BATISTE: New Location Quietly Picked For Beauregard Monument

The City Park board and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu are working out a deal to place the G. T. Beauregard Monument at Jackson Barracks.  An earlier plan to relocate the statue to Greenwood Cemetery fell apart.  Sources said the Greenwood plan was originally leaked back in July because the City Park board members who favored the Greenwood location anticipated Mitch backing out.  He supposedly bickered over the height of the pedestal.  Even Malcolm Suber of Take ‘Em Down NOLA was supportive of the relocation to Greenwood.

The narrative that Mitch Landrieu will try to spin is that this is a win because Jackson Barracks has ties to Beauregard, it’s on the border of St. Bernard Parish, it has a museum, it can place Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard in an “historical context.” The problem with the city and City Park steering the relocation to Jackson Barracks is that it proves their fault in the removal.

A new civil lawsuit was filed in November. This one by the Beauregard Monument Association, Beauregard Camp #130, and Paulette Stewart, the wife of monument champion Frank Stewart. The suit charges the City Park Improvement Association with a “breach of its fiduciary duty to both board members and members of city park.” The plaintiffs have standing and an historical argument; whether city of New Orleans judges will give it a rightful hearing is yet to be determined. Sources say the Beauregard Monument will not be moved until the legal issue is resolved. Put nothing past Mitch Landrieu though, he’ll probably time it up to his book release and claim he’s not playing politics.

The powers that be at City Park have known they own the Beauregard monument since Mitch first grandstanded in June of 2015.  Emails from City Park CEO Bob Becker in July 2015 showed Mayor Landrieu documents that City Park owns the monument. Rather than guarding a valuable historic part of City Park, Becker asked how he can help the Mayor get rid of it. City Park’s activity on Beauregard has included emails from CEO Bob Becker, Lt. Governors Jay Dardenne and Billy Nungesser, who oversee the CPIA, both addressed the park’s ownership, a Temporary Restraining Order was filed in court over it, and the City Park spokesperson spoke about the monument on the radio.

And the following is where the cover-up exists.  The City Park board’s minutes from June 2015 through June 2017 have one single mention about the Beauregard monument.  It came during the May 23, 2017 meeting.  Mitch Landrieu used New Orleans Fire Fighters, under the direction of NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell, to remove the 102 year old equestrian monument of P.G.T. Beauregard in the dark hours of May 17.

Records requests show that CPIA was invoiced by its legal counsel Kinney, Ellinghausen, Richard & DeShazo in March, April, May, and June of 2017.  The City Park board was billed by its attorneys for 319 hours involving the Beauregard monument in April and May.  According to records provided by the Kinney firm, City Park was billed $68,000 for legal dealings involving the Beauregard Monument.  Yet according to the official record of City Park, the controversial monument only found its way into discussion one time, during executive session, meaning hidden from the public, and it happened after the monument was removed.

City Park CEO Bob Becker and CPIA Board President Steven Pettus met with Mitch Landrieu on May 10th at City Hall and nothing has ever been disclosed about this meeting.

City Park owns the Beauregard Monument.  Mitch Landrieu stepped out of his jurisdiction to remove it.  City Park allowed it and City Park is covering up what it knew.  The case for the City Park Improvement Association’s gross neglect has been laid out previously and is thoroughly detailed. But the people behind the scenes have continued to lurk in the shadows.

The group running City Park has a history of murky operation.  They conceal information and offer little transparency.  For instance, in April of 2015, WWL-TV investigative reporter David Hammer cracked open the septic tank that is City Park management.

COO Rob DeViney used park contractors on two personal properties.  State policy forbids park employees from hiring park contractors for private work.

“I can tell you we investigated it, and he used extremely bad judgment at that time, but again, not a law, not an ethics law, but a policy violation, and we did take disciplinary action,” Becker said, although he refused to elaborate the punishment.  Bob Becker also refused to provide Hammer with the report that a contracted private investigator conducted on DeViney.

Meanwhile, DeViney’s employee Mike Mariani was forced to resign in 2013 for park using contractors on his home as well as park building materials.

DeViney paid more than $600,000 in taxpayer funds to an unlicensed contractor for the park.

And then the current hot issue, City Park paid an undisclosed sum to the former head of amusements in a sexual harassment case against Rob DeViney.

As a commissioner of a government entity, Steven Pettus approved a land purchase of a building owned by his business partner Dickie Brennan’s nonprofit NOCHI. Pettus worked out the real estate deal, the Morial Exhibition Hall Authority paying $12m for a building that NOCHI bought for $6.2m three years prior, during the monument debacle.

With people like this running a city asset, a park that equates to one and a half times the size of New York City’s Central Park, City Park’s management may be due for an overhaul.

As to the validity of Mitch’s reason for removing P. G. T. Beauregard, he has yet to prove anything supporting his allegations of racism against Louisiana’s most historically significant Creole.  In fact, Mitch’s Aspen Institute crony Walter Isaacson has taken the stance, only after the removals, that Beauregard should have remained. And sources  have now said Governor John Bel Edwards has agreed to this relocation.

Jackson Barracks is a safer location as long as Beauregard is taken out of Mitch’s hands.  But that move substantiates the claims that City Park neglected its duty and that Mitch Landrieu never had the right to remove G. T. Beauregard.

The Beauregard Statue’s future location will be determined by a mayor who did not have legal jurisdiction over it and the City Park Improvement Association that buried its head in the sand and let it be stolen.

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