Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hedge-Morrell, Johnson again absent from City Council meeting

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Once again, no quorum today, as only four members, one short of quorum, were present in City Council Chambers for what was supposed to be the May 17 regular meeting.

However... "We can't conduct any of the city's business," said Clerk of Council Peggy Lewis following today's predictable roll call (Cynthia Hedge-Morrell: Absent, Jon Johnson: Absent).

What followed was basically more of the same. Instead of the 42-page agenda, which included a number of items from the unfinished May 3 regular meeting, we got a few presentations: a wrap-up of Navy Week, a proclamation honoring Unity GNO on the occasion of its 20th anniversary and lots of righteous indignation from the four Council members who decided to come to work. That last non-agenda item largely centered around City Council's continued inability to confirm the interim appointment of Errol George to the District B Council seat, which has been vacant since Stacy Head was sworn as an at-large Council member on May 2.

(More after the jump)

Hedge-Morrell and Johnson have not attended a single meeting since May 3, when they walked out mid-meeting.

That happened after Council members decided to defer on an ordinance, co-sponsored by Johnson and Hedge-Morrell, putting a proposed charter amendment — which would split Council's at-large elections into two distinct "A" and "B" slots — onto the Nov. 6 ballot.

At first, their absence appeared to be about that bill. But it's become more and more clear that it's really about George, Council members said today.

"We have agreed to acquiesce on the Council At-Large A/B ordinance," Head said.

"They did walk out over this appointment," said Clarkson. "It wasn't over A/B, I was told. It was over this appointment."

If City Council is unable to confirm a District B representative by June 1, Mayor Mitch Landrieu will be able to appoint anyone he wants to the seat. City Council's next scheduled regular meeting is on June 7, and according to Head spokeswoman Danielle Viguerie, a pre-June-1 special meeting is yet to be called. (Clarkson, who as Council president would actually be responsible for calling the meeting, has not responded to a request for comment.)

Even if one were called, Johnson and Hedge-Morrell skipped a May 16 special meeting. So a Landrieu appointment appears to be likely.

If if comes to that, District C Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer said, "I would ask the mayor publicly to respect the majority will of this council and to respect the balance of powers," by appointing George and not someone of his own choosing. The other three present Council members reiterated this request.

Ahem...

Landrieu's office hasn't returned multiple requests for comment on the continued boycott or the District B appointment.

Update (2:35 p.m.): We've received the following emailed statement from mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni (Note the ambiguity, "an experienced and qualified person"):

"Should the responsibility of appointing an interim councilmember fall to the Mayor per the City Charter, Mayor Landrieu will appoint an experienced and qualified person to represent the citizens of District B."

Update 2 (3:15 p.m.): The Lens' Karen Gadbois says word around City Hall is the mayor has his own candidate in mind. Click to find out who it is.

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