Activists walked out of City Hall feeling vindicated on Monday morning after the Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to remove a police department audit from Novak Consulting’s task list.
Novak Consulting was hired in February to conduct a performance audit of all city operations, as reported in February. The city-wide audit was a key vow of Mayor John Tecklenburg’s campaign. But civil rights and social justice advocates have repeatedly painted the firm as too inexperienced to gauge the intricacies of racial bias.
On Monday, Tecklenburg clarified that he had Julia Novak’s blessing to take the police audit away from her firm’s list of responsibilities.
“I called Miss Novak and asked if she would be willing to modify our scope of work to not include the police review and she was agreeable to that,” Tecklenburg said. “She’s got plenty of work.”
A clause in Novak Consulting’s contract with the City of Charleston states that the city has “the unilateral right to modify any contract resulting from this solicitation.”
The committee also voted to submit a new request for proposal for a contractor specializing in police audits. Both votes must be ultimately approved by City Council, which meets on Tuesday.
“We can start from scratch for an RFP to do the work we wanted with a firm that can effectively do it,” said committee member James Lewis Jr.
The committee also agreed to not repeat a mistake that is arguably to blame for the back and forth between Novak Consulting, the city, and local residents: A committee of community leaders, activists, and at least four council members will be established to create and review a detailed scope of work within the new RFP.
“Imagine I contracted you to work at my house and I didn’t tell you what you’d be doing, and I didn’t find your credentials, and I just found you on Craigslist,” said Charleston Area Justice Ministry member Suzanne Hardie regarding the contracting process that enlisted Novak’s firm.
“This is where we wanted to be a year ago,” said CAJM member Arthur McFarland. “Tomorrow night will tell the story.”
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