Saturday, November 23, 2013

What wicked webs we weave...

Friday, I received the portion of the transcript from the Wisner hearing which details the argument City Attorney Sharonda Williams made to Judge Zeno that the Mayor should be allowed to spend the City's portion of the Wisner funds without approval from the Wisner Trust Donation Advisory Committee.  Here 'tis:

Winser v CNO Court Transcript - Sept. 24, 2013 - City Attorney Sharonda Williams

As I stated before, the City's entire argument was predicated on the premise that the Mayor is not subject to the approval of the Advisory Committee in order to spend the funds because once the money is transferred into the city coffers it becomes a public issue.  That would mean the money is public and the legislative branch, City Council, then becomes the oversight body.

William's own words from the transcript:
"And when you look at the City Code that talks about establishment of the Advisory Committee, one of the portions of the Code is that; '...Direction and functions of the Advisory Committee are subject to the control and direction of the Council, which contemplates the normal checks and balances of any governmental entity, the Council and the executive branch.' That's the checks and balances"
"What if, just for hypothetical sake, what if the Mayor did decide to give grants to some entity, the Advisory Committee says, yes, we agree with the Mayor, we're going to give you our consent, but then the Council decides that they do not agree with that?  What would the Advisory Committee do then?  They just don't have a place in that process.  It's the traditional government model in a democracy.  It's checks and balanced, executive and legislative branch."
The Advisory Committee is here to give advice and consent that the Mayor may act on related to matters having to do with the Trust.  This is not a matter related to the Trust.  This is a matter related to civic city government."
Zeno goes on to ask her if City Council has the authority to amend the role of the Advisory Committee and Williams responds:
"They can.  They can amend it.  Of course they can.  That is part of their legislative ability."
So now...flash forward to the November 6th City Council meeting concerning the city budget.  Video here:

For some reason the video embed link only has 7 seconds.  You can find the video at the CC website here, scroll down to the November 6th City Council meeting.  The Wisner issues first start at about 28 minutes into the session with Head addressing Cedric Grant.  It picks back up at 57 minutes into the session...although you may want to skip over Jackie Clarkson cackling about how she doesn't think the Wisner funds should go through the Council because they never have before and this Mayor doesn't need to be scrutinized.  Then finally at 1:12, the conversation between Head and Erica Beck takes place.

Councilperson Head questions the Mayor's peeps about why the Wisner budget line item is "$0".  City Attorney and the Mayor's appointee to the Advisory Committee, Erica Beck, responds and tells Head the Council has no control over the Wisner funds.  She sat in the courtroom and listened to the argument made by her colleague, Williams, to Judge Zeno then she stood up in front of City Council and told them they have no dominion over the Wisner funds or how the Mayor spends the money.

The Mayor's office is either misleading the judge, misleading City Council...or it's misleading both.  I'm not going to go so far as to say Beck lied to Head...but she certainly dissembled in respect to the stance they took in court, particularly at 1:17 in the video when Beck claims that no one (in the Mayor's admin.) would envision a process where Council oversees the Wisner budget.  I guess no one but the city attorney arguing that point to the judge.

In fact, when Head asked Beck about a "check and balance system" (1:16 into the video), Beck retorted that she didn't know where Head was getting that language.  I know where that language comes from....from the goddamn case they, themselves, made to Judge's right there in the transcript in black and white.

As if this isn't schizo enough...Beck and the Mayor's office have now come back to the Advisory Committee seeking their approval to award the 2013 grants. read that correctly....after going to court and arguing that the Mayor didn't have to get the Advisory Committee's approval to spend the Wisner money, they are now coming back to the Advisory Committee and asking for approval.

Email from November 21, 2013 to all members of the Edward Wisner Trust Advisory Committee

Why would they do this?  I think for two reasons: 1. The mayor is desperate to spend this money in 2013 with his re-election campaign and a possible run for governor on the near horizon.  2.  They are freaking out because Head is actually threatening to exercise Counsel's right to oversight of the funds.  They would rather let the oversight occur with the Advisory Committee because they think they have that vote locked down....City Council, not so much.

The whole thing would be quite humorous if it wasn't hurting the legitimate entities who need the money.  The Mayor's own hubris and greed to take over the entire Wisner motherlode has lead to his inability to spend any of the money...all this done supposedly under the guise of "transparency".   Now they are forced to spin deceitful webs in a desperate attempt to undo the damage they've done to themselves and the City itself.  

And I know many people are interested in who the City is proposing to give the 2013 grants is that List:

2013 Proposed Wisner Grants for CNO

One thing I just noticed is that in the City Council meeting when Head is questioning Cary Grant about the $600k (approx.) in Wisner line items for Ceasfire and Nola For Life (28 minutes in the video), they state that they included this money in the general budget because it's appropriated to salaries (I think that was the reason, not 100% sure).  However, they are also listing Ceasefire ($100,180) and Nola for Life (under Greater New Orleans Foundation - $250,000) in the proposed 2013 grants.  



Anonymous said...

Another aspect you don't cover here is the Mayor is denying the Wisner heirs the significant income from the trust they have enjoyed in the past, as their ancestor intended. I believe his legal play to cut them out of the trust is part of this game.

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

No he's not. This is only pertaining to the money the trust generates for the City's portion, he has no control over the heirs' portion. Although that's his objective in the long take it all.

Calph said...

Oh cool, Wisner accepted our grant proposal. Now they just need to stop bickering long enough to disburse it.

Mind you, it's kind of sad that I hear about it first from an exposé looking into the political infighting of the fund. I can't imagine that this is what Edward Wisner had in mind for his estate.

Anonymous said...


You are right, it is sad and most definitely not what Mr. Wisner envisioned for his most generous donation.
What's unfortunate is that you have a Mayor trying to use Wisner as his own political slush fund while hurting the very deserving charities that align with his original intent.

Instead you have Mitch Landrieu, funneling funds to CeaseFire (or better known as the Urban League of New Orleans)and NOLA FOR LIFE. Both of which do not fall within the original intent of the Mr. Wisner's donation.

And I will give you one guess as to where the lions share of money is going.

Anonymous said...

The wisner trust fund sat on a wall,(100 years)
the wisner trust fund had a great fall.(enter mike sherman)
All the mayor's horses and all the mayor's men
Couldn't put the wisner trust fund back together again

Anonymous said...

city attorneys are the lowest realm of scumbag lawyers. they lie without remorse in court, in meetings, in their offices, in council chambers. i was in shock the first time i heard a fat lie like that to a judge who should have known better. now i just wonder how everybody just lets it go on. mitch is, IMO, a dirtbag too.