June 29, 2023

Written by: Sabrina Wilson

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Mayor Latoya Cantrell says she is not on board with calls to have embattled 911 Center chief Tyrell Morris leave his position sooner than his planned September 15 resignation.

A day after city council members Helena Moreno and J.P. Morrell sent a letter to the chairman of the Orleans Parish Communication District’s board of directors, John Thomas, requesting that Morris be suspended immediately both Thomas and Cantrell commented at city hall.

Thomas brought up the topic before journalists attending the mayor’s weekly press conference could ask questions.

“The OIG is investigating Director Morris and as always we will cooperate with the investigation of OIG,” said Thomas.

Then Cantrell responded to numerous questions about the controversy surrounding Morris.

“Relative to the council members signing a letter and submitting it to the board, I respect their feedback, thank you very much, however, Tyrell Morris, director of OPCD is a vital part of our public safety team as has been demonstrated over the past five years as I’ve been mayor and that’s something that we will continue to engage him as our director,” she said.

In the letter, Morrell who is council president, and Moreno who is vice president refer to Morris’ May accident while in a taxpayer-funded vehicle. The letter also points to media reports that raise questions about whether the OPCD’s policy which states that the operator of an agency vehicle who is involved in an accident must take an alcohol and drug test as soon as possible had been altered.

“What I will say is, that these are allegations and that is why an investigation is warranted,” said Cantrell. “If they have, in fact, been altered I don’t know that to be true, so until the investigation moves forward and we’ll see what comes out of that we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it but right now we’re dealing with allegations.”

The mayor said she does not support the letter and said she is not asking for Morris’ immediate resignation.

“No, I’m not,” said Cantrell.

Rafael Goyeneche who leads the Metropolitan Crime Commission says he has seen the two versions of the policy. One version says the operator of an OPCD vehicle must take a drug and alcohol test after an accident and the other says if injuries are reported the employee has to do so.

“This is a public record and Louisiana law prohibits public records from being altered or falsified. So, if the official record doesn’t include the language that is presented to the media after the accident, then the investigating agency which we know in this particular case is the Office of Inspector General they’re going to have to establish when this additional language was added to this paragraph and under whose orders,” said Goyeneche.

Cantrell said she has not discussed the matter with Morris and did not ask him to resign.

“No, I did not. I gave you everything that I have, and I don’t lie, so on Monday after my public safety team meeting that I have every Monday, he informed me that he was going to resign. That he would give adequate not only notice for proper transition. I accepted that resignation and really the resignation doesn’t even come to me as mayor, it goes to the board,” said Cantrell.

And in terms of Morris remaining on the job until the fall, Cantrell insists he has plenty to do between now and then.

“He will continue to serve in that capacity, critical member public safety team, city of New Orleans which public safety is our top priority,” said Cantrell.

Thomas echoed that.

“He is a vital part of this operating during the upcoming Essence Fest as well as the 4th of July festivities,” he said.