Government & Politics

What do you want to ask Landrieu about chief search?

Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu plans a 3:30 p.m. press conference today to discuss his controversial search for a new police chief as well as other matters related to his transition. What would you like The Lens to ask him? Send you thoughts in an e-mail to and we’ll do our best to get them answered.

This is his first public appearance since four members of his 21-member police-chief task force quit or were removed over frustrations with a perceived lack of transparency. The first member quit March 29.

At issue is whether the names of all 77 applicants for police chief will be made public, or, as Landrieu has said, just the handful that are forwarded to him for a final decision.

Even all the remaining task force members conducting the search won’t know every applicant. The applications are being accepted and screened by the International Association of Police Chiefs, which was hired by the Landrieu transition team. That organization will cut the pool down to 20 or so semi-finalists, who will be further pared down to the finalists.

Transition New Orleans, as his team is named, has said it doesn’t have to comply with the state’s sunshine laws regarding open meetings or open records, though it will strive to comply with them. The reason they’re exempt?

“Transition New Orleans is a private entity which receives no public funding and is not connected in any way with any governmental agency or political subdivision,” transition spokesman Todd Ragusa said in a recent e-mail.

The Lens has sent the transition team a 1997 court ruling (download the pdf) in which the Louisiana Supreme Court decided that “In general, applicant for public employment in Louisiana has no reason to expect that his or her application will be kept private so as to create right of privacy in application under State Constitution…”

We’ve asked the mayor-elect to explain why this ruling isn’t applicable to his search for a police chief, regardless of whether his transition team is considered a private operation. He hasn’t responded so far.

The Lens has also asked for a copy of the contract that the transition team has with the International Association of Police Chiefs. The team has declined to provide the contract, though it hasn’t explained why.

Three police-chief task force members have stepped down, saying they should have access to all the applicants, not just those screened by the chiefs group. A fourth was removed by task force leaders because she spoke out publicly against the process.

The job notice on police chief group’s Web site does not say the applications will be confidential, though task force leader Norman Francis said that such privacy is “routine” in such searches to protect applicants from retribution at their current jobs.

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.
About 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 at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and quickly rising through the ranks to be an editor of the newspaper’s watchdog investigative team. He returned to New Orleans in May of 2009. He can be reached at (504) 655-2375.

  • When will St. Paul police chief John Harrington be able to start in the Crescent City?

  • Maria Lopez

    What the heck is going on with your search committee??

  • swisscheese

    Questions for Mitch Landrieu: Will the departure of these 4 task force members materially affect the outcome of the search process for a kick-a$$ police superintendent who can reform and restructure the NOPD to become a leading police department nationally in the next 4 years? And… significantly cut this city’s crime rate in the process? And… by way of setting an example; encourage leading corporations to relocate to NO and aid economic development because police corruption and crime, and especially the headline grabbing murder rate, are finally under control? What are the criteria he will use to select the police chief from the shortlist he’s presented with? When you order sausages to eat all you care about is the taste and quality of the sausage, you don’t want to know how it’s made!

  • swisscheese

    Oops, I should have added at the end… “Don’t you agree?”