With little to no fanfare, the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance today requiring all city contractors to disclose their subcontractors.

Transparency proponents have long advocated for this kind of reform to the contracting system, saying that abuse or waste can hide in undisclosed relationships.

As an example of what can happen without such openness, they point to an incident in which a computer-services subcontractor provided a Hawaiian vacation to then-Mayor Ray Nagin.  Nagin later said he didn’t know about the company’s contractual relationship with the city.

In the spring of 2008 Councilman Arnie Fielkow tried to tinker with city’s procedures for granting professional services contracts. The seven-member council’s unanimous support disintegrated into a racially charged discussion that left the measure fatally injured. The explosive meeting signaled the death of meaningful contact reform under the Nagin administration.

Fielkow long has been an advocate of reform to the contracting process, and today’s ordinance signaled a step towards a greater understanding of who benefits from these contracts.

The ordinance and amendment passed 5-0, with two members absent for the vote. It requires that each contract include a sworn affidavit listing all subcontractors. These affidavits would be included with the original contract and made available on the city website.  Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell were not present for the vote.

The ordinance applies only to contracts with the city but not joint projects such as those undertaken by Sewerage & Water Board or other state and federally funded projects.

Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led...