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GM, board members resign from New Orleans Public Belt in wake of over-spending claims

Two members of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Co.’s (NOPB) board have submitted letters of resignation and three other members have informally committed to stepping down in the wake of alleged out-of-control spending at the railroad, according to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

A report on NOPB’s spending practices — including the alleged use of $2 million to acquire antique rail cars to host private events and excessive overtime payments — is due Sept. 27. Landrieu, who serves as president of NOPB’s board, has asked all 14 members to step down in light of the upcoming report, he said in a prepared statement.

“I have determined as a result of reviewing that audit that it is in the best interest of the public to start with an absolute clean slate at the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad,” said Landrieu.

Earlier this week, NOPB General Manager Jim Bridger resigned. Last month, the board suspended him without pay for 60 days because of the publicly owned and operated terminal switching railroad’s spending habits.

Bridger, who had served as GM since 2001, “acted recklessly and inappropriately in disregarding the public’s trust and best interest” by allowing the questionable spending practices to continue, said Landrieu.

“Particularly disturbing is the use of public assets including the rail cars for personal and private use; the personal use of public credit cards, vehicles, and fuel cards; purchases that violated public bid laws; professional service procurement practices that violate the city charter; and the inappropriate use of public emails and computer systems,” he said.

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