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Judge rules in favor of N.O. council in records flap with Cantrell administration

“At the end of the day, it’s a ruling in our favor. But it shouldn’t have been this hard just to get public records,” said Council Member Helena Moreno.

NEW ORLEANS — The paper shuffling in a conference room at City Hall Wednesday afternoon was the behind-the-scenes work of a very public ongoing feud between City Council and the Mayor’s Office. 

The Selection Review Committee of four people unanimously chose DeLuca Advisory Services to oversee council’s Smart Cities investigation, the only law firm to submit a proposal for the job. 

Councilman Joe Giarrusso said hiring the outside firm will free up resources for other concerning city issues. 

“This is something we’re asking professionals to help us with. So this is not going away any time soon, but we’re going to let the professionals handle it,” said Giarrusso. 

The Smart Cities investigation is moving forward after Judge Sidney Cates ruled Wednesday that the Mayor’s Office can’t dodge a subpoena issued by Council early last month. 

The Council wants to know what the mayor’s staff knew about possible contract fixing in the defunct smart cities program. It’s subpoena, which was served May 10, asked for all documents, texts, emails, and contracts relating to the Smart Cities project and its vendors. 

The Mayor’s Office originally asked for an extension to May 31st, but then brought Council to court, saying the request was burdensome and the investigation was duplicative of a separate, but similar, investigation by the New Orleans Office of Inspector General. 

“You don’t ever want to be in litigation with the other side of the hall. But unfortunately that’s where we are right now. But at the end, I believe the truth always wins,” said Council President Helena Moreno. 

Last week, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Clifton Davis III, was granted a temporary restraining order against Council, as Council threatened to hold him in contempt for not fulfilling the subpoena request. 

That order expired Wednesday, when Judge Cates ruled that council is acting within its rights, and the Mayor’s Office should hand over the documents. 

“At the end of the day, it’s a ruling in our favor. But it shouldn’t have been this hard just to get public records,” said Moreno.

In response to the ruling, Gregory Joseph, Director of Communications at the Mayor’s Office wrote in a statement:

"Although Judge Sidney Cates’ ruling is regrettable, we respect the court's decision.”

"Our office will continue to fully cooperate with the Office of Inspector General’s inquiry and work with the City Council to satisfy their demands in a timely manner." 

Because the city has still not handed documents over, City Council plans to set forward a motion to hold David and Arthur Walton, Director of Intergovernmental Relations, in contempt.

All seven councilmembers co-authored the motion. They will ask the City Attorney to file those charges Thursday.  

RELATED: Clancy: 'Smart City' program doesn't look so smart anymore

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