believe we achieved and the data bears that out,” he said.

Webster points to an 82-page report that he compiled on progress made under his watch, with pages of statistics showing significant progress, from more detainees attending school to fewer involved in altercations.

He admitted rubbing some people the wrong way in making changes.
“I wasn't hired to have everyone, to win a popularity contest. I was hired with a job and a focus to create change,” Webster said.

That assessment was reiterated Tuesday in a statement from Webster’s attorney, Dayal Reddy, in response to the IG’s report.

“Dr. Kyshun Webster performed the duties of his office as director of the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center (JJIC). His efforts are documented by a Performance Based Standards review,” Reddy wrote in an email. “In the performance of his duties, Dr. Webster did nothing wrong. In fact, Dr. Webster sought advice and approval from the Mayor's office and the City Attorney's office prior to any of the allegations in the OIG report.”

“Dr. Webster did the job he was hired to do as a juvenile justice reformer and social justice innovator,” Reddy’s email continued. “The false information supplied by disgruntled employees and Ms. Emily Wolff does not negate what Dr. Webster accomplished.”

The city's official response to the report was a brief note from CAO Gilbert Montano stating, “I am happy to reaffirm that employees must follow CAO Policy 83(R) and support the recommendation that ALL employees (including the Director) should follow the security guidelines at the JJIC.”

Those security guidelines include employees’ use of electronic key cards to register their entrances into the lockup.

 that employees must follow CAO Policy 83(R) and support the recommendation that ALL employees (including the Director) should follow the security guidelines at the JJIC.”

Those security guidelines include employees’ use of electronic key cards to register their entrances into the lockup.

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