Planning chief storms out of closed session called to evaluate her performance

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Yolanda Rodriguez

Yolanda Rodriguez, long-time executive director of the New Orleans City Planning Commission, stormed out of a closed executive session 20 minutes after it began Tuesday afternoon.

Commission members did not elaborate on Rodriguez’ evident annoyance, and she could not be reached for comment.

A day earlier, commission chairman Craig Mitchell had informed Rodriguez via email that the executive session would be an opportunity to evaluate her “character, professional competence, or physical or mental health” unless she requested it be done in an open meeting.

The commission met at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and within about 10 minutes had repaired to executive session to discuss an agenda item listed as “evaluations of unclassified CPC staff.” Rodriguez swiftly exited the executive session at 1:03 p.m. The public was allowed to return to the conference room at 1:32 p.m. as the meeting continued in open session, but without comment on what had gone on behind closed doors.

Commissioners then proceeded to vote on a motion to “suspend the rules and take up matter not on the agenda today.” For lack of unanimity, the motion did not carry. It was amended to read, “Set action as a result of the evaluation of the Executive Director at the discretion of the chair,” which passed unanimously.

Mitchell cited Louisiana Revised Statute 42:17 A1 when questioned by a Lens reporter about the propriety and purpose of the closed executive session. The cited exception to the open-meetings law covers “discussion of the character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person …”  The exception requires the person to be notified in writing 24 hours before such a meeting, as Mitchell did via email.

A call to Rodriguez’ office was answered by an assistant, Kristen Weems, who said she wasn’t there. The Mayor’s Office did not respond to an inquiry.

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