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Friday, May 18, 2012

Update: Hedge-Morrell, Johnson met with mayor before boycotting Wednesday and Thursday meetings

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 10:35 AM

According to Cynthia Hedge-Morrell's personal calendar, which was obtained by Gambit through a public records request, she and fellow absentee Council member Jon Johnson were scheduled to meet with Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Tuesday May 15, the day before City Council was scheduled to meet to wrap up its unfinished May 3 agenda.

Lena Stewart, Hedge-Morrell's chief of staff, confirmed that the meeting with Landrieu did, indeed, take place as scheduled. However, she added, she could comment on what was discussed as she was not present for the meeting and neither Council member discussed it with her.

Among the items leftover from May 3 — and subsequently placed on the May 16 and May 17 agendas — was the confirmation of Errol George as an interim appointment to the now-vacant District B seat. Neither Hedge-Morrell nor Johnson attended that meeting. They were again absent from a May 17 regular Council meeting.

City Council has until June 1 — 30 days after former District B Councilwoman Stacy Head was sworn in as an at-large Council member — to fill the District B seat. After that, Landrieu can make the appointment. The next full Council meeting isn't scheduled until June 7, six days after the cutoff.

Meanwhile, the Lens' Karen Gadbois reports a rumor that Landrieu hopes to appoint former state Rep. Diana Bajoie to the seat.

Landrieu's office has not responded to repeated requests for comment on whether the George appointment or the ongoing boycott was discussed at the Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Update (12:30 p.m.): Mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni this afternoon acknowledged that the meeting took place.

"They did meet, as it is customary for Mayor Landrieu to meet with councilmembers. The Mayor has met with other councilmembers in recent weeks and has spoken to Mr. George recently as well," Berni wrote in an email.

Update 2 (12:45 p.m.): Berni called to follow-up, saying that Landrieu, Hedge-Morrell and Johnson discussed city business at the meeting.

Though Berni said he wasn't there and couldn't speak to the specifics of the discussion, he added, "Certainly the issue of the current council situation came up.”

Asked whether Landrieu was encouraging Johnson and Hedge-Morrell to skip Council meetings as a way to appoint another choice to the District B seat, Berni said, “It would be ridiculous to suggest that he was encouraging anything.”

Berni said that should the appointment fall to the mayor's office, Landrieu will consult with Council members and the community before making a decision.

"He will receive feedback," he said.

Hedge-Morrell also met with Head on May 15, the calendar shows and Head's office confirmed in an emailed statement to Gambit.

“After nearly two weeks of reaching out to Councilmember Hedge-Morrell through intermediaries as well as electronically, I met with her in person the day before the May 15 special meeting to allay any concerns that would keep her from attending the meeting. We had a productive conversation and I believed it likely that she would return to the Council so that we could take care of pressing city business. Later that evening, through text message, I expressed my gratitude to her for meeting with me and reiterated how much I wanted her to attend the special meeting ... It was my hope that these efforts would welcome her back to the Council so that we can take care of our constituents. Unfortunately, it was all in vain.”

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