[image-1]Members of the Charleston Public Safety Committee voted 4-1 Thurs. Nov. 2 in favor of deferring questions about the scope and administrators of an upcoming police audit.

The Council Chamber was jam-packed and evenly split between activists and city employees as the committee discussed whether or not to allow Ohio-based Novak Consulting Group to choose its own sub-contractor to audit the police department.

Novak Consulting president Julia Novak was left defending her contract with the city. She fielded calls by committee member James Lewis for a new request for proposal for a separate police audit using a more qualified firm.

“We thought Ms. Novak would do it,” Lewis said. “Apparently she didn’t have anyone to do it.”

The Charleston Area Justice Ministry, a faith-based social justice advocacy group, wrote a letter to committee chair Kathleen Wilson warning that Novak’s firm “threatens the integrity and credibility of the police audit for racial bias.”

“The community has been asked to trust a company with no relevant experience,” the letter reads. “Why should Charleston pay to be the training ground for Novak?”

Wilson maintained that no committee member was satisfied with the three sub-contractors that Novak previously brought forth. Still, she prefers that Novak continue to meet with city leaders and advocacy groups in order to best understand what the scope of the police audit will be.

“Our approach has been to ask opening questions to each group to allow them to share

their perspectives,” Novak responded when asked about her community outreach methods.

“I’m ready to go ahead and issue an RFP for this, but let’s see where we go,” Wilson later said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Tecklenburg defended Novak’s attempt to hire subcontractors to perform the police audit. The mayor clarified that the original request, which led to Novak’s hiring in February, called for a general review of all city organizations.

“The original RFP had included the ability to audit or review any department we asked for,” Tecklenburg said. “It included the police department too, it was there from the beginning.”

Questions about the specifics of the city’s contract with Novak were at the forefront. An audience member stressed that if the original contract allowed for Novak to choose her own subcontractors, not allowing her to do so could prove to be a potential breach of contract.

Outside, CAJM activists stood to talk for minutes after the meeting had ended. Some felt targeted by Mayor Tecklenburg’s insinuation that aggressive activist groups were turning away potential auditors and sub-contractors. Others expressed outrage at Committee member Marvin Wagner’s suggestion that waiting another 30 days before the next meeting wasn’t a big deal.

“We’re talking about people’s lives,” said one CAJM member. “To act like 30 days isn’t a big deal … clearly he doesn’t feel the urgency.”