City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields told the New Orleans City Council today that the citys inspector general was premature in condemning a proposed agreement on the Municipal Auditorium. In question was a letter sent by the Office of Inspector General to the council, urging them to oppose a contract between the city and developer Stewart Juneau for consulting work on the renovation and redevelopment of the auditorium.
Moses-Fields said her office has yet to approve any contract with Juneau, and that negotiations were ongoing.
At this point today, there is no executed contract, Moses-Fields said.
Controversy has surrounded what should be done with the auditorium since Mayor Nagin announced in early November that Juneaus firm, Le Triomphe Property Group, in collaboration with trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, had been selected to turn the shuttered building into a musical performance and entertainment production complex at an estimated cost of $80 million. Almost immediately, inspector general Ed Quatrevaux questioned the mayors process for awarding the contract, and said the contract showed signs of favoritism on Nagins part. Later, all construction components and the leasing of the auditorium were removed from the proposal, and it is now mostly a project management contract, according to assistant city attorney Fred Wild.
Councilwoman Stacy Head made the comment during the hearing that the lease section of the proposal was removed so that the mayor wouldnt need council approval on the deal. Up until February 2009 when Nagin suspended them, the city used selection review panels to evaluate professional services contracts. Moses-Fields said the proposal is now a professional services contract.
Bill Chrisman, director of capital projects, said the contract that Quatrevaux was responding to was only a draft that Chrisman had put on the citys electronic contract routing system (ECRS).
It was never meant for public view, Chrisman told the council. It was a working document. Chrisman admitted Juneaus signature was on that contract, but he said that was only to show Juneaus approval on the outline of the proposal. Moses-Fields said when Chrisman first put the proposal into the ECRS, her office had yet to review it.
Following the meeting, Quatrevaux said he thought there had been a healthy discussion, but that it also showed the need for reinstituting the selection panels for professional service contracts.
As for Chrisman saying the proposal was a working document when he inputted it into ECRS and not meant for public view, Janet Werkman, head of the OIGs inspection and evaluation department, disagreed with the directors comment.
It was in the system to begin the process of approval, and, obviously, thats a public record, Werkman said.