Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Not just Mayfield

I know I sound like a broken record at this point. But I want to flag this month's Antigravity for what is, as far as I can tell, the first article written about this fiasco that really goes after the point.
While the conflict of interest between NOJO and the Library Foundation has particularly far-reaching implications, unfortunately Mayfield’s decisions were made within the context of increasingly common public-private funding structures, whose actions take place outside the public eye. Consider the Audubon Nature Institute. While public money funds the Audubon Commission, the Audubon Zoo and its associated parks, the Audubon Nature Institute is a private nonprofit which runs the Audubon Commission, and its financial records are not available to the public. Nonprofits are exempt from financial disclosure laws even if they run on public money. The Institute recently received scrutiny for attempting to enter an exclusive contract with the Sazerac Company, who would then be the only alcohol vendor permitted to sell in a new sports development intended for the Fly. The Sazerac Company is run by Paul Fine and Jeffrey Goldring, who are both on the board of the Audubon Nature Institute. The implications of this contract strengthened an already firm public stance against further developing this public green space. By the time The Advocate, NOLA.com, and WWL-TV had covered the backroom deal with the Sazerac Company, any remaining enthusiasm for the sports complex fizzled, and the project was derailed. However, public disclosure laws, which do not require board members to declare financial interests, remain unchanged.

The Audubon Nature Institute also uses public funds to pay the $500,000 plus salary of its Director, Ron Forman. Forman has been at the center of New Orleans business and politics for decades. In the past he headed the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District Board, and in 2006 ran for Mayor. Incidentally, he was also Chairman of NOJO’s board and on the board of the Library Foundation (along with his son, Dan Forman) when Hammer’s story broke last year. In a May 2016 WWL-TV interview, Forman emphasized the “complexity” of the issue, and insisted that any improperly spent money would be repaid, though he defended the use of library money for the Jazz Market. When he was asked about whether the board majority of he, his son, and Mayfield and Markham could have made some dubious decisions in handing over the reins to Mayfield, Forman became defensive and questioned the “values and ethics” of the accusation.
We want to point and shout at the one with the $1400 breakfast, but the problem is far more widespread and ingrained than that.

No comments: