Document storage company Iron Mountain is withholding hundreds of boxes of files it stores for the city of New Orleans because of an ongoing financial dispute with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, a City Hall spokesperson confirms.
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 documents necessary for the trial because they are “under the supervision of Iron Mountain, which is currently in a financial dispute with the city and requires a subpoena to release all records stored on behalf of the city .”
It’s not clear from the court filings what the specific nature of the dispute is or whether the company withheld the records because the city didn’t pay its bill, though that’s an implication.
Cantrell spokesman Gregory Joseph could not provide many details other than to say, “we are currently in the process of resolving our contractual issues with Iron Mountain, which we believe may have hundreds of boxes containing city records.”
He added, “we cannot give a time frame for when these issues might be resolved.”
Iron Mountain is a publicly traded company headquartered in Boston with local offices in Harahan. Stores paper files and digital documents for clients worldwide.
The company and its lawyers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Although Joseph confirmed the dispute and cited “contractual issues,” he said the city has been unable to locate a contract or purchase order with Iron Mountain for document storage services, so it’s unclear how many records are in “hundreds of boxes,” how far back they go and how many city departments may be affected.
Councilman Joe Giarrusso, who chairs the City Council’s budget committee, was unaware of the dispute. But he said the situation is troubling on many levels and raises concerns about how the city and one of its suppliers are doing business.
“The bottom line is that the city needs to have access to its documents, and if we’re paying for a service, we need to know what that service is and what the terms of the service are,” he said. “Conversely, if we’re getting service and not paying our bills, then we have to pay our bills.”
Frustration with silence
The dispute between the city and Iron Mountain came to light 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 lawsuit 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.
In question are old records from Burmaster’s personal file that Brown’s attorney, William Most, was trying to obtain in preparation for the trial. Although the city resisted turning over some files on the grounds that they were irrelevant, it agreed to release a 2012 report by the NOPD’s Office of Public Integrity on the findings of an investigation into another fatal dog that shot at Burmaster’s hands.
Records show the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident.
According to court documents, the city served Iron Mountain with a subpoena for the PIB report in early October.
“I agree to file the 2012 Burmaster charge as it relates to the use of force against an animal, even though it resulted in an unjustified charge,” Assistant City Attorney Jonathan Adams wrote to Most in an email last October. “As you know, I requested that from Iron Mountain.
But the company ignored the subpoena and calls from Assistant City Attorney Jonathan Adams.
At a hearing in late November in U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Roby’s court, the second assistant city attorney on the case, Jim Roquemore, said the city still has not been able to obtain its records from the company. Roby scheduled a Jan. 4 hearing on the motion to try to force Iron Mountain to turn over the documents.
However, that hearing was postponed after the city signaled that the two sides were working to resolve their differences.
Iron Mountain is a 60-year-old, New York Stock Exchange-traded company with more than 24,000 employees worldwide and a valuation of more than $1.1 billion. The city’s online contract database shows the company has had a contract with the sanitation department for more than a decade to provide paper shredding services as part of the 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’s local administrator, Robert Leamann, spoke to a reporter in early December and declined to provide information on the scope of the company’s services to the city. He also said he was unaware of the dispute with the city or the subpoena at the time. After being sent a copy of the court filing, he referred subsequent requests for comment to the company’s 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 procurement office could not locate the company’s contract, but noted that all contracts and purchase orders contained in the city’s BuySpeed and AFIN databases were lost in the 2019 cyber attack.
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. Obviously, some key formations – such as contracts with suppliers, which are paid for with public money – have been permanently lost.
Giarrusso said the situation with Iron Mountain is problematic and raises questions about what other bills the city is not paying.
“It’s hard to say for sure how serious the problem is, but we keep hearing rumors about it,” he said. “Vendors are reluctant to come forward because they want to do business with the city and don’t want to be hurt by saying something publicly.”