Sheriff Susan Hutson thanked LAK9 owners Paul Leblanc and Lance Broussard, whose Facebook page showed Hutson making him an honorary deputy.
NEW ORLEANS — A dog-training company in Vermillion Parish near Lafayette has offered to cover nearly $20,000 in hotel costs for key commanders in the Orleans Sheriff’s Office.
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 has also recruited more than 200 officers from outside police departments to assist the NOPD.
The sheriff came under fire after it was revealed that more than a dozen of his top brass spent up to eight days at Omni Royal, Sheraton and Marriott hotels during Carnival.
The city agreed to pay for housing for outside agencies more than 35 miles away, but not for the sheriff’s office.
“My first impression was that this was a misuse of public funds to pay for accommodation,” Metropolitan Crime Commission Chairman Rafael Goyeneche said. “To me, it’s an acknowledgment that the sheriff now realizes that this was a misuse of city funds to pay for accommodations for his senior command staff.”
OPSO attorney Graham Bosworth told WWL-TV the sheriff did not expect the city to pay for hotel rooms.
“The sheriff made this decision knowing that it would be an OPSO expense, not a city reimbursement expense,” Bosworth said. “The CEA has never, ever said 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 Caesars Superdome. Bosworth says he discussed the corporate donation with the state ethics committee and there were some restrictions.
The money would go to the Orleans Law Enforcement District rather than the Sheriff and LAK9 would be barred from doing business with OPSO.
“And that it was only a donation made because they support the sheriff and what the sheriff has done to help support Mardi Gras,” Bosworth said.
According to Goyenche state law, an agency may accept reimbursement for free housing, but the agency manager must give prior approval before the expense is incurred.
“The donation was made after the housing was purchased with public funds,” Goyeneche said.
According to OPSO, the owners of LAK9 offered to help Sheriff Hutson or make a donation, before Mardi Gras and when they learned of the hotel bill, they saw it as an opportunity to honor their offer.