An aide to Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Thursday threw cold water on rumors that four controversial monuments are set to be handed over to retired lawyer and developer John Cummings after they’ve been removed from public property.
Eric Granderson, Landrieu’s chief council lobbyist, told Councilwoman Stacy Head that he was “not aware of anything” when she questioned him about speculation that Cummings was the anonymous donor paying for the statues’ removal and would be rewarded by having them relocated to the slavery museum at Whitney Plantation, which he owns.
Granderson said any plan to transfer the statues to a private individual would have to follow the same process used for disposing of any public property.
The Landrieu administration has been vague about what it plans to do with the statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard and a monument to a violent white-supremacist militia known as the White League. The general plan, as laid out by Landrieu before the council voted 6-1 in December to authorize removing the monuments, would involve the development of a park where the statues could be put into historical context.
Cummings has created a museum showing the horrors of slavery at Whitney Plantation in St. John the Baptist Parish. That’s led to rumors he is the source of an anonymous, $170,000 donation to the city to remove the monuments.
Wherever it comes from, the money will be funneled through the Foundation of Louisiana to keep the donor’s identity secret.
The city plans to hold a public bidding process to find a contractor to remove the monuments after the firm previously chosen for the job dropped out after receiving death threats.
Budget Director Cary Grant told the council that if the low bid to remove the monuments exceeds $170,000, the project could be rebid, or another donation could be secured.
The council voted 7-0 Thursday to use the donated money to pay for the monuments’ removal.
Head, the only council member who voted against taking down the monuments, said she supported the funding ordinance because, otherwise, the cost of the removal would be borne by the city.
“To vote no on this ordinance would be foolish because it would force the mayor’s hand to use public dollars,” she said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.