New Orleans City Council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell introduced an ordinance Thursday to pay Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club at least some of the $800,000 the mayor awarded them on Lundi Gras.

In the days following the surprise announcement, neither city officials nor Zulu leaders who submitted the application knew whether the money would be an outright grant or a loan. The measure by Hedge-Morrell read into the record Thursday did little to resolve the issue, and it did not give a dollar amount.

In less than 30 seconds, the clerk of court read a boilerplate item that says the city and Zulu will enter into an agreement “to stimulate economic development” using money from the federally financed Urban Development Action Grant program.

It said the details were laid out in an attached agreement. But the clerk’s office couldn’t immediately provide a copy of that document.

Council rules require new legislation to sit for two weeks before action can be taken, so the matter won’t be debated by the full council until its next meeting on March 25 at the earliest.

The Lens has reported that Zulu is a type of non-profit institution that may make it difficult to accept the money without jeopardizing its tax exmept status.

At the krewe’s riverfront Lundi Gras celebration, the krewe got an oversized check from Mayor Ray Nagin, himself a member of the 101-year-old group. Zulu was one of four groups to respond to a city’s request for proposals for economic development. That request was posted for 30 days, starting on Dec. 30.

An aide to Nagin, Kenya Smith, ranked Zulu second out of four (pages 21 through 24 in the above link). The mayor made the decision to award the money to Zulu. It’s not clear, however, whether the other organizations also were successful in their efforts.

City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields has yet to fully comply with a public-records request from The Lens for all the information surrounding the award or any payments from that federal Development Action Grant program in the past year.

Zulu members have said little since the week of the announcement.

Steve Beatty

Steve Beatty is the publisher and chief executive officer of The Lens. He worked as an editor for The Times-Picayune for 15 years, leaving New Orleans just before Katrina to take a position as an editor...