During his campaign, which he alluded to in his inauguration speech, Perkins spoke of more openness in city government. Then, a month later, with no consultation he served notice to the city’s two longtime insurance providers that he canned them.
That subsequently brought a flurry of public comments from representatives of the jilted companies, who will lose this business in the hundreds of millions of dollars in a few days, at the last City Council meeting. They pointed out that they had no chance to make offers, contrary to procedures that require a request for proposal when the city contracts in this fashion.
Perkins attended the meeting, and responded by alleging the new deal would save money and would broaden minority participation – echoing parts of his speech at the end of 2018 that perhaps went less noticed, that openness included greater involvement in city affairs of groups historically in the minority (even as racial minorities now comprise a majority of Shreveport’s population). He proclaimed that he “did my due diligence, unlike the previous administrations, to choose a reputable insurance agent of record.”
Maybe past administrations themselves had skipped the competitive bidding process, but that doesn’t exempt the Perkins Administration from doing the same. Worse, Perkins chose his words poorly in describing the agent who received the business on behalf of a New Orleans company, Roddrelle Sykes – a campaign donor of his who has a previous record of insurance violations that Perkins brushed off as paperwork errors.
With a half-million dollars at stake, one would hope the city would work through somebody not at risk of “paperwork errors” or worse. Yet most questionable about how Perkins handled the whole affair is he seemed to initiate prior to his even taking office, with a memo just prior to his assuming office sent to the outgoing providers announcing the new provider.
No answers have come forth about that memo, nor any additional details about the new contract and whether it does actually save money. If not, it would seem that Perkins would have sacrificed taxpayer dollars for political correctness.
To the winners go the spoils, so Perkins is perfectly free to steer policy in that directions. But the manner in which he did it certainly runs counter to his campaign rhetoric. He had no reason, as soon as he took office, not to send out an RFP and have the whole matter wrapped up in 60 days, in time for expiration of the old contract.
(Perkins also had a hand in another matter which prefers New Orleans over the local area, apparently brokering a deal between the Caddo Parish School District and the University of New Orleans to allow seamless admission to qualified students. Why the district, with or without Perkins’ intervention, hasn’t concluded the same yet with the city’s Louisiana State University Shreveport – my employer – is unknown, although an agreement facilitating teacher education is in place.)
In part, Perkins won last fall because he could make himself appear as many things to many people. But actual governing commits one to actions rather than reciting words, and murky dealings with ostracized characters that possibly put social engineering ahead of taxpayer interests probably isn’t what a number of his voters had in mind when they touched the screen for him.