Inspectors Falsified Reports at Hard Rock Hotel
In the months leading up to the deadly collapse inspectors failed to inspect the site
In October, UCOMM reported on the deadly building collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans. Nearly six months later, the bodies of the workers who died in the collapse have still not been recovered. When the building collapsed, many assumed negligence on the part of the contractor. However, a new investigation has revealed that the negligence extended to the city’s building department and it could lead to criminal charges.
An investigation found that three building inspectors Julie Tweeter, Thomas Dwyer, and Eric Treadaway, falsified documents saying that they had inspected the construction site in the summer of 2019. They also claimed to have inspected the site several times in September, just weeks before the collapse. However, a review of GPS data on their cars has revealed that the inspectors were nowhere near the Hard Rock hotel site at the times they claimed to be conducting the inspections. After this revelation came out Tweeter and Treadaway were suspended for thirty days without pay. Dwyer had retired previous to the revelation.
A deeper look into Tweeter’s inspection records by Fox 8, found that this was not an isolated incident. They found dozens of inconsistencies where she signed off on inspections, but GPS data said she was not at the location. Their investigation found at least 30 inspections in four months that appear to not have GPS data proving she was at the site. According to the city, Tweeter falsified at least four reports on the Hard Rock Hotel alone. Some of Tweeter’s early inspections of the Hard Rock site are also being called into question after an investigation found that she had not received her commercial building inspectors license until July 2018, but she had signed off on at least four Hard Rock inspections before she was certified.
According to the suspension letter that Tweeter and Treadaway received, they are being accused of using photos that were provided by third parties and passing them off as being taken by the inspectors. These photos were used in the reports to show that the properties were “safe.”
Reports also say that this behavior was par for the course in New Orleans. On September 16th, just hours before Tweeter filed a fraudulent inspection of the Hard Rock hotel, inspectors were gathered in a room for an emergency meeting. According to a secret recording that was obtained by WWL-TV, Safety & Permits Department Director, Zach Smith told the inspectors that federal criminal investigators would be looking into the activity of the department, including GPS data. He warned them that any inspections where the GPS showed that they were not at a job site would be looked into. Smith also warned them to stop using third party photos.
After a long series of delays, the city says that the Hard Rock Hotel is slated to be demolished in March. In January, the city fired the firm that was slated to demolish the building after they said that explosives couldn’t be used to take the building down. They instead wanted to shore it up and then take it down piece by piece, meaning that it wouldn’t be down until December 2020.
According to a spokesperson from the city, the 30-day suspension is just the first step towards terminating the inspectors. All three could also face criminal charges for their actions, although no charges have been filed yet.