Members of the City Council expressed their reservation in approving the mayor’s reappointment of Erik Lowe, the Municipal Utilities Authority chairman, during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
Council members wanted to see a report on the chairman’s trip to India with Jeffery Jones, the city’s mayor, before they pass a resolution confirming the mayor’s appointment. “We want a report on India trip before we approve,” said Andre Sayegh, the council president and 6th Ward councilman, who is running for mayor in the upcoming May election.
“It looks like a couple of my colleagues are not going to support his re-appointment,” said Sayegh during a phone interview on Wednesday evening. “It’s only fair. We would like to see what some of the outcomes were as a part of this venture to India.”
“I’m still waiting on a report from the trip to India, and I’m still waiting on other stuff I haven’t gotten,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. William McKoy, the 3rd Ward councilman, also wanted a trip report. “We’re waiting for a report. The MUA report to India,” said McKoy.
Lowe said he did not hear anything from any council member. “I have yet to hear from either of them,” said Lowe, referring to Sayegh and McKoy. Lowe, whose term expired on January 31st, 2014, said he was appointed by Jose Torres, the city’s former mayor, five years ago. The chairman is appointed by the mayor for a five year term, according to the city’s law code.
Last summer the agency voted to approve $4,156 for plane tickets for a controversial trip to India for the mayor and the chairman to court possible foreign investment into the city.
“If we don’t approve it, it doesn’t happen,” said Morris, who pointed out that it’s unfair for an outgoing administration to make appointments just months before leaving office. Morris thought it strange that prior to leaving, the mayor gets to install his people in long term positions.
“I have not been made aware of that until now,” said Erik Lowe, who stated he would not be able to comment on anything until council officials reached out to him. Lowe did not indicate whether he would compile a report to present to the council. “I just got back from burying my mother, so none of this is priority to me,” said Lowe.
McKoy said more scrutiny on the mayor’s appointments would do the council much good. “I think we should exercise judicial review,” said McKoy.
“They’re doing this for political reasons,” said Jones, who said trips like these are necessary to sow business relationships that might come into fruition at a later time. Jones said a small number of council members are impeding Lowe’s re-appointment out of personal and political considerations. “They’re doing more damage to the city than they are doing to me,” said Jones.
Updated: 9:36 a.m. on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 with comments from the mayor.