The New Orleans City Council had one of its largest recent blow-ups last week, with council members sniping at each other and casting recriminations over a pair of ordinances dealing with the offices of the city's inspector general and independent police monitor.
But when all was said and done, the arguing, at least on the surface, seemed to be over a few technical details of the ordinances, which largely just codified the split between the two offices that was approved by voters last year.
In the end, the two ordinances, sponsored by Councilman Jared Brossett, passed 5-2, with Councilwomen Stacy Head and Susan Guidry voting against them.
Guidry had been working on her own ordinance that was expected to be introduced at the next council meeting.
“There is something else going on here, and I don’t know what it is, but I’d like to know what it is,” Head said. “Why are you trying to kick Susan like this?”
There was an uncomfortable racial tinge to the fight, as Head and Guidry are the only two white members of the council.
The arguing concerned relatively arcane claims about which side was violating City Council procedures and who had been cut out of the decision-making process. There was little actual discussion of the merits of the various ordinances.
Guidry said she’s been working for months on an ordinance that would make the city code match the change to the City Charter that formally splits the police monitor's and inspector general's offices. Brossett had also been working on a similar pair of ordinances — Guidry said she helped in the early stages — and got them onto the agenda first.
“Without telling me about it, without showing it to me, without any input from Councilmember Head or I," Guidry said, Brossett "dropped off a finished ordinance on my desk after he had found out I sent one to" the legal staff for review.
Brossett’s ordinances did not go through the council’s committee structure, the way such measures normally are vetted before being brought to the full council. As a result Head — the council president — asked Brossett to defer his measure so it could be scheduled for a committee meeting. She said she believed Brossett had signed off on that idea, something he denied.
Head then said she was deferring the ordinance using her power as council president. But Brossett overrode that move along with the four other council members who would eventually approve the ordinance.
“This is an active criticism of my role as president,” Head said. “It’s a rejection.”
Guidry and Head both said they were not prepared for a debate on the measure and the public had not been alerted to attend the meeting to voice their opinions, but those who sided with Brossett said they had been expecting the issue to come up for a vote Thursday.
“Today is a council meeting, which allows public comment,” Brossett said. “The people spoke at the polls about these ordinances.”
“That wasn’t about these ordinances” specifically, Guidry countered.
Both sides accused the other of violating the normal council procedures, and both claims seemed to have some merit.
Some council members said they did not understand why the issue should cause so much of a fight.
“Obviously, there are personal reasons why this has gone on this length of time this morning and there’s so much consternation and tears and shouting. Personally, I don’t care to know what it is,” Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey said.
Both the City Attorney’s Office and Dane Ciolino, the lawyer representing the Ethics Review Board, which oversees the work of both the inspector general and the independent police monitor, said they were fine with Brossett’s ordinance and that any needed changes could be hashed out later.
Beyond some differences in exactly how the ordinances were structured — something of interest mainly to officials and lawyers reading through the city code — the only major difference Guidry pointed to between the two proposals was a last-minute amendment to Brossett's ordinance changing the hiring process for the independent police monitor. Under the version that passed, the Ethics Review Board would have full control of the process, rather than taking input from a committee that would have members from outside the board.
This was not the first time Guidry and Brossett have clashed over which of their ordinances would make it into law. Last year, as Guidry was preparing an ordinance that would eliminate the need for arrested people to pay bail when accused of nonviolent municipal offenses, Brossett attempted to push through a similar measure he authored.
Guidry’s version of the bail ordinance ended up being adopted by the council.
Brossett has said he is "seriously considering" running for the at-large council seat that Head must give up next year because of term limits. Guidry had been expected to run for the same seat but recently announced she will retire from the council after two terms.
Quatrevaux starts public relations campaign
The same week the City Council fought over the ordinances governing his office, and in the midst of a fight to keep his job, Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux launched a public relations campaign this week.
Quatrevaux’s office has launched a campaign touting the agency’s accomplishments that includes TV spots, internet videos and ads in bus shelters.
The campaign, which Quatrevaux said was paid for with private dollars, comes as the Ethics Review Board is conducting a nationwide search to determine who will be the inspector general for the next term.
Paula Pendarvis, spokeswoman for Quatrevaux, said the ad campaign had been planned for more than a year and was unrelated to the Ethics Review Board's decision to being that search.
Quatrevaux has said he wants to keep his job. The ad campaign fits into a public relations campaign that has surrounded that effort.
The video features a woman touting the office and its work. “They work for us, and they’ve saved our city millions of dollars,” she concludes.
The bus shelter ads are simpler, with the Office of Inspector General’s logo, the words “Preventing fraud and waste in city government” and information on how to report wrongdoing.
Compiled by staff writer Jeff Adelson
Editor's note: This story was updated on March 13, 2017 clarify the timing of the Office of Inspector General's ad campaign and to add comments from the office.