Thursday, April 13, 2006
By Michelle Krupa
Reviving a controversial proposal seeking to get the New Orleans mayor to hand the power to award professional service contracts to a panel of experts, a government watchdog group has asked mayoral candidates to promise to enact its specific reform measures for awarding lucrative City Hall deals.
The Bureau of Governmental Research put the request to candidates Wednesday, inviting them to sign a pledge vowing that within 90 days of taking office, they would use an executive order to overhaul the process used to hire attorneys, architects and other professional contractors by replacing appointees with independent selection committees.
The initial overture, however, drew a pair of flat-out refusals -- from Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and attorney Rob Couhig.
"I am not going to sign it," Landrieu said. "What they're attempting to get done is an excellent goal. But I would never sign a pledge that wasn't vetted through a community process first."
Couhig also said he would not sign the pledge. "I'm unwilling to give up that power to an unelected body. However, the contracting process will be open and transparent," he said.
Former City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson said she hadn't had a chance to study the BGR pledge but already has crafted her own plan for revamping the professional service contracting process.
The main problem with the current system, she said, is that it allows elected officials to award virtually any contract through the professional service method, even those that obviously should be awarded through public bid.
A spokesman for Audubon Nature Institute Chief Executive Ron Forman said the campaign had not yet received the BGR document.
LPNS COMMENTARY: At least Mitch answered the question. Forman, the other candidate who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from these folks dodged the whole issue.