At the end of their Tuesday, October 22 meeting, City Planning Commission voted unanimously to appoint Bob Rivers as the new Executive Director of the City Planning Commission. Bob Rivers is currently working as a lawyer in the City Attorney’s Office and was rumored as the front runner after the City Planning Commission fired former Director Yolanda Rodriguez on June 11. About a week after Ms Rodriguez was fired, City Planning Commission held a meeting to consider an interim or full-time Executive Director. City Planning Commission went into Executive Session and twice called Mr Rivers into the room.
City Planning did not make an interim or full-time appointment that day. Instead they launched into a 4-month process to do a national search for a new Executive Director. This “national search” resulted in the job being posted on the American Planning Association’s and American Institute of Architects’ websites for approximately a week before the job search was closed on July 22 (although most of those websites listed the job closing on July 19). The search did result in a few dozen qualified candidates both locally and nationally.
City Planning Commission’s Executive Director Search Committee met a number of times between June 11 and October 22. The committee met only to discuss the process. When it came time to interview the candidates, only a couple of committee members were in the interview, so it did not have to be done at an official committee meeting. Phone interviews were done at first, with 3 candidates shortlisted and brought to New Orleans for in-person interviews. Planning Commission approved spending up to $5,000 to bring those candidates to New Orleans interviews. After that, any discussion of the candidates was done in executive session to ensure that none of this information became public.
On October 22, the appointment of an Executive Director was on agenda for the City Planning Commission Operational Committee. The Planning Commission was in Executive Session for most of that meeting. When they came out of Executive Session a motion was made to defer the appointment of the new Executive Director. Commission Chair Kelly Brown stated that she was opposed to deferring the appoint. When the votes we cast, 5 were in favor of deferral and 3 were opposed (Commissioners Brown, Craig Mitchell, and I believe Joe Williams). Commission Lois Carlos-Lawrence was absent.
The Commission then went to the full City Planning Commission meeting that is held in City Council Chambers. Throughout the approximately 1.5 hour meeting, different commissioners at different times left the Council Chambers to go into the backroom. This is evident in the Commission votes through the meeting, as 5 of the 8 Commissioners at the meeting were absent for at least one vote during the course of the meeting. As the meeting was about to finish up, there was about a 10 minute recess.
About an hour and a half after voting to defer the appointment of a new Executive Director, the City Planning Commission had a change of heart. They voted unanimously to add the appointment of a new ED to the agenda. Commission Kyle Wedberg then made a motion to appoint Bob Rivers as the new Executive Director and to enter into negotiations with him, and it was seconded by Commissioner Nolan Marshall III. There was no discussion, and the motion was approved 8 to 0. Commissioner Carlos-Lawrence was absent. Video of this appointment is available at around the 1:22 mark. It is unclear at this time the results on the negotiation and when Bob Rivers will start as Executive Director.
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