UPDATE: March 16, 2020: Eric Treadaway, one of two inspectors suspended without pay for allegedly falsifying inspection reports for the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans and another major project, has resigned from his position with the city's Department of Safety and Permits, The Times-Picayune-The New Orleans Advocate reported. This ends the city's disciplinary actions against Treadaway.
Treadaway is accused of signing off on a fourteenth-floor concrete pour at the Hard Rock, even though vehicle GPS records show that he was not at the site at the time. Investigators allege that he did the same with slab and foundation inspections at the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences project in April and May of 2019.
Another Hard Rock inspector, Julie Tweeter, is still under suspension. Her disciplinary hearing is scheduled for this week.
- New Orleans city officials suspended two building inspectors amid allegations they falsified inspection reports for the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans project before the deadly October 2019 collapse that killed three workers, WWLT in New Orleans reported.
- Inspectors Julie Tweeter and Eric Treadaway have been suspended for 30 days without pay for submitting reports that said they inspected several projects, including the Hard Rock, despite vehicle GPS data that indicated they were not at the locations identified in the reports at the times they claimed. An investigative reporter for WWLT, David Hammer, said he had access to a recording of inspectors and building officials in a meeting at the Hard Rock project site less than a month before the collapse during which field inspectors were chastised about not performing scheduled inspections, falsifying documents stating they had conducted those inspections and not using the official building department app to submit report data and photos.
- Hammer said that Tweeter conducted most of the inspections at the Hard Rock and was the individual who approved the work prior to crews pouring the concrete on the top floors, which collapsed in October. He noted that GPS records indicate Tweeter was not at the site when those inspections were supposed to have been conducted.
One of the claims in the multiple lawsuits that have been filed against the Hard Rock's developers and contractors is that there was inadequate support for the concrete being poured on the upper floors, where the building gave way, and that the concrete was not allowed to cure properly.
A third inspector, Thomas Dwyer, reportedly also inspected work at the Hard Rock, but has since retired from the New Orleans building department.
In addition to the alleged wrongdoing regarding building inspections at the Hard Rock, there are also claims that the inspectors were not properly certified to inspect commercial projects, WWL and The New Orleans Advocate reported. Tweeter had supposedly inspected the Hard Rock at least four times before she obtained her commercial building inspector's license, and another Hard Rock inspector, Bryan Cowart, only has a residential inspector certification, which qualifies him to inspect buildings three stories or less. The Hard Rock was meant to be 18 stories.
The Sep. 16, 2019, onsite inspectors' meeting reported by WWLT came on the same day that Building Official Larry Chan was suspended, along with Richella Maxwell, a business development specialist in the city's Department of Safety and Permits. As a building official, Chan was in charge of inspections and approval of construction projects. Chan and Maxwell were both suspended based on their potential involvement in the illegal issuance of city permits. Chan has since resigned from his position.
The federal probe into the city's Department of Safety and Permits that resulted in Chan's resignation started well before the Hard Rock collapse. The investigation, led by the Louisiana Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and federal prosecutors, was expanded to include the Hard Rock collapse. OSHA and the OIG have separate investigations into the collapse underway, and the New Orleans City Council recently announced that it will also hold hearings on the collapse via a new committee.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell declined to participate in the committee's activities and cautioned city council members that their plans to hold their own hearings could interfere with the other investigations and even delay the city's efforts to reach an agreement on demolition of the remaining Hard Rock structure, which is projected to wrap up in December.
At the end of last October, former New Orleans building inspector Kevin Richardson pleaded guilty to accepting $65,000 in bribes in exchange for not reporting building violations and issuing false inspection reports. Richardson, who faces up to five years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 5.