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OIG to Mayor: Outiside law firm actions could risk years long criminal investigation

A letter OIG sent to Mayor LaToya Cantrell said City Hall should notify the Inspector General before beginning any investigative activity.

NEW ORLEANS — The City of New Orleans' Inspector General, Derry Harper, wrote a letter to Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Thursday, asking the city to talk to his office before beginning any investigative activity related to the city's Office of Safety & Permits or the Hard Rock Hotel collapse.

The letter said the New Orleans Office of the Inspector General believes there is a high risk the investigations by the outside law firm hired by City Hall will interfere with the criminal investigation the OIG has been conducting for years alongside federal and state partners.

City Hall is spending $50,000 for a New York-based law firm to investigate possible bribery and misconduct in its Safety & Permits Department. There are at least four local and federal law enforcement agencies investigating the same office. The City Council held a hearing  Jan. 29 to launch its own investigation.

The letter mentions a meeting where Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the OIG met to discuss concerns the office had about the law firm's investigation.

"During our meeting, we proposed several options and agreed further discussion with the City Attorney, the Chief Administrative Officer, and your outside counsel is necessary," the OIG said in the letter. "We agreed to schedule this follow up meeting as soon as practical. In the meantime, we ask that, prior to any investigative activity related to this matter, the City notify the OIG."

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