Louisiana’s law on open meetings stipulates that meetings by a public body in the state must be in public and within a period that lets the people voice out their comments. All votes must casted viva voce or orally rather than written. Additionally, votes must be recorded in the meeting minutes or another official procedure and made available to the community.
Unfortunately, a letter from the attorney general’s office in New Orleans emphasized that there might have been a violation of the abovementioned law during the open meetings for the $557M convention center contract.
The said project comprises renovations of the Morial Convention Center. It seeks to lay the foundation for more buildings and construct a hotel connected to the convention center. The contract is among the largest for a public body in New Orleans’ history.
Allegedly the deciding panel heard oral presentations from 3 respondents without the public’s scrutiny. The scoring meeting was unannounced, and the people did not have ample time to comment or watch the selection process.
Moreover, there was a possible violation of the law for the second time when the panel deliberated written recommendations via email and voted through DocuSign, again without the public’s participation.
Furthermore, the losing contractors Woodward Design + Build and Metro Services Group and The Lemoine Co. pinpointed that the selection was biased because one of the panels, Hilary Landry, had familial connections to the winning bid.
In the recent board meeting of the convention center authority, some of the contractors involved expressed their belief that the selection was solid. Still, those complained that the process was biased. The board’s legal counsel, David Phelps, said that they investigated the case and found no sign of bias and that the panel complied with all relevant laws.
However, Phelps recommended that the management start the voting process with a new panel or have the last committee meet again in a meeting open to the public.
Several members agreed to send the selection process to the state. Meanwhile, the management group voted 7-4 in sending the selection panel back to decide again in a public meeting as soon as possible. Everyone hopes to have a recommendation before the meeting later this month.