City Council is fighting itself.
Just try and wrap your mind around what happened at yesterday's budget meeting.
It's on video.
It's in the T-P.
So here's what happened. Councilwoman Stacy Head caught Sanitation Department Director Veronica White in a direct lie. Let me construct a chronology for you.
1. Stacy Head spends over a year trying to get Veronica White to provide a list of addresses from which the city collects garbage. From the T-P:
Council President Jackie Clarkson backed up that White had previously testified that the information wasn't available, as did minutes from a previous council meeting. But at Tuesday's hearing, White told the council that she receives monthly updates of how many addresses are served according to the terms of the collection contracts. White said the number is currently 106,500.
So clearly, Veronica White had been improperly withholding this information and was lying about the availability of the numbers, which would go a long way toward determining whether or not we're getting overcharged by our trash contractors.
2. Stacy Head calls Veronica White out. From the T-P:
Head was furious, saying that was the precise information the council had been asking White to provide for months.
"I have asked you for this no less than five times ..." Head said.
"You never asked me for this," White broke in.
Never? What about the times Ms. White testified that the information wasn't available? What about the times confirmed by Council minutes and even by the usually forgetful Jackie Clarkson?
3. Veronica White yells at Stacy Head and belligerently storms out of the room:
"You are not telling the truth, Ms. White," Head said.
"You have a selective understanding and your motive is to paint a picture that everyone in this department is thieves and crooks when you are the one," White said.
As White stormed out, Council President Jackie Clarkson told Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield "this department head is out of order," to which White shouted from the doorway, "The council member's out of order."
So then what happened?
You would think that Stacy Head's colleagues on Council would berate Dr. Brenda Hatfield for allowing such insubordination from her executive employees or demand Dr. Hatfield instruct the Sanitation Dept. to get their books in order. Something to that effect, right?
4. Councilmembers admonish Stacy Head for her questions. From the T-P:
Willard-Lewis said it was a "sad day," saying Head instigated the conflict with "interrogation-style" questioning and should apologize to White. That prompted Head to say: "I'd like you every now and then to look at the facts and back up your colleagues when they're lied to."
When Hedge-Morrell interrupted Head, Head fired back.
"I understand you see it as an obligation to defend these contracts," Head said to Hedge-Morrell, who later said she was only trying, as the chairwoman, to diffuse the situation.
During a short break, Hedge-Morrell directed White to stay away from council chambers but asked Hatfield to return. When she did, Hatfield gave a tepid apology along with a request for more respect from Head.
With respect, Councilwoman Hedge-Morrell seems like she was indeed just trying to instigate calm but Councilwoman Willard-Lewis' assertion that it was Head who owed an apology to White. . . that Councilwoman Willard-Lewis would side with the demonstrably lying sanitation chief. . . it's indefensible.
It is known city-wide that these sanitation contracts are dirty and that the Dept. of Sanitation has been playing games with us. Everyone knows. Why then, is it so inappropriate for Stacy Head to put Veronica White through the paces a little bit?
Oh wait. It is believable. This is Cynthia Willard-Lewis.
Now I remember where Cynthia Willard-Lewis' loyalties lie.
She counts contractors Richard's Disposal and Metro Disposal as amongst her top campaign contributors.
This is our City Council:
They can all agree that the Nagin administration is doing a horrible job and that something must be done about it.
But when it comes time to actually get answers from the Nagin administration about something as obviously unsatisfactory and improper as our sanitation contracts, there's paralysis.