BATISTE: Landrieu Spent Taxpayer Money To Spy On Citizens And Police

Mitch Landrieu spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars of taxpayer money spying on citizens and some NOPD officers. Mitch used public money totaling $710,000 to pay Trident Response Group, a Dallas-based private security firm that The Advocate said provided “threat assessments,” public safety plans, and “analysis” which included undercover work infiltrating groups on both sides of the issue. Hayride sources say the Trident group also surveilled NOPD staff involved with the removals.

This is insane and needs further explaining from the City. From heavy police intimidation to citizen spying, Landrieu seems like a power drunk dictator. Mitch is operating his own secret police force. North Korea? Nazi Germany? Russia? Nope, the City of New Orleans, U.S.A. But to hear Landrieu’s side, spending public money on political police is entirely justified:

“That’s the cost of the extremists and some of the racist extremists that gravitated to this project over the last two years,” Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said to the Advocate, sounding like Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda explaining the need for the Gestapo. Berni could easily be talking about his monument obsessed boss who solely initiated the divisive controversy. And naturally, Berni didn’t acknowledge the lack of support for Landrieu’s initiative as the reason for outrage and difficulty finding resources.

If Trident infiltrated groups on both sides, Landrieu will know who vandalized the monuments. Don’t hold your breath waiting on arrests though. He would also know about the Antifa anarchy actions (think “Die Whites Die” and breaking business windows on St. Charles and the forced removal of protesters at the Jefferson Davis monument).

The recently released yet incomplete breakdown of the removal of four historic monuments in New Orleans cost more than two million dollars. And those numbers do not include salaries of City Hall staff such as Legal Department and Communications staff which were both prominently used since June 2015. The Landrieu administration attorneys worked for almost two years on several different lawsuits. Most of those were filed by the Monumental Task Committee as well as individual members of that organization. The undisclosed additional salary figures will be significant.

The information dump excludes costs directly tied to the monument controversy that the city absorbed. The lynch mob attempt to physically tear down Andrew Jackson in 2016 as well as the activist confrontations at Lee Circle in May have not been factored in to these figures.

The physical removal of the four monuments cost more than one million dollars. That number comes as a huge surprise as Mitch originally insisted the removals would cost $170,000. His September 2015 estimates before the City Council vote were called “ridiculous” at the time.

MONUMENT 9/17/2015 Mayor’s Removal Estimate 6/9/2017 Mayor’s Released Cost
Liberty Place $25,437.50 $65,000.00
Jefferson Davis $32,815.20 $142,481.00
P. G. T. Beauregard $39,105.00 unspecified, combined with Lee
Robert E. Lee $46,035.00 $457,519.00
TOTAL $143,392.70 $665,000.00

When Mitch got one lone bid after a year and a half of trying to find a company that wanted to remove historic monuments, a move wildly unpopular, it thumped down with a $600,000 cost. The New Orleans Mayor has not explained how the $600,000 contractor was used, and each removal involved at least a dozen New Orleans Firefighters under the direction of NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell. Throughout the course of the sneakily unannounced nighttime removals, Mitch maintained he would not only stick to the revised $600,000 budget, but that he had private donors to cover the costs. He claims to have stiffed the contractor Cuzan for $217,000, but he still exceeded the budget to $665,000. And sources indicate the City used a different contractor for the Lee removal, one from Mississippi. Even when providing records, Landrieu continues to try to hide details from the public.

And the information supplied only shows regular NOFD hours, no overtime. Several options remain as to how the NOFD participated, as the city’s information, like the whole ordeal, lacks transparency. Either Tim McConnell and his firefighting monument removers were paid their regular salaries taking down New Orleans’ history, or their overtime was excluded, or they were paid by another entity, or they volunteered to work those nights. The last option is the oddest because it would mean NOFD agreed to wear combat gear, in New Orleans heat, in an environment that Mitch proclaimed was so dangerous their identities had to be concealed, and this would again be the volunteer scenario.

Landrieu and his staff repeatedly said the removals would not use public money. Obviously that was just another lie in Mitch’s crusade. As it turns out, so far, the public covered one million although it will continue to rise as more details like we mentioned are released. And private donors chose to give another million, not to help the community or contribute in any way, but to remove monuments.

The Monumental Task Committee issued a statement criticizing Mitch’s excessive use of public money:

“Everyone should be outraged over the Mayor’s use of public money when New Orleans has so many pressing needs. New Orleans is a cash strapped city with an escalating crime problem and decrepit infrastructure that continues to be neglected, yet Landrieu spent millions of dollars on a politically motivated campaign that divided the city while he removed priceless historic artworks and left eye sores in their places. Instead of tearing down under the false pretense of tolerance and inclusivity, the Mayor could have used this money to restore and maintain dozens of monuments around town and also to add new memorials that would truly show more of our diverse history,” said Pierre McGraw, president of the Monumental Task Committee.

The rumors as to who made the donations are juicy. Names like Wynton and Branford Marsalis and James Carville are not surprises, but Harry Connick Jr. and the Kellogg Foundation turn heads. (Not to mention, Mitch donated $250,000 from the Edward Wisner Foundation he oversees to the financial agent of the monument removals, Foundation For Louisiana.) Kellogg has an office in New Orleans and has a history of donations to the city and works with Landrieu on a program called Equity New Orleans. These names cross over to the list of celebrities on the Tricentennial Committee, which also includes everyone’s favorite Saint. The high rolling history haters can try to hide their donations, but it would be more respectable if they admitted their philanthropic efforts to cannibalize New Orleans’ culture. The news media may ask these celebrities, but probably not until they have to.

Accountability and transparency are not part of the Landrieu administration, which means Mitch’s Secret Police fits right into the Landrieu administration. It’s time to let the sun shine on the full monument removal records.  For starters, since New Orleanians footed the bill for Mitch’s political police, the citizens should know the full extent of Trident’s work.

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