City Hall computer seized in ‘smart cities’ investigation


NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — The New Orleans Inspector General’s Office has seized a computer from a city hall IT employee.

A lawyer for Christopher Wolff said the seizure was linked to the ongoing “smart cities” investigation.

City Council recently asked the IG office to investigate how Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration negotiated a citywide wifi contract to provide internet to low-income neighborhoods. The multimillion-dollar project has also been touted as a way to create a “city-run” private internet provider to compete with Cox and AT&T. He also called for the installation of thousands of “smart city” devices, like streetlights and traffic lights, which could collect data to improve city services and be sold for profit.

The city’s director of utilities, Jonathan Rhodes, had a working relationship with Qualcomm, which won the contract for the work.

Rhodes company Verge Internet had a relationship with Qualcomm, but he says his company was never designed to profit from his work as a city employee.

A company founded by Rhodes and Wolff worked as a “pro bono” consultant for Qualcomm.

Qualcomm eventually pulled out of the deal.

Council members grilled Rhodes last month over the deleted emails. Council member JP Morrell called it a “bad deal” with significant ethical concerns.

Cantrell says the council was disrupting his administration and costing the city millions.

Wolff’s attorney said there was no need for his client’s name to come up during the investigation because he did nothing wrong and was acting within the scope of his job.

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