SWBNO Announces Improvements to Emergency Preparedness Practices

Today, the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) announced a series of improvements to emergency preparedness practices during emergency declarations.

We recognize that over the past two years, our city has experienced an unprecedented number of declared emergencies, ranging from hurricanes to cyber attacks. Emergency declarations typically trigger emergency pay for our employees – which is permitted for both exempt and non-exempt employees under Civil Service rule. It is important to note that emergency pay is not the same as overtime pay, which exempt employees are not eligible to receive. This frequency and variety of emergencies has prompted us to take a closer look at our practices.

Efforts currently underway:

  • Creating policy documenting that although eligible through civil service rule, SWBNO executives do not receive emergency pay.
  • We are taking a closer look at rules around emergency declarations, allowing SWBNO to act independently from the City of New Orleans in some cases.
  • We have increased oversight and scrutiny of payroll processes through organizational structure changes.

“We are committed to improving the fiscal health of our organization,” said Ghassan Korban, Executive Director, Sewerage and Water Board. “We are dealing with unprecedented challenges on a consistent basis. And that requires us to take a fresh look at how we handle emergencies and their associated costs.”

Since 2018, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has declared 9 emergencies. Since that time, there was one isolated incident in 2019 during the Hurricane Barry emergency response where a small number of executive-level Sewerage and Water Board employees were incorrectly paid amounts over the permitted emergency pay. This overpayment was identified during a review of emergency overtime practices and a corrective action has been taken. SWBNO has notified the executive-level employees who received the overpayment and reimbursements to SWBNO are underway.

"I have made transparency, efficiency and accountability at the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans a top priority since the beginning of this administration,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “We are encouraged to see our leadership team taking the necessary steps to improve efficiencies when it comes to the relationship between emergency declarations and emergency pay for SWBNO staff. We appreciate the hard work being done by Executive Director Korban and Board Member Sloss in this effort."

“The actions being taken and changes being implemented are major steps toward increased accountability,” said Lynes “Poco” Sloss, Board of Directors, Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans. “The Finance and Administration Committee is committed to ensuring that the Sewerage and Water Board continues to implement timely practices that will lead to an overall change in culture.”

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