NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – In leaked tapes of investigative interviews with members of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s executive protection team, officials say they always logged 16-hour work days when they traveled with the mayor and staff , who stayed home while she was out of town sitting around the office running errands for her family members.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Bureau of Public Integrity has launched an investigation into Officer Jeffrey Vapi’s schedules after a series of Fox 8 investigations revealed he spent long hours at a city-owned Upper Pontalba apartment with Mayor Cantrell. The PIB was investigating whether Vappie violated a rule that allows employees to report only 16 hours and 35 minutes in a 24-hour period.
The investigation quickly expanded to include questions about his schedule and his relationship with the mayor, which Vappie described as “professional.”
Vappie often accompanied Mayor Cantrell on domestic and international trips. During these trips he regularly clocks long hours. FOX 8 asked the NOPD and City Hall about the long hours, but no one responded. However, in the records, Vappie and another member of the security team say they were told by other employees that the trip meant logging an automatic 16-hour workday paid for by taxpayers.
Geoffrey Vapi: “The trip came up and we alternated the trips. And I think when you hit the road it was 4 p.m.
FIB employee: “What do you mean it was 4 p.m.?” I do not understand.”
Geoffrey Vapi: “There was always overtime built in, extra overtime on the go. Ok, that’s my take on the trip. That’s how it was.”
Although nothing in the NOPD rule book states that traveling officers must bill for 16 hours, officers said they always bill taxpayers for 16 hours while traveling, regardless of how long they actually worked.
On Friday, September 30, 2022, Cantrell and Vapi flew back to New Orleans after a trip to Los Angeles, California. That flight landed around 4:00 p.m. However, Vappie continued to bill taxpayers until 10:00 p.m. that night. According to the leaked records, since it was a travel day, it automatically clocked in at 4 p.m.
PIB Interviewer: “Okay, how did you know it was automatically a 16-hour day, during the trip.”
Jeffrey Vapi: “Because that’s what I was told when I came to the team.”
Interviewer from FIB: “From whom? By whom?”
Jeffrey Vapi: “From team members Lewis, Rob…”
FIB interviewer: “So, has a manager ever told you that?”
Jeffrey Vapi: “No.”
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FOX 8’s Outside the Office also questioned what officials did while Mayor Cantrell was out of town when they weren’t traveling with her. Officer Robert Monlin said they logged the same hours but turned their attention to protecting the mayor’s daughter.
FIB Interviewer: “So on the days the mayor was out of town with Vappie and you were here, what was your schedule like then?”
Robert Monlin: “Same hours, usually you have to, so stick to eight to eight, but the little girl had to go to school. I think he goes to school at 7:15, I think he should be there. So pick her up, let her go. Pick up at the end of the day. He took her to get something to eat and took her to the house. Let’s hope she doesn’t have a practice, or a nail class, or a hair class.
Now-retired Deputy Sheriff Charles Ellis also said that when the mayor isn’t around, her daughter becomes her number one priority.
FIB interviewer: “So in defense of the executive branch, are there (sic) any duties that you would have without the mayor being present? Or her family?’
Charles Ellis: “If she’s out of town, we deal with the daughter. So, her daughter is in elementary school, middle school. So we picked up the daughter from school… dropped the daughter off at school and picked her up. So say you and I are working and we decide you bring the morning and I take the evening. We are mainly on call. So, that means no details, you’re basically on call. So if the daughter needs something, take care of the daughter. You know, so we’re basically in class, we’re still in class. yes So we take care of the daughter if the mayor is not around.
Some of these same duties were performed when Cantrell was in town. Sources tell FOX 8 this is not unusual and that previous mayors have also wanted security guards to perform similar duties for family members.
Interviewer from FIB: “Okay. Have you ever had to do anything protective with your husband or daughter?’
Geoffrey Vapi: “Yes. Things like taking them to a game or a doctor’s appointment, school with the daughter, a doctor’s appointment [with] the daughter.”
Interviews also revealed that employees spent many days in the office while billing taxpayers.
Interviewer from FIB: “Let’s talk about your duties while you are with the mayor and in the town hall. Okay, so what would that look like when, when, say, the mayor gets his office at City Hall? What would you do?”
Jeffrey Vapi: “Go upstairs, take her upstairs, then check the office and then go out to our cabins.”
FIB interviewer: “What would you do while you are in your cubicles?”
Geoffrey Vapi: “Sit down.”
Interviewer from FIB: And?
Geoffrey Vapi: “Sit down, that’s all.”
PIB Interviewer: “So is there a computer in your cabin?”
Jeffrey Vapi: “Yes.”
Interviewer from FIB: Is there a phone in your cabin?
Jeffrey Vapi: “Yes.”
FIB interviewer: “So you would just sit around and just do nothing?”
Geoffrey Vapi: “I would just sit in my cubicle, you asked me what I would do. I will go, immediately after checking in the office, I will sit in the cabin. A walk around the office. Then at two o’clock I go to pick up the daughter from school and that will be the final, come back.’
Cantell employs a four-man security team. Three of them are NOPD officers. Some question whether, amid a police shortage, the city should look to outside security instead of the NOPD to provide executive protection for the mayor.
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