By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |
One of the finalists to run the city’s recreation program asked this week that a discussion of his candidacy be held in public, rather than in a closed-door session of the screening committee, city records show.
Two days after that request, a subcommittee of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission canceled its private session, where members were to discuss the four remaining candidates. After that session, the committee was scheduled to cut the list down to three candidates.
Instead, the committee on Wednesday decided to keep all four in the running and have public interviews with each of them.
Under the state’s Open Records Law, public bodies can meet in private sessions to discuss the competency and character of a person – but not if the person asks that the meeting be held publicly.
“It is my preference for an open meeting discussion of my candidacy,” Williams wrote, in an email to the subcommittee’s secretary, Nashon Route, Monday night.
Nonetheless, Committee Chairman Roy Glapion said the email from finalist Reggie Williams didn’t influence the committee’s decision to skip the executive session.
“It had absolutely no bearing on it whatsoever,” Glapion said in a phone interview today. “It was more about being fair to all four candidates, and have all their candidacies discussed in a public session.”
Glapion also denied simply following instructions from Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who this week expressed a preference for interviewing all four candidates.
Activist attorney Tracie Washington, who runs the Louisiana Justice Institute, described Glapion’s position as “disingenuous.” She filed a public records request for emails between the commission and candidates, which turned up Williams’ notice.
“They couldn’t do what they wanted to,” Washington said, referring to the subcommittee, “because the candidates informed them they wanted it done in public.”
Washington gave those public records to The Lens this afternoon, shortly after collecting them from the City Attorney’s Office.
The records show that the other three candidates, Charlene Braud, Wanda Durden, and interim director Vic Richard, agreed to have their candidacies discussed privately by the committee.
“I am pleased documents responsive to Louisiana Justice Institute’s request were released this afternoon,” Washington wrote, in an emailed statement. “We appreciate all the hard work by so many community organizations that brought this matter to our attention, and LJI was eager to provide them with legal support.”
Former City Council President Arnie Fielkow and two city councilwomen have now said they favor an outside candidate for chief executive, while Landrieu has said he thinks Richard is doing a good job.
Fielkow led efforts to reform the city’s recreation leadership, changing operations from a city department to a new city commission with an autonomous oversight board, a move approved by voters in 2010. Landrieu recently derided Fielkow, whose family still lives in New Orleans, as “a former politician that quit his job and moved to Chicago,” after Fielkow wrote an opinion piece for The Times-Picayune that said Williams is the right choice.