Mayor appoints Diana Bajoie to interim District B seat

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Mayor Mitch Landrieu today appointed former state Sen. Diana Bajoie as an interim member of the New Orleans City Council.

Bajoie will take over the District B seat, which has been vacant for more than a month, since Councilwoman Stacy Head was sworn into one of City Council's two at-large seats in early May. Head was elected to the seat in April over former councilwoman and state legislator Cynthia Willard-Lewis.

Bajoie's appointment comes despite the fact that Head named and four Council members approved urban planning consultant Errol George to the seat last month. That vote, however, happened after Council members Jon Johnson and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell walked out of City Council Chambers in the middle of the May 3 regular meeting. Their absence left only four voting Council members, one short of a quorum required for any vote to be legally binding.

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Johnson and Hedge-Morrell continued to skip meetings through the rest of the month. The city charter gives Council 30 days after any seat has opened to find and approve a replacement, after which the choice goes to the mayor. That deadline passed on June 1.

Entirely coincidentally, Hedge-Morrell and Johnson have said they plan to return to work for tomorrow's regular meeting, the first on the calendar since the June 1 deadline.

Landrieu said earlier this week that he decided not to appoint George because there are questions as to whether he's legally domiciled in District B. Head, George and other members of City Council believe otherwise.

For his part, Landrieu today denied rumors that he was decided on Bajoie before the deadline, saying he did no real work on the appointment until June 1. (After we reported that he met with Hedge-Morrell and Johnson the day before they skipped one of the May meetings, he likewise denied rumors that he encouraged the walkout or continued boycott.)

Council members Kristen Palmer and Susan Guidry were absent from today's announcement because they were attending a meeting of the Council Transportation Committee. (Why was the press conference scheduled 30 minutes into the 2 p.m. meeting? Anyway.) Head, Landrieu said, was absent because she was out of town. Council President Jackie Clarkson was present. And for the first time since early May, so were Hedge-Morrell and Johnson.

Bajoie will keep the post until the November 6 election, in which she, as an interim Council member, will be ineligible to run.

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