Records storage company Iron Mountain is holding back hundreds of boxes of files it stores for the City of New Orleans due to an ongoing financial dispute with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, a spokesperson confirms of town hall.
The dispute first came to light in an unrelated federal case involving a New Orleans police officer. Court records show that the city and the NOPD – both defendants in the case – were unable to produce necessary documents for the trial because they are “in the custody of Iron Mountain, which is currently in a financial dispute with the city and requires a subpoena for the release of any records stored on behalf of the city.
Court records do not specify the precise nature of the dispute or whether the company is withholding the records because the city has not paid its bill, although that is the implication.
Cantrell spokesman Gregory Joseph was unable to provide many details other than to say, “We are currently in the process of resolving our contractual issues with Iron Mountain, which we believe , could contain hundreds of boxes containing the city’s archives”.
He added: “We cannot give a timeframe for the resolution of these issues.”
Iron Mountain is a publicly traded company based in Boston with local offices in Harahan. It stores paper files and digital documents for clients around the world.
The company and its attorneys did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Although Joseph confirmed the dispute and referred to “contractual issues,” he said the city was unable to find a contract or purchase order with Iron Mountain for document storage services, so it’s not clear how many files are in the “hundreds of boxes,” how far back they go and how many city departments may be involved.
Councilman Joe Giarrusso, who heads the city council’s budget committee, was unaware of the dispute. But he said the situation is troubling on many levels and raises red flags about how the city and one of its suppliers do business.
“The bottom line is that the city needs to be able to access its own documents, and if we’re paying for a service, we need to know what the service is and what the terms of the service are,” he said. “Conversely, if we get a service and we don’t pay our bills, we have to pay our bills.”
Frustration of silence
The dispute between the city and Iron Mountain was revealed in a federal civil lawsuit filed in 2022 by local couple Derek Brown and Julie Bareki-Brown against the city, former police chief Shaun Ferguson and NOPD officer Derrick Burmaster. The suit claims Burmaster violated the Browns’ civil rights when he fatally shot their 18-week-old rescue dog while responding to a noise complaint at their home.
These are old documents from Burmaster’s personnel file that Brown’s attorney, William Most, attempted to obtain in preparation for the trial. Although the city resisted turning over some of the records on the grounds that they were irrelevant, it agreed to release a 2012 NOPD Office of Public Integrity report on the findings of an investigation into another deadly dog tugging at Burmaster’s hands.
Records show the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing in this incident.
According to court documents, the city served Iron Mountain with a subpoena in early October for the GDP report.
“I agree to produce the Burmaster complaint from 2012 because it concerns the use of force against an animal, even though the charge was not pursued,” Assistant City Attorney Jonathan Adams wrote. , to Most in an email last October. “As you know, I assigned this to Iron Mountain.
But the company ignored the subpoena and follow-up calls from Assistant City Attorney Jonathan Adams.
At a hearing in late November in court for U.S. Magistrate Karen Roby, another assistant city attorney handling the case, Jim Roquemore, said the city still hasn’t been able to get his records from the company. . Roby has scheduled a hearing for January 4 on a motion to force Iron Mountain to turn over the documents.
That hearing, however, was postponed after the city reported that both sides were working to resolve their differences.
Iron Mountain is a 60-year-old company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with more than 24,000 employees worldwide and valued at over $1.1 billion. The city’s online contract database shows the company has had an agreement with the sewerage department for more than a decade to provide paper shredding services under a free recycling program .
But there is no record of a contract to store old paper files for the NOPD or any other department. Iron Mountain local administrator Robert Leamann spoke to a reporter in early December and declined to provide information on the company’s scope of services for the city. He also said at the time that he was unaware of any dispute with the city or the subpoena. After receiving a copy of the court records, he directed subsequent requests for comment to a corporate email address, which did not respond to multiple emails.
The company’s local attorneys, Kellen Matthew and Kathleen Cronin, also did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Joseph could not say why the city’s purchasing office could not find a contract with the company, but noted that all contracts and purchase orders contained in the BuySpeed databases and AFIN of the city were lost in a cyberattack in 2019.
In December 2019, the city was hit by a cyberattack that temporarily shut down local government, exposed weaknesses in the city’s IT system, and cost millions of dollars. Apparently, some crucial training – like contracts with vendors, who are paid with public money – have been permanently lost.
Giarrusso said the situation with Iron Mountain is awkward and raises questions about other bills the city isn’t paying.
“It’s hard to say for sure how serious the problem is, but we hear rumors about it all the time,” he said. “Vendors are reluctant to come forward because they want to do business with the city and they don’t want to be hurt by saying something publicly.”