Petition effort aims to force city to make good on unpaid judgments

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "So somebody mentioned to be that they were filing a suit against the city and I said, 'Why would you do that? The city doesn't pay it's judgments,'" says Mikey Bowler.

Bowler, with NOLAinitiative.org, says he felt compelled to do something about the city's unpaid judgments.

The group is launching a signature petition effort to amend the parish charter and dedicate funding to force the city to take care of any unpaid judgments. Bowler, though, will need to get 10,000 signatures.

"It's never been done. The first time it's ever been attempted is when the monument group wanted to put the monuments back up," says Bowler.

He believes his petition, though, will bring about change. He says his office has already identified over $60 million owed by the city. Bowler wants to start an office of insurance and claims management.

"We intend to have the council appoint a claims manager and fund an account that will pay future claims and insurance," says Bowler.

He says 25 percent of the city's sales tax revenue or about $46 million would go toward the claims fund.

"Which is currently going to the general fund. It's not dedicated money. It would remove the parish's ability to dedicate that money independently, but we're not dealing with a large amount," says Bowler.

He says it works out to less than 5 percent of the city's annual budget, but he also admits it could be a tough couple of years for New Orleans.

"I think what will have to happens the city is going to have to get out of developing property and doing things that spends government money and prioritize it differently," says Bowler.

Bowler says he'll start collecting signatures on Dec. 5 and he hopes to have 10,000 signatures by April 2018.

The city says outstanding liabilities and legacy debt have burdened the city's budget for decades, but instead of continuing to kick the can down the road, the Landrieu Administration did the hard thing and made this a priority. The city went on to say:

"In partnership with the City Council, the city has already resolved some of its long-term federal liabilities and old judgments. The city issued bonds in 2016 and 2017 totaling $20 million to satisfy legal judgments and pay legal liabilities. Additionally, beginning in 2019, the city will create a $2 million fund to continue paying off these judgments that dates back over 20 years."