NEW ORLEANS — The man under fire for his management of the new jail in New Orleans has filed a lawsuit against the general contractors who built the facility.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s suit seeks approximately $3 million for missed deadlines that delayed the jail’s opening for months, according to the New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/2cLgFVz). The facility opened just over a year ago.
The suit also says the contractors haven’t reimbursed Gusman’s office for nearly $7 million in water used during the project. And it says the contractors failed to complete 200 unspecified tasks associated with the project.
Defendants are The McDonnel Group and Archer Western Contractors.
Allan McDonnel, of The McDonnel Group, said the state court lawsuit was not adversarial and was filed as the result of negotiations with the sheriff’s office.
The $145 million jail opened in September 2015, replacing a group of aging, run-down facilities that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The new jail was funded largely with hurricane recovery dollars. It was designed to allow deputies to directly supervise inmates in their cells. The opening of the new jail had been slated for the end of 2014, but the building did not open until September 2015 following a series of setbacks. The Sheriff’s Office, in the suit filed earlier this month, is seeking $2.8 million in liquidated damages related to that delay.
Gusman had hailed last September’s opening as a major step in reforms. But court-appointed experts say a dangerous level of violence persisted at the understaffed lockup. There has been one suicide and a recently filed federal suit claims a transgender woman was raped in a cell shortly after the opening.
Inmate advocates and the city of New Orleans, which funds the jail, had pushed for a federal judge to take control of the jail away from Gusman. Gusman, in a compromise agreed to cede authority to a court-approved jail “compliance director.” Former Maryland corrections official Gary Maynard was appointed to the job and takes over next month.
Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com