Mayor Mitch Landrieu outlined dire circumstances on the horizon in an emergency meeting of the New Orleans City Council Thursday morning, warning that the city will be forced to drastically cut services and furlough public safety employees if they adhere to the U.S. Department of Justice's consent decree mandating changes at the Orleans Parish jail complex.
The city is already struggling to make changes under a separate consent decree at its troubled police department, and Landrieu says the additional cost of funding a simultaneous revamp of the Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, would bankrupt the city. In fact, New Orleans is currently under six separate consent decrees with the federal government, covering everything from handicap accessibility to rebuilding the Sewerage and Water Board.
Landrieu says Marlin Gusman, the Orleans Parish Sheriff, met separately with DOJ lawyers to hammer out a separate agreement with no input from the city. Gusman is an elected official and his office is an independent agency, though he is largely funded from the city's operating budget.
"The effort by the Sheriff, DOJ, Courts and others circumvent the will of the people, perverts the legislative process and usurps the authority of the democratically-elected Mayor and City Council," Landrieu said. "We will not voluntarily write an ambiguous, unjustified sum of money to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. This demand will not only hurt the average New Orleans resident but will also likely fail to improve conditions at the jail."
Read the mayor's prepared remarks in their entirety: