Sunday, November 05, 2006

Inspector General Approved ...

The office of Inspector General was finally created by the New Orleans City Council, eleven years after the idea was endorsed by voters.

The Council voted 7-0 Thursday to create an inspector general's office to seek out waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency in the government of a city that is, according to the T-P, “long fabled for easy morals and flexible ethics.” The unanimous vote was intended to send the message that the city can be trusted to spend billions of dollars in federal aid to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

Debate goes on about who should hold the office - a New Orleans insider or an outsider - and what powers the office should have. Former DA Harry Connick said that creating an inspector general's office was like telling law enforcers that they're not doing their jobs. He said the council essentially was creating a prosecutor, a "predatory-type creature."

Concerns were raised, too, about the accountability of an inspector general. Under the measure, some records generated by the office could be withheld from the public.

The discussion raised the specter of race, as some residents accused the council of racism for pushing the measure during a black mayor's administration. Some worried an inspector general might indiscriminately launch investigations targeting blacks.

One resident, Pamela Steeg, said, "If there is a racial issue here, it's who suffers from corruption. It's the poor."

The council is made up of four black and three white members. Two of the measure's most ardent supporters, Arnold Fielkow and Shelley Midura, are white.

"I am no racist; this is not racially intended," Midura tearfully told the audience just before the vote. An AP article stated that “Midura opened the debate by invoking writings on unity by Martin Luther King Jr. and was heckled.”

The measure still needs approval from Mayor Ray Nagin. The office is expected to cost $400,000 a year.

Kenya Smith, director of intergovernmental affairs for Nagin, said: "Our hope is there will be enough money to get it off the ground, but it's a work in progress."


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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