Landrieu and Gusman Have $104 Million in Unused Jail Funds!!
This is why I love the federal court system. Though Mayor Landrieu has been telling anyone who will listen the city is broke and cannot fund court mandated reforms, he has access to $50 million in federal Katrina recovery funds to rebuild the jail system and Gusman has $54 million. So said a federal official this week in U.S District Court Judge Lance Africk’s court room.
This money cannot be used to pay staff salaries or any other operational or ongoing costs. This is old grant money! It was given to the city and the jail after Katrina from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to rebuild the storm ravaged buildings. The city and the jail each own different buildings in the jail complex, so each got a FEMA grant.
The city is being represented by former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg, who claimed these funds were irrelevant to the proceedings. Harry is a TV commentator on legal issues for decades but he has kept a thriving law practice going as well. He was told by judge Africk that these jail funds were relevant. Harry is one smart cookie but he is arguing on the side of lunacy when he says those funds shouldn’t be included in deliberations.
Your honor, when the city’s defense is the lack of funding to implement the decree, if there’s counter-evidence that there are funds available, then the FEMA funds are relevant, said Katie Schwartzmann, Louisiana Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is co-plaintiff with the Department of Justice in seeking the decree.
The Justice Department (DOJ) sided with Schwartzmann here. Changes to existing buildings indisputably needs to happen, said Laura Coon, attorney for the DOJ.
The city is now looking at using their FEMA money to build a separate mental health facility for inmates, albeit a smaller one than the 600 bed building which Gusman wants. Gusman had been frantically working on new architectural plans for the fourth floor of the new building nearing completion. Since 2011 the city council and the consent decree has ordered the new jail building to contain these requirements. When Africk found out the building under construction didn’t contain medical or mental facilities, he ordered Gusman to retrofit the fourth floor to include them. Turns out none of these new plans needed to be made since Gusman and the mayor had the money for a new building in hand.