NEW ORLEANS — A dog training company out of Vermillion Parish near Lafayette offered to cover nearly $20,000 in hotel expenses for top Orleans Sheriff’s Office commanders.
Sheriff Susan Hutson thanked LAK9 owners Paul Leblanc and Lance Broussard.
Broussard’s Facebook page showed Hutson making him an honorary deputy. The sheriff’s office provided up to 140 deputies for security at New Orleans Mardi Gras parades. Sheriff Hutson also recruited more than 200 officers from outside police agencies to help the NOPD.
The sheriff came under fire after it was revealed more than a dozen of her top brass, spent as many as eight days at the Omni Royal, Sheraton, and Marriott hotels during Carnival.
The city agreed to pay the lodging for outside agencies more than 35 miles away, but not for the sheriff’s office.
“My first impression was this was an improper use of public funds to pay for lodging,” Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said. “To me that is an acknowledgement that the sheriff now realizes that was an improper use of city funds to pay for lodging of her senior command staff.”
OPSO attorney Graham Bosworth told WWL-TV, the sheriff never expected the city to pay for the hotel rooms.
“The sheriff made this decision knowing it would be an OPSO expenditure, not a city reimbursement expenditure,” Bosworth said. “The CEA never, ever set forth that the city was obligated to pay for these hotel rooms.”
LAK9 trains and supplies police dogs. The company also provides explosive detection dogs for events at the Caesars Superdome. Bosworth says he discussed the company’s donation with the state ethics board and that there were some restrictions.
The money would go to the Orleans Law Enforcement District rather than the sheriff and LAK9 would be precluded from doing business with the OPSO.
“And that this was solely a donation made because they are supporting the sheriff and what the sheriff did to help support Mardi Gras,” Bosworth said.
According to Goyenche state law also states that an agency can accept reimbursement for free lodging, but the head of the agency must give prior approval before the expense is incurred.
“The gift was made after the lodging was purchased with public funds,” Goyeneche said.
According to the OPSO, LAK9 owners offered to help Sheriff Hutson or make a donation, prior to Mardi Gras and when they learned about the hotel bill saw it as an opportunity to make good on their offer.