The Kenner City Council on Thursday reaffirmed its June 5 decision to award its legal-notices contract for the next 12 months to The New Orleans Advocate.
The 4-3 vote represented a split between three council members who felt that The Times-Picayune’s Kenner circulation, said to be more than 10 times larger, was the most important consideration and the four who felt The Advocate’s far lower price of 8.3 cents per column inch was paramount.
The price, however, was not without controversy. At the prior meeting, The New Orleans Advocate acknowledged that its submitted bid of 8.3 cents should have been 83 cents. But Dan Shea, president of The Advocate, told the council that if it was an issue for Kenner, the paper would honor the 8.3 bid, even if it lost money. Later, the Times-Picayune, which submitted the highest of three bids, tried to claim that The Advocate’s bid was $1.16.
Council member Keith Reynaud, who voted that night to give the one-year contract to The Advocate, said he thought it translated to 8.3 cents, so he put the measure to reconsider on the agenda Thursday. He said Thursday night that he was satisfied after receiving a letter from The Advocate’s management that it would honor the 8.3-cents-per-inch price.
Reynaud, along with council members Maria DeFrancesch, Jeannie Black, Michele Branigan, said the savings, even if only for a single year, was the deciding factor. He said the price would save the city $6,000 on what would have otherwise been a $10,000 contract.
But David Francis, associate publisher of The Times-Picayune, which offered a price of 95 cents per inch, told the council that he believes The Advocate bid could be translated into $1.16 per inch. The council did not agree.
“The integrity of the bidding process is important to the city of Kenner,” he said.
The council majority, however, said the contract was not put out for public bid but was instead a request for proposals, a process they said gave them more flexibility.
For dissenting council members Kent Denapolis, Joe Stagni and Gregory Carroll, The Times-Picayune’s larger Kenner circulation — quoted as 17,818 versus 1,442 for The New Orleans Advocate — meant the legal notices would reach more residents and that mission is more important than one-time savings.
“If the purpose is to disclose to the general public what you are doing as a city … I don’t think anything should be weighted even close to the circulation,” Stagni said.
Branigan, however, said the city is simply fulfilling its legal obligation and that the smaller circulation doesn’t matter much because very few people read the legal notices, and most people know when a contract they might want to bid on is coming up.
In the recent legislative session, the Legislature changed the laws allowing The Advocate to submit proposals to run legal notices in the New Orleans area.
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East awarded its legal notices for New Orleans and Jefferson to The Times-Picayune on Thursday and selected The St. Bernard Voice to run the ads in St. Bernard Parish. Those contracts will last one year.
Last month, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West selected The New Orleans Advocate.
Two West Jefferson cities, Gretna and Westwego, split earlier this month, with Gretna awarding its contract for the next year to The New Orleans Advocate and Westwego opting to stay with The Times-Picayune.
Gretna agreed to pay 56 cents per inch. In Westwego, the council simply heard a pitch by The New Orleans Advocate and decided not to make a change, with Mayor John Shaddinger saying The Times-Picayune’s two free community papers distributed there make a major difference among the city’s poor and elderly population.
The Harahan City Council also voted unanimously Thursday to select The New Orleans Advocate as its official journal.
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Friday, June 20, to correct a reference to The New Orleans Advocate’s intended bid of 83 cents per column inch.