Monday, February 18, 2008

Nagin's lamest excuse yet

A front page article of the latest City Business begins:
N.O. erects info barrier for citizens, City Council
Mayor’s public records request policy violates state open records law

City officials are violating state public records law with a policy requiring citizens to make all public records request in writing.

City Council members, residents and the media are regularly barred from public information on city activities or the turnaround time takes far longer than the prescribed three days.

The Public Records Act of Louisiana mandates city officials must turn over public documents, with few exceptions, within 72 hours. If city officials can’t comply in 72 hours, they need to respond in writing and explain why they can’t furnish the documents within the same time frame.

Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s office referred all questions to the New Orleans city attorney, who defends the protective public records policy.

“This has been an existing policy that can be verified as far back as 1994, when Avis Russell was appointed city attorney,” said City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields in an e-mailed statement.

I seem to recall something about a return to the politics of the past if we elected Nagin's opponent in the last election.

At any rate, New Orleans City Business says on its front page what the Picayune occasionally says in Saturday editorials, quoting Matt Mcbride:
McBride, through his work with the PRC, often reviews demolition contracts. The public records issue is one example of the city’s frequent withholding of public information, he said.

“What we’ve also found is they don’t follow requests for Housing Conservation District Review Committee agendas,” McBride said. “They routinely don’t send it. And a contract should not be hard to find, particularly if it’s for multimillion dollars.”

In a related note, I misstated my case in an earlier post. Editor b's friend (see the first comment) is correct that the Times Picayune has run editorial criticizing the mayor on weekdays. The hardest hitting ones that I could locate can be found here, here and here. Amazingly, the Picayune was able to editorialize about garbage collection contracts without mentioning secrecy or campaign contributions.

However, I should have written that the T/P's editorials about secrecy bordering on dishonesty have all been hidden on Saturday. Criticism of the mayor on individual issues is all well and good, but the mayor's utter contempt for the very transparency that he claims to "champion" is the background issue behind all the other issues. It's understandable that the editors of the Picayune are reluctant to question Nagin's integrity, but they only need to ask what he's hiding and let readers draw their conclusions.

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I have a number of requests in, the latest filed last week. They don't even bother responding.
So the City admits to a long standing policy of ignoring State Law.

Thats Great.
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