In The News › Nagin mum on Landrieu’s request of no last-minute deals

Feb 22, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

Nagin mum on Landrieu’s request of no last-minute deals

Monday, February 22, 2010
By Bigad Shaban
Eyewitness News, WWLTV

NEW ORLEANS — One city, two men elected mayor, and less than three months to go before we find out if they can agree on how to handle city contracts. New Orleans Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu is now asking current Mayor Ray Nagin to hold off on striking any last minute deals.

Nearly eight years in and with less than 80 days to go, will Nagin’s powers as mayor be reined in by his soon-to-be replacement? Landrieu is asking the Nagin administration to hold off on signing any new city contracts.

“Let it wait and let the new administration and new council see it from their perspective,” said Landrieu during a Monday afternoon press conference.

The Nagin administration doesn’t seem to share the same philosophy. A spokesperson tells Eyewitness News the mayor’s office can go looking for contracts at any time.

“The current mayor certainly has the legal authority to do that,” said Clancy DuBos, Eyewitness News political analyst. “But he also has a moral and legal obligation not to over extend the city and commit to things the city cannot afford.”

And new contracts aren’t the only ones that could find themselves on Landrieu’s chopping block.

“They will probably terminate some existing contracts,” said Dr. Silas Lee, a New Orleans based political pollster.

Political pundits point to the pair of sanitation contracts the mayor extended just last month as examples of what Landrieu might want to reconsider. Nagin’s signature keeps the deal going another three years, but opponents have long called the garbage services much too expensive when compared to similar services provided in nearby parishes.

“Contracts are in some ways, when misused, the new form of patronage,” said Janet Howard, president/CEO of the Bureau of Governmental Research.

Howard said last minute contracts could undermine the kind of change voters are yearning for post-Nagin. Her question for the outgoing mayor, what’s the rush?

“If he hasn’t had to do it in the last seven years and nine months, it’s pretty difficult to see why he has to do it now.”

It’s a question the Nagin administration has actually posed as well. During his inauguration speech in May 2002, Nagin promised serious change, “where contracts are awarded based on what you can do, and not on who you know.”

The administration also criticized the outgoing mayor’s office for its handling of last minute contracts, putting the departing Mayor Marc Morial on the defensive.

“Simply because you know somebody shouldn’t disqualify you from participating in the public contracting process if you’re competent and do your job,” Morial told Eyewitness News in May 2002.

But two terms later, with the new mayor-elect in town promising reform and threatening to undue any last minute deals, it’s Nagin who will have to play defense.

Political pundits say if Nagin isn’t fazed by the warning, potential contractors should be.

“Who in his or her right mind is going to want to sit down with the most unpopular mayor in the city’s history and sign a contract that clearly nobody wants but Ray Nagin?” said DuBos. “That just waives a big red flag and glows in the dark and says hey, [U.S. Attorney] Jim Letten, come look at me.”

Revising or even deleting the actions of a previous administration has been done before, but it’s not always easy.

“I think if people can show there was a lack of good faith or lack of public policy being justified or fulfilled, or procedure not being followed or any number of other reasons, than the contract can be voided,” said DuBos.

If a new mayor gets the new council on board, the council can vote to withhold the money needed for the contract, but therein lies an inherent risk of litigation between the city and the company in question. “You have the issue about what does that contract say about exists, risk of litigation,” said Howard. “It just totally muddies the water going forward.”

Late Monday evening, Mayor’s Office Spokesperson James Ross e-mailed Eyewitness News the following statement in response to our earlier request for an interview with Nagin:

“Mayor Nagin has consistently and publically expressed his intention to leave the Mayor-elect and the City of New Orleans with a viable financial structure and sufficient resources to continue the operations of the city and build for the future. Immediately after the recent election, Mayor Nagin committed to the Mayor-elect to work in partnership to ensure a smooth transition. Both parties have started to establish a positive working relationship that will continue to get stronger throughout the coming weeks.

“To that end, any suggestions, proposals or recommendations from the Mayor-elect will be handled in that spirit and with what is best for the citizens of New Orleans. Any actions will be in full compliance with the City Charter and any other applicable laws. As the Mayor-elect continues to serve the state in his role as Lieutenant Governor during this transition, Mayor Nagin will continue to serve out the full four year term for which he was elected.”

Feb 22, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

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