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Loupassi Begs Mayor: Let Harrell Attend Meetings

"I talked to a number of people about it — I think it's important — and to a man, they can't understand why you can't have the chief executive come to the board meetings," Loupassi says. "Part of the problem is it creates a lack of communication."

Wilder says he's "perplexed" by the notion that his office doesn't communicate. He talks with council members all the time, he says, and adds that Harrell recommended creating a new City Council liaison, Patrick Roberts, an experienced senior chief administrative officer. It was Harrell's decision not to attend the meetings, he says.

"I followed Mr. Harrell's recommendation," Wilder says.

But Loupassi says Roberts often lacks the information council needs to make informed decisions, "which makes it counterproductive."

The mayor maintains that "his office is open to anybody all the time," and that his office always responds to requests for information.

Other council members have complained of the communication lapse and say it goes beyond Harrell attending meetings. It often takes weeks, even months, for the city administration to respond to simple requests for information, council members say. For most of the summer, says Councilwoman Kathy Graziano, the finance committee was forced to conduct meetings without copies of the 2005-2006 budget.

Another example: Council was asked to approve an ordinance introduced by the mayor July 25 for $20 million in bonds to purchase and renovate Marshall Plaza, which houses the city's social services and health departments. Council deferred a vote because the proposal was short on details, Councilman Bill Pantele says. (At council's request, the administration subsequently scaled back the proposal to $12 million.)

All this has frustrated Loupassi, who says he simply can't understand why the mayor is handicapping City Council.

"I am the president of the council," Loupassi says. "I'm just trying to put us in the position to make good decisions." — Scott Bass and Melissa Scott Sinclair

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