$5 Million Lack of Transparency

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CENTRAL FIRST BLUEb largerIn Central’s elections of 2010 and 2014 the word “Transparency” became a required political stance for every candidate. Candidates promised to be “transparent”, which seemed to mean that everything they did as elected officials would be done in full public view at properly advertised public meetings. It looks to me that the promise of “transparency” was an election gimmick when it should be a lifestyle.
The proposed construction of a $5 million City Hall is a perfect example of what is caused by a lack of transparency. I’ll jump right to the punch line of this story and tell you that the citizens of Central have NEVER been given ANY opportunity to comment at a Council meeting on the design, size, and cost of this $5 million building, and the City Council did not authorize Mayor Shelton to sign the $381,000 contract with the architect.
So what went wrong and where should the public participation have happened?
In January of 2016 the Mayor and City Council selected Hoffpauir Studio as the architect for a proposed City Hall. In March of 2016 Mayor Shelton negotiated and signed a $124,447 contract with Hoffpauir Studio to design a $1.4 million City Hall. However, there was no public meeting held for the City Council to authorize Mayor Shelton to sign the contract, and consequently no citizen had an opportunity for public comment on the expenditure, and did not even KNOW their tax dollars had been spent.
Then, just a month ago on March 6th, 2018, Mayor Shelton signed an addendum to the contract, increasing Hoffpauir’s compensation to $381,694 to design a $5 million City Hall. Again, there was no public meeting for the City Council to authorize the signing of the contract, and no opportunity for any citizen to even KNOW that another $257,000 of their tax dollars had been spent.
So, when the Mayor and Council seem surprised that the citizens are experiencing sticker shock over a $5 million City Hall, this is why. The public has never been given notice that this is the plan the Mayor and Council have for City Hall, and there has never been an opportunity for public comment on the issue.
Is this a simple lack of transparency, or is this lack of Council authorization and lack of public notice a violation of the law? I’ll let you decide after reading this Louisiana Attorney General Opinion:
“Mayor of a Lawrason Act municipality may authorize an individual to perform services for the benefit of the city; however, he may not enter into a contract which legally obligates the city to pay for those services without the approval of the board of aldermen [City Council]. Op.Atty.Gen., No. 90-616, Dec. 20, 1990.”
If you are wondering how the idea of a $5 million City Hall snuck up on you and seems to be a done deal before ever being presented to the citizens of Central at a public meeting, this is why. Transparency matters. 
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