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By Ariella Cohen and Maggie Calmes, The Lens staff writers |

Gambit published an excellent story yesterday on transparency in Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s City Hall.

It’s an issue that’s, let’s just say, familiar to us.  We’ve been asking questions about  opaque record-keeping since Landrieu’s earliest days in office, when the administration stumbled on its path toward transparency by keeping names of candidates for police superintendent under wraps.

Photo by JD Lasica/ via Flickr Credit: JD Lasica/ via Flickr

We were there to report when New Orleans residents, feeling the sting of money spent without their input, pushed for total transparency in recovery spending.

For months, we’ve asked the same question Gambit reporter Charles Maldonado raises — Why does the city persist in routinely violating public records law, ignoring requests for everything from red-light ticket databases to a copy of NOPD’s use-of-force manual, despite a professed commitment to openness?

Other not terribly transparent administration maneuvers we’ve reported on:

• Landrieu’s recent issuance of no-bid contracts to Sheriff Gusman

• April’s awkwardly exclusive and counter-intuitive Neighborhood Engagement Charrette

• James Carter’s inability to inform the mayor’s Criminal Justice Working Group about potential beneficiaries of agency funding

Gambit rightly points out the boondoggle that was the now-defunct Electronic Contract Routing System. The online contract tracking system, introduced by the Nagin administration and scrapped by Landrieu, as we reported in May, inadvertently helped expose and prevent a few instances of Nagin-era nepotism, yet ultimately confused officials and slowed the process. In May, we said that without an improved system, the long road city contracts travel before being signed was ”even twistier and more dimly lit than it was when Ray Nagin was mayor.”

Unfortunately, six months later, that procurement path is still dark.

Another break in the transparency system: the absence of  a comprehensive contract record storage system. As we reported in October. the problems don’t end there. A few city employees have “super-user” access to the city’s computer systems as well as its financial records. Which means that for some people, there is extreme transparency. It may just not be the right people.

Keep checking back with us at The Lens for updates on the fight for transparency in New Orleans city government. We’re in it for the long haul.