A private nonprofit group involved in providing money for the removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans is now directly involved in paying contractors and overseeing the removal process, according to an agreement it signed with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration last week.
The city's deal with the Foundation for Louisiana appears to be a way to protect the names of donors and the companies involved in removing the controversial monuments.
The organization is not subject to public-records laws or bid laws and is therefore not required to disclose information about the process.
The cooperative endeavor agreement was provided to The New Orleans Advocate in response to a public-records request for documents related to the removal of the Battle of Liberty Place monument early Monday.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu mounted a passionate defense of his approach to removing the city’s mon…
The document suggests significant aspects about the process will remain permanently under wraps, something Landrieu has said is necessary in light of repeated threats of violence made to contractors who have been involved or rumored to be involved in the removal of the Liberty Place marker and the still-standing statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Foundation for Louisiana President and CEO Flozell Daniels did not respond to a message seeking comment on the agreement Friday.
The Foundation for Louisiana has been involved in the financing side of the removal process for more than a year, ever since Landrieu pledged to use private donations to take the monuments down.
In December 2015, before the City Council voted 6-1 to authorize the removals, the mayor announced that $175,000 had been raised from a private source. That money was donated to the nonprofit, which then turned the money over to the city.
The removal of New Orleans’ monument to the Battle of Liberty Place under the cover of darkn…
But the new agreement, signed days before crews in masks and bulletproof vests took down the Liberty Place obelisk before dawn Monday, outlines an expanded role for the foundation.
The group is now charged with establishing and administering a “private donation fund” to pay for the monuments’ removal and to “directly pay from the donation fund all costs associated with the removal.” The group will “administer, collect and pay contractor and/or equipment invoices for the satisfactory performance of work,” the agreement says.
Landrieu said Thursday that more than $600,000 has been raised for the effort.
According to the documents released to The Advocate, the city estimated last month that the cost of removing the remaining three monuments could be as high as $855,000, including labor, crane rentals, bonds and insurance and various security and traffic-control efforts.
The lone bidder who submitted a proposal this month, Cuzan Services, said it would cost $600,000 to take down the three statues. It is not clear whether that company is currently involved in the process.
The agreement specifies that the Foundation for Louisiana will not “compensate city employees who provide services related to the project while in the course and scope of their employment.”
It is not clear whether police and firefighters who were on the scene when the Liberty Place monument was removed — and who are expected to be there when the remaining statues are taken down — would be included in that description and, if so, whether the city is paying those costs.
The city did not produce any documents showing the cost of having city workers on the site.
The use of firefighters has been criticized by the firefighters union. While the city has said firefighters were on the scene as part of a public safety plan, opponents have charged that they were involved in operating equipment and actually removing the monuments, something the city has denied.
The firefighters’ union plans to hold a rally Saturday morning to oppose any further involvement of Fire Department personnel in the removals, which they say has caused threats to be leveled against their members.
They will also announce that the union has held a vote of “no confidence” in Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell, though that vote occurred before Monday's activity and before groups that want to keep the monuments on display posted photos they said showed McConnell at the site Monday.
The timeline for removing the three remaining statues remains under wraps. Landrieu said Thursday they will be taken down without advance notice as long as city officials have security concerns about the process.
The Jefferson Davis statue is widely believed to be the next one on the city’s list, because it is believed to be easier to remove than those of Lee and Beauregard.
Opponents of taking down the statues have been holding nightly rallies at the Davis statue since Sunday.
On the other side, the group Take 'Em Down NOLA is scheduled to hold a second-line to “bury white supremacy” on Wednesday, marching from Congo Square to Lee Circle.
“It’s been a decades-long struggle for me, so I’m pretty satisfied right now,” organizer Malcolm Suber said. “But we’ve got a ways to go.”