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Cantrell: Owners have sole responsibility for Hard Rock project

A day earlier, an attorney for the development team appeared on WWL Radio to say that the development team should not be blamed for the collapse.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Tuesday said she disagrees with the Hard Rock Hotel developers that they are not to blame for the collapse that killed three people and injured dozen more.

“The sole responsibility of this project, of its construction, is the ownership of the site, and that is 1031 Canal (Development LLC),” Cantrell told reporters. “There’s no way that I see the ownership being able to distance themselves from their property, from their project and the liability associated with it.”

A day earlier, an attorney for the development team appeared on WWL Radio to say that the development team should not be blamed for the collapse since its members did not construct or engineer the building.

And on Sunday, the team took out a half-page ad in The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate that sought to distance themselves from the disaster based on similar claims.

That ad said that the development team “did not do the construction” nor did it “do the engineering or the architecture.”

But that ad did not include the fact that the project's owner includes not only Mohan Kailas -- the majority owner -- but Todd Trosclair of All-Star Electric, the electrical contractor, and Denzel Clark of Citadel Builders, the primary contractor.

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WWL Radio host Newell Normand pointed out that fact Monday during an hour-long interview with Kerry Miller, an attorney for the development team. 

“Your general contractor is a principal owner of 1031 Canal Development LLC,” Normand said. “You don’t see the apparent conflict there in making this statement?” 

“Not from that standpoint,” Miller said. “It’s not uncommon in the construction world that the general contractor is also a member of the development group. And that’s what you’re pointing out here. It’s a simple fact.” 

Meanwhile, Cantrell said, the city and 1031 Canal Development are working toward finalizing a contract to implode the building. That is expected to happen in mid-March. 

The cause of the collapse remains unknown, but several agencies are investigating it. 

The New Orleans City Council plans to launch its own investigation, something Cantrell pushed back on. 

“The New Orleans City Council is not accountable and has no authority as it relates to investigating Hard Rock. So I would say if you can’t help, don’t hurt,” Cantrell said. 

The city’s Inspector General also asked the council to hold off on doing its own investigation. In a letter released late Tuesday afternoon, Derry Harper wrote that the Hard Rock collapse is already included in an investigation into the city’s Department of Safety and Permits. 

“Any separate investigation by the City Council will interfere with the long-standing law enforcement procedures this office and its state and federal investigative partners routinely take in long-term investigations.” 

Five of the seven City Council members contacted by WWL-TV on Tuesday said they will vote Wednesday to form a committee to investigate the collapse. 

Kristin Palmer and Cyndi Nguyen did not respond to requests for comment. Jay Banks said he doesn’t want the council’s investigation to interfere with any existing investigations.

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