NORD Commission again stumbles over Open Meetings Act, delays decision

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By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |

A subcommittee of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission aiming to appoint a new chief executive adjourned a meeting this afternoon without taking any action, after activist attorney Tracie Washington raised fresh concerns about whether the subcommittee had followed public meetings law.

Two city councilwomen have now also said publicly that they favor an outside candidate for chief executive, while Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said he thinks the existing interim director at the agency, Vic Richard, is doing a good job.

Attorney Tracie Washington makes a point about public meetings law at tonight’s meeting. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s press secretary Ryan Berni looks on (left). Photo by Matt Davis.

Ongoing concerns about openness in the recruitment process come as members of the recreation commission have fought to counter suggestions that Landrieu is pulling the commission’s strings, with the commission’s role in selecting a new recreation leader seen as pivotal in establishing its independence.

Councilwoman Susan Guidry attended tonight’s meeting, urging the subcommittee to comply with the wishes of  “74 percent of people who voted, voted overwhelmingly for change, for a new NORD.”

Councilwoman Stacy Head said in a phone interview with The Lens Tuesday that she thought there is “no contest” in the recruitment process, and that the “clear choice” for a new chief executive is former pro football player Reggie Williams.

One finalist for the job dropped out last week, saying he believes that the commission will choose Richard, even though it spent $42,000 on a headhunter to conduct a national search. Charlene Braud and Wanda Durden are also still in the running for the job. Braud runs the recreation department in Atlanta, and Durden is a technology executive who once ran the recreation department in Baltimore.

Update, 10:45 p.m.: The next paragraph has been corrected slightly.

Today’s subcommittee meeting was adjourned after Washington raised concerns about language on the agenda. The subcommittee, as planned, went planned to go into executive session to discuss the four candidates. When they emerged from executive session, they also planned to vote on narrowing the list, they said, yet there was no language on the meeting’s agenda to reflect such a move.

“It doesn’t say anything on the agenda about any vote,” Washington said. “You have got to give the public notice if you are going to take an action like that.”

At the suggestion of Landrieu’s Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, the subcommittee briefly considered making an emergency change to its agenda to include such a vote, but that would have needed to be unanimous under the state’s Open Meetings Act, and subcommittee member Bobby Garon suggested instead that the group adjourn and reschedule.

“I’d prefer to give up another hour to attend another meeting in which the proper notice is given,” Garon said.

The law requires public bodies to post agendas for meetings 24 hours before they meet, and today’s subcommittee meeting was already rescheduled from yesterday, said Kopplin, because the notice given about that meeting “did not meet our aspirations.”

Subcommittee Chairman Roy Glapion did not seem happy that today’s meeting was again to be rescheduled for a second time, but he told the committee that he was determined to “follow the process.”

After the meeting, Glapion suggested to a reporter from The Lens that stories focusing on the committee’s failure to comply with the open-meetings law might not be in the best interests of New Orleans.

“If we want to move the city forward, we’ve got to stay positive with our pen,” Glapion said to the reporter as Glapion walked from the room.

 

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