Government & Politics
 

Mysterious “recovery board” made key decision on project

For all who were wondering who made up the “recovery board” that decided to pull the plug on a contract to develop a long-awaited linear park in New Orleans, The Lens has obtained an answer. Sort of.

According to Mayor Ray Nagin spokesman James Ross, the executive branch board is comprised of “staff members who meet with the Mayor in an effort to provide and receive information, determine progress of projects, provide direction and make decisions.”

Ross did not respond to our question of who specifically made up the board. Given the tight nature of the mayor’s inner circle, likely suspects include Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfied; Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Cynthia Sylvain-Lear; Chief Technology Advisor Harrison Boyd; and Executive Assistant Kenya Smith.

Since Hurricane Katrina, many have questioned how decisions are made in City Hall. In a February e-mail to a citizen concerned about a decision to reopen bidding for the Lafitte Greenway, the city’s tech chief cited the elusive “recovery board” as the entity that made the decision.

While it’s common for a mayor to turn to his closest aides for help making decisions, many cities have tried to make the process more open and transparent by divvying up responsibilities among a broader group of “deputy mayors” specifically, and publicly, tasked with certain responsibilities. This model has never taken off in the Big Easy, allowing decisions to be made without predictability

That may change when Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu takes office May 3. According to a report today in The Times Picayune, the Landrieu transition team is exploring a model that would empower deputy mayors to make decisions in specified areas.

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
  • I appreciate your coverage on this topic.

  • Matt

    The “Recovery Program Board” is mentioned in the latest amendment to MWH’s contract, signed March 18th:
    http://egov.cityofno.com/ECRS_ConView/DisplayContract.aspx?FID=0000000000000000000000000004971

    In a provision added to the contract, it says,
    “The City and Contractor agree that upon the effective date of this Amendment, the Contractor will be accountable and report to the New Orleans Recovery Program Board and the Executive Assistant to the Mayor, Director/Recovery Program Delivery Unit (PDU) as the approved agent of the Recovery Program Board.”

    That would appear to describe Kenya Smith as the point of contact rather than the position Bill Chrisman was in before – head of the Capital Projects Administration. That is, MWH’s contract now falls (effectively) directly under the control of the mayor rather than running through the Capital Projects Administration.