By Mike Perlstein | WWL-TV | October 4, 2021
NEW ORLEANS — A high-ranking supervisor at the Orleans Parish Communications District Access has been barred from a sensitive but commonly used federal criminal database for more than a year because she has a felony conviction, the New Orleans Office of Inspector General revealed Friday.
Wendy Ervin, OPCD operations manager, was convicted of filing a false claim for $17,300 in BP oil spill money in 2015, federal court records show, but despite the felony conviction had access to criminal rap sheets, warrants and other information compiled by the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC.
OPCD operates the city’s 9-1-1 call center.
Felons are prohibited from accessing NCIC, the OIG report states, but Ervin continued to have access despite her guilty plea to one count of wire fraud in April 2015. Ervin was placed on probation in that case and ordered to pay $17,300 in restitution, court records show.
The OIG reports states that the Louisiana State Police terminated Ervin’s access to the sensitive database in February 2020. OPCD Director Tyrell Morris then asked the LSP, which provides access to the database, to reconsider its decision.
“On April 17, 2020, Mr. Morris sent a letter to the Louisiana State Police NCIC/LLETS Access Unit requesting that they reconsider their decision to terminate Wendy Ervin’s NCIC/LLETS access,” the OIG report states. “The LSP denied the request and reaffirmed their decision.”
In an emailed statement, Morris defended Ervin as “an exemplary public safety employee” and blasted the OIG for mischaracterizing her access to NCIC.
Morris stated that Ervin had originally been granted access to the database by the State Police, but that access was later terminated due to her felony conviction.
“This was not a matter of not knowing the criminal history of an employee or potential employee, it was a matter of procedure where an employee was cleared through the existing administrative procedures and access was later removed,” Morris stated. “At no time did OPCD violate the existing regulations around NCIC access, although this is what the OIG has falsely represented in recent statements to the press. It is clear that the OIG has failed to investigate this incident fully or to provide clear facts in this matter, which is highly disappointing to say the least.”
Interim Inspector General Ed Michel said the matter was brought to OIG’s attention through an anonymous tip, with help from the non-profit Metropolitan Crime Commission.
“Our mission is to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in all city programs,” Michel said. “And with the NCIC system being critical for all law enforcement functions, it must be used according to the rules. This is an example in New Orleans of the rules not being followed and interfering with the integrity of the system.”