Call to Action: Oppose Nagin’s Executive Order Limiting Public Input on Contract Awards
Feb 17 2009
Mayor Nagin seems to equate “transparent” with “unseen.” While the public clamors for transparent governance, the Mayor tries to shove as much of his administration’s process on the awarding of contracts as he can behind closed doors, out of public sight.
In his official statement issued February 17, 2009, City Council Vice President Arnie Fielkow, urged “citizens to express their outrage at the Administration’s decision to effectively remove their voice from the awarding of professional service contracts.” Take action now.
Official Statement of City Council Vice President Arnie Fielkow:
“On February 5, the New Orleans City Council unanimously approved an ordinance creating enhanced openness and transparency in both the executive and legislative branches of local government relating to the awarding of professional service contracts. This ordinance, which was supported by a broad cross-section of the community and passed 7-0 by the council, was vetoed by Mayor Nagin on February 12, 2009. In the mayor’s public statements on the issue, he himself justified his veto by saying he wanted openness and transparency in city government.
Regrettably, city officials learned today that the Administration placed an official notice in the back pages of Monday’s Times Picayune Sports section outlining a proposed new executive order governing the city’s professional service contracting process. The proposed new executive order would replace the current system of having a selection review panel comprised of mayoral aides and outside appointees reviewing professional service contracts, a process which according to the Louisiana Attorney General, needs to be in compliance with the Louisiana Open Meeting laws. The mayor’s current process does not comply with the Louisiana Open Meeting law and was the basis for the council’s ordinance on February 5.
Under the proposed new executive order … in an effort to avoid the Louisiana Open Meetings laws, the mayor, instead of embracing enhanced openness and transparency, has taken several steps backwards. The mayor has returned the city’s professional service contracting process to an era of closed-door decision-making. Indeed, if the proposed new executive order goes into effect, the only individuals reviewing and consulting on the proposals will be employees appointed directly by the mayor, namely the chief administrative officer, the city attorney and/or the Office of Recovery and Development Administration director. Their evaluation of contracts and input to the mayor may be either verbal or written, thus ensuring that the public, including the inspector general, will now be totally excluded from the selection process.
The City Council’s actions two weeks ago ensured that the contracting process would be open and transparent and that the public could be informed and engaged as to how their dollars are being used. Meetings would have been publicly noticed, citizens would have been able to view and participate and minutes of all meetings would have been kept. Sadly, despite the mayor’s stated intentions to achieve openness and transparency, his current actions contradict his words and negatively affect a citizen base which desperately seeks to have its city government operate in the sunshine.
Who loses in this?
Who loses the most?
Those in our community who have historically been shut out of the decision making process in this city, who have not shared in economic opportunities and who have historically competed on an uneven playing field.
This is what the council’s February 5 ordinance was designed to combat.
I am confident that my council colleagues will join me to override the mayor’s veto of ordinance Cal. No. 23,388 this Thursday. The ordinance passed by the unanimous council at the February 5 City Council meeting is still relevant, even with the mayor’s newly proposed executive order.
I further urge citizens to express their outrage at the Administration’s decision to effectively remove their voice from the awarding of professional service contracts.
In the words of President Barack Obama, spoken at his inauguration only a few weeks ago:
“(T)hose of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”
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