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Will Cantrell try to squeeze in new police chief without city council approval?

If she appoints someone before the end of the year, that choice wouldn't need city council approval, but after that, it would after the voters had their say.

NEW ORLEANS — Now that the city has announced a Dec. 22 departure date for outgoing NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson, attention is turning to who will replace him and when that appointment will be announced. 

With Deputy Chief of Management Services Jonette Williams being widely discussed as Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s choice as the next chief, the timing of that announcement is critical. 

Any appointment after Jan. 1 would mean that the City Council would get input through a confirmation hearing and approval vote, thanks to a charter change approved overwhelmingly by the voters in November. 

But with Ferguson leaving before then, potential controversy is brewing if Cantrell decides to bypass the council’s input by installing her choice at the same time of Ferguson’s departure.

“The way the process should unfold is the way that the voters have decided that it should unfold,” said Capt. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans. “The electorate has decided they want their next superintendent to be appointed by the mayor but vetted by the City Council.”

Glasser says officers are concerned that Williams – or whomever the mayor selects – won’t be subject to questioning about plans to move the department forward amid rising crime, depleted troops and low public confidence.

“I think they're disappointed to learn that the mayor is going to try to circumvent the will of the people on that by trying to appoint someone in advance of that deadline,” Glasser said.

Even District D Councilman Eugene Green, one of Cantrell’s staunchest allies on the council, says the council should be involved.

“The charter vote was kind of overwhelming to involve council in the decision-making process relative to directors,” Green said. “It was a sixty percent vote. So voters certainly knew what they were voting on and they decided they wanted to have more council input.”

Green is taking that position even though he voted against the charter change twice: when it first passed and again when the council voted 5-2 to override the mayor's veto. In Green's mind, the people have spoken.

“What I don't want to see is kind of a bullying appointment saying, here you go, we did it anyway without communication with the council,” Green said.  

Green and other council members say they have not yet heard from City Hall about Cantrell’s plans.

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