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19 S&WB employees caught illegally using handicapped parking placards

Some of the employees caught this time were caught by WWL-TV doing the same thing five years ago.

NEW ORLEANS — A report issued Tuesday by the New Orleans Inspector General shows that 19  Sewerage and Water employees were caught illegally using handicapped placards belonging to other people in order to park in front of their downtown office.

The persistent improper parking was first exposed in a WWL-TV investigation in 2018, and a follow-up Eyewitness Investigation last week revealed the problem continued as recently as last week despite the agency now paying $5,200 to a parking garage for spaces for some of the employees.

Inspector General Ed Michel said his investigators discovered the violations in an investigation over a one-week period from Oct. 27 to Nov. 4.

“We found 19 Sewerage and Water Board employees who were possessing and displaying a disability parking permit that was not issued to them,” Michel said.

The IG’s report revealed the nature of the violations: 16 employees were caught using placards belonging to another person and three were caught using the placards of dead people.

The report states that in one exchange between an IG investigator and an employee caught in the act, the employee said, “Write it down, baby, it’s legit.”

“The use of the handicapped hang-tag was not legitimate in this instance because the hang-tag was issued to the employees’ husband,” the report states.

The five-page IG report goes on to put a substantial dollar amount on how much money the city is theoretically missing out on.

“If you consider the lack of fees being collected at the parking meters and you add in the cost that the city is paying for parking spaces in a garage and you add those up, the total dollar loss per year is about $130,000,” he said.

WWL-TV previously showed that at least three employees were improperly using the placards despite having designated parking spaces in the Howard Avenue Garage three blocks away.

Michel added that seven of the employees caught by his investigator had also been caught violating the parking rules five years ago.

This time around, it appears the exposure is having an impact.

The Sewerage and Water Board said it responded to the IG’s findings with warnings to the employee violators. And the agency also requested stepped up enforcement by Department of Public Works. Records show that since then, eight citations have been issued.

Michel said his goal is for the employees clean up their act.

“And if they don't, I'll be back out there,” he said.

RELATED: S&WB employees caught abusing handicapped parking — again

RELATED: Disability advocates outraged over S&WB handicapped parking abuse

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