Zurik: NOPD investigators question Mayor Cantrell’s security team about timesheets
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In hours of accidentally released recordings, New Orleans police officer Jeffrey Vappie describes to Public Integrity Bureau investigators the protocol for working on Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s security detail. However, Fox 8 compared his interview with hundreds of pages of public records -- including his timesheets -- as well as video from a public security camera, and found discrepancies between what he told investigators and the hours he clocked.
Vappie repeatedly told investigators he answered to only one person: Mayor Cantrell. Through hours of interviews, he often called her “The Boss.” Vappie said that other than Cantrell, the only supervisor he dealt with was Sgt. Tokishiba Lane-Hart, who approved his timesheets.
Vappie told investigators he would send Lane-Hart a text message with his times for the week, and she would input them into the system. He says Lane-Hart never questioned his time.
Public Integrity Bureau investigators also interviewed Lane-Hart, who said the reason she didn’t question the times was because she had no access to Mayor Cantrell’s schedule.
PIB Interviewer: “Were you privy to any of the Mayor’s itinerary?”
Lane: “No, sir.”
PIB Interviewer: “Did you ever speak with her, uh, person who does her schedule?”
Lane: “No, I do not.”
PIB Interviewer: “All right. Let me ask, where’s your office located?”
Lane: “Police Headquarters, fourth floor.”
PIB Interviewer: “Where is the executive protection, specifically, for the mayor’s office located?”
Lane: “On the second floor of City Hall.”
PIB Interviewer: “Do you ever see them on a daily basis?”
Lane: “No, I do not.”
Fox 8′s prior reports on Vappie have questioned his timesheets. And a review of more than four hours of his interview with the NOPD raises even more questions.
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Members of the security team said they work five days a week -- four 12-hour days and one 8-hour, 35-minute day. However, in August 2022, Vappie worked just two 8-hour, 35-minute days.
For example, on Wednesday Aug. 31 -- a day when Vappie said all members of the team should have worked the eight-hour day -- Vappie clocked 12 hours, as did security team member Louis Martinez. The two other officers on the detail worked eight hours. That day, Cantrell only had 3 meetings on her schedule. On that same day, security camera video showed Vappie spent time at the city-owned Upper Pontalba Apartment with Cantrell.
Former members of the security team said the schedule for the team might have changed after Vappie joined. He came on about a year after longtime officer Wondell Smith left the detail. Smith was the supervisor for the team and worked across three mayoral administrations.
PIB interviewer: “So, I know when you talked about Mitch Landrieu, and now Mayor Cantrell, you said y’all never traveled with her when the mayor was out of town, not here, away from the city and you guys didn’t travel, how many hours did y’all work?”
Smith: “Basic hours, 8 hours and 35 minutes. Nothing more.”
PIB interviewer: “Was there ever a time when you worked 12 hours?”
Smith: “Never. No reason to.”
In September 2022, Vappie worked 21 days in the month. Each day, he never clocked fewer than 12 hours. He sometimes clocked days that were much longer.
PIB interviewer: “If there was a time that your payroll was over 16 hours and 35 minutes, entered.”
Jeffrey Vappie: “Okay.”
PIB interviewer: “You were traveling?”
Jeffrey Vappie: “Yes.”
PIB interviewer: “If there was a time that your payroll was over 16 hours and 35 minutes, and you were not traveling, would that payroll will be accurate or incorrect?”
Jeffrey Vappie: “That’d be incorrect.”
PIB interviewer: “So you would never, you should never have been paid for anything over 12 hours when you were not traveling.”
Jeffrey Vappie: “Correct.”
Fox 8 reviewed days Vappie provided protection for Cantrell in New Orleans in 2022. We found 45 different days when he billed taxpayers for more than 12 hours of work. Smith says long days rarely happened when he was on the team. He told investigators the only time he remembered working long days was for special events, like Mardi Gras.
Officer Robert Monlyn is currently on Cantrell’s security detail, and was paired up with Vappie before Vappie was reassigned. He said his work schedule didn’t change after Vappie joined.
PIB interviewer: “So, once Vappie arrived, what was your day like then, did your schedule change? I mean, did the work itself change, anything like that?”
Monlyn: “I mean, same, same hours. It, uh, some I mean. I would think, uh, I’d say she probably started just doing, doing different stuff.”
PIB interviewer: “Like what? Give me like?”
Monlyn: “Like, we’d never, she’d never exercised before. So, she started, she started exercising. But, I mean, schedule is still the same.”
As partners, Vappie said he and Monlyn should have similar schedules.
PIB interviewer: “Robert Monlyn was your partner, correct?”
PIB interviewer: “So, Should Robert Monlyn’s time, other than travel, mimic your time?”
However, records show several days where Vappie and Monlyn’s schedules didn’t match. That includes a Sept. 2021 trip to Alabama, for the funeral of a Cantrell family member. The service started at 11 a.m. However, Vappie clocked in at 7 a.m., while Monlyn clocked in at 8 a.m.
On Feb. 5, 2022, Cantrell had two events on her calendar. The first started at 11:30 a.m. Both Vappie and Monlyn clocked in at 7 a.m. Monlyn clocked out at 7 p.m., but Vappie stayed on the clock until 10 p.m.
Vappie also spent long hours inside the Pontalba apartment with Mayor Cantrell, both on and off the clock. Monlyn told investigators he had never spent time at the apartment when he wasn’t on the clock.
PIB interviewer: “Has there ever been a time that you went to the Pontalba apartment when you were not at work?”
Monlyn: “Hell, no.”
PIB interviewer: “I didn’t hear you.”
PIB interviewer: “What did you say?”
Monlyn: “I said, ‘Hell no.’”
The officers interviewed by NOPD investigators were guarded at times with their answers. However, Monlyn said he doesn’t believe Vappie should rejoin the team, regardless of the outcome of the investigation.
PIB interviewer: “You feel like he should come back?”
Monlyn: “I don’t think so. No.”
PIB interviewer: “Why not?”
Monlyn: “It’s a bad look.”
PIB interviewer: “What do you mean, ‘a bad look?’”
Monlyn: “Just look bad.”
PIB interviewer: “To who? To you?”
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