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Week in Review: Harney charter board fires principal in meeting that may have violated Open Meetings Law

Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy’s principal said she was fired Friday in a meeting that may have violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law.

The principal, Ashonta Wyatt, told The Lens this month that she feared she might lose her job after she questioned board spending.

The Orleans Parish school district has repeatedly cited Harney’s board — which is headed by the Rev. Charles Southall III and includes former First NBC Bank CEO Ashton Ryan — for failing to comply with charter school laws and policies, and its financial practices have been a particular concern. The school is now slated for closure as a result of its governance problems.

In a Monday interview, Wyatt said the board immediately went into a closed-door executive session on Friday. She said she asked that the session, which was about her, be held in public. State law allows the subject of an executive session to determine whether its held in public or private.

DA to use most of city budget bump for prosecutors, not diversion program

Under Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s proposed budget, the district attorney’s office in 2019 is set to receive a 10 percent bump in its general fund allocation from the city — restoring funds that the City Council had cut over the past two years. According to the budget book, the extra $600,000 appears intended to bolster the district attorney’s pretrial diversion program, which connects people with social services, education, and job opportunities instead of saddling them with a trial and potential conviction.

At least, that’s what many city council members believed.

But according to District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s presentation to the City Council last week, only a fraction of these additional dollars will go to the diversion program. And it’s possible that no additional money will be spent on the diversion program at all.

A very special Behind The Lens Thanksgiving: ‘There is no resolution. There’s only an abatement of pain.’

This week on a special Thanksgiving Behind The Lens, producer and host Tom Wright talks with Lens co-founder and staff writer Karen Gadbois.

In an interview first recorded in September, Karen talked about her longtime Sewerage and Water Board billing problems. If you want to know more about that, read Karen’s August column, “Lens reporter’s year in S&WB hell: collapsed pipes, collapsed billing system.”

Opinion: Letter to Mayor Cantrell: Don’t scrap City Hall; it’s a diamond in the rough

Treme resident Amy Stelly challenges Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s idea of moving City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium.

“The bitter history of Treme’s destruction is forever linked to both the Municipal Auditorium and Armstrong Park. They stand as emblems of bureaucratic and racial arrogance. A place with such a painful history is not appropriate for a City Hall.”

“The auditorium cannot establish the civic presence deserving of a city hall.”

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: NewsMatch

Dear reader,

This Thanksgiving weekend we are thankful for your support.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing our work stories, and thanks for your financial support. You keep us going all year round.

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Please give today.

With gratitude,
The Lens’ staff

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About Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado covers the city of New Orleans and other local government bodies. He previously worked for Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative newsweekly, where he covered city hall, criminal justice and public health. Before moving to New Orleans, he covered state and local government for weekly papers in Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn.