New Orleans Convention Center Authority orders vote on new $557 million contract


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Dive Brief During Thursday’s meeting, New Orleans Convention Center Authority officials commented on the selection of a contractor for the $557 million renovation project while Louisiana’s attorney general investigates a possible violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act. The Ernest in Morial Showroom Commission in New Orleans has voted for its contractor selection committee to reconsider its selection for a consortium led by Ecom Hunt and local developer Broadmoor. The attorney general’s office opened an investigation this week into a breach of the Open Sessions Act that allegedly occurred while selecting a contract bid. Insight Dive A letter from the Attorney General’s office alleged that the Open Sessions Act may have been violated when the committee heard oral presentations from three respondents and recorded them outside public opinion, due to the fact that the recording meeting was not publicized and the public did not have enough time to watch or comment on the the operation. The law was likely breached a second time when the committee debated the recommendations written via email and voted through DocuSign, once again outside the public eye, according to the attorney general’s office. The losing contractors, a group that includes Metro Services Group, The Lemoine Co and another made up of Woodward Design + Build, allege that the selection process showed bias through panel member Hilary Landry’s family ties to the selected bidder, according to NOLA.com. The bias complaint alleges that Landry voted inconsistently with fellow committee members to direct the award toward Broadmoor’s affiliate group. The project includes renovations to the Morial Convention Center, laying the foundation for more buildings, and creating a hotel that is physically connected to the convention center, according to the convention center’s website. The contract is one of the largest for a public body in New Orleans history, NOLA.com reports, and is part of a larger $1.5 billion project dedicated to the convention center and the surrounding area. The Louisiana Open Meetings Act provides that any meeting of any public body within the state of Louisiana must be public with an applicable public comment period. In addition, all sounds must be made oral, or oral, not written. The votes must also be placed in the minutes of a meeting or other official action, and then made available as a public document. NOLA.com reports that Michael Sherman, a land consultant for Metro Services Group and The Lemoine Co., which has not received the bid, is angry about a letter read to the committee in July. “What happened during the purchase is the most blatant and unreasonable violation of the Open Sessions Act I have ever seen,” he said. At a meeting on Thursday of the board of directors in charge of the conference center, the respective contracting union denounced the process or expressed its belief that the choice was solid during the public comment phase. The board’s legal counsel, David Phelps, said that his company conducted the investigation and found no indication of bias and that the committee complied with all relevant laws. However, Phelps recommended that the management group either meet again in an open meeting or vote to start the process with a new board. Some members expressed interest in sending the selection process to the country. The management group voted 7-4 to bring the selection committee back to deliberate on the decision at a plenary meeting as soon as possible and hopes to get a recommendation before it meets later this month.


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