Council to Vote on Open Meetings Law

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As the City Council prepares to vote today on Councilman Fielkow’s ordinance requiring the Mayor Nagin’s office to comply with Louisiana Open Meetings Law regarding the awarding of professional services contracts, City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields says the issue has never really been about transparency, but has more to do with how the meetings law should be enacted and Councilman Fielkow’s political ambition.

 

Moses-Fields maintains the Council cannot use a legislative ordinance to force the executive branch to comply with state open meetings law because city charter, which spells out both the legislative and executive procedures for awarding service contracts, supersedes state law in this instance. As Moses-Field first opined in an August 14, 2008, letter to the council, the only procedure for changing how the mayor awards contracts is by proposing an amendment to the city charter, and letting voters decide.

 

“I just want to make it clear my issue is that the ordinance mechanism is an illegal approach,” says Moses-Fields. She adds that the mayor’s procedure for awarding contracting is a transparent process.

 

After Moses-Fields’ August opinion, Fielkow brought the matter up with the state attorney general’s office, which has sided twice with the council on the matter. The city attorney replies that the attorney general’s opinions are not binding, and if a change should be made, it should be a permanent one.

 

“I’ve made this joke before: when something is done by ordinance, it’s as good as the next council meeting. It can be changed,” Moses-Fields says. “With something of this magnitude, why not take it back to the people? Because I believe there is enough community support to put this in the charter.”

 

If the ordinance passes today, Nagin will have 10 days to decide to veto the measure, or let it become law. Moses-Field says if the council had followed her original opinion, the amendment could have been up for vote in this past election, November 4.

 

So what is motivating the council to vote on the ordinance?

 

“The council’s motivation? The council is all seven. I think this is Councilmember Fielkow’s motivation, because he has future aspirations. So I won’t know the council’s motivation until after today based on everyone’s support.”

 

Stay tuned for how the council votes on the measure, and Fielkow’s response.

 

 

 

 

 

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