[Editor's Note: Clancy DuBos is publisher of New Orleans' Gambit.]
We’re not supposed to rejoice at the suffering of others, but the federal indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin last Friday was nonetheless a cause for a celebration of sorts. Not because Nagin may suffer for his alleged crimes — though he should suffer if he’s convicted — but because now there will be a reckoning.
Now, finally, that clueless, narcissistic poseur will be called to account for some of his many sins against New Orleans.
Oh, happy day.
According to the 21-count indictment, Nagin took more than $200,000 in bribes from at least four city contractors to whom he steered recovery contracts after Hurricane Katrina. All four of them — Rodney Williams, Frank Fradella, Mark St. Pierre and Aaron Bennett — have already been convicted on various federal charges, some of them linked directly to Nagin’s indictment. He also allegedly got free private jet travel and limos (collectively worth more than $20,000) from Businessman A in exchange for favorable tax treatment by City Hall.
Friday’s indictment includes six counts of bribery, nine counts of deprivation of honest services through wire fraud, four counts of filing false tax returns, one count of conspiracy and one count of money laundering. He faces decades behind bars if convicted on all counts.
The indictment does not charge Nagin’s two sons, Jeremy and Jarin, but it obliquely refers to them as Family Members 1 and 2 — who allegedly got $10,000 in cash from Williams. Nagin foolishly declined a plea deal that reportedly would have let his sons walk, but they’re not out of the woods yet. They could still stand trial alongside their father if there’s a superseding indictment.
As horrible as all that sounds for Nagin, he will not be punished for his greatest crimes. For example, he will never pay for flying his entire family to Jamaica, first class, on St. Pierre’s dime, just 82 days after Katrina so that he could chill while thousands of his constituents struggled to get back to their flood-ravaged homes. In fact, he never even apologized for that now-infamous act of indifference. Clearly, the guy had a profoundly misplaced sense of entitlement as mayor.
He’ll also never be held accountable for completely bungling our city’s post-Katrina recovery, for setting us back years because he was more concerned about himself than his city. For hiring the equally narcissistic and bombastic Ed Blakely. For destroying — or allowing the destruction of — public records that were requested of his administration. For the post-Katrina New Orleans Affordable Homeownership scandal. Or for the corrupt crime camera debacle that his now-convicted IT chief, Greg Meffert, foisted on us with his partner-in-crime St. Pierre. Ironically, St. Pierre and Meffert may testify against Nagin at trial. There’s some justice in that.
None of this is pleasant. So why do I rejoice?
I rejoice because maybe, just maybe, the justice that Nagin now faces may help dry the tears shed by the thousands he let down so completely, whose trust he betrayed so unconscionably, whose futures he sold out so reprehensibly, whose needs he ignored so cavalierly.
I rejoice because, at long last, the grifter who cowed in the face of great challenge, who thought only of himself while the city and the people he swore to serve faced their darkest hour, will now be held to account.
I rejoice for the reckoning that I pray will come. But mostly I rejoice in the hope that Nagin’s demise will bring a healing, a closure, to our beloved city and its deeply wounded people.
Oh, happy day.
A VERY SPECIAL HAT TIP: Huge props are due local blogger Jason Berry, whose American Zombie investigative blog was the first to expose Nagin, Meffert, St. Pierre and others for many of the allegations now contained in the federal indictment of Nagin. Bloggers are too often disparaged for their free-wheeling commentary and not often enough given their due for their groundbreaking investigative work. Berry deserves the thanks and praise of all honest New Orleanians. Without him this day might never have come.
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OCT 24 You gotta love it when they start eating their young, right? In this post in Politico, BP mouthpiece Geoff Morrell denies that his company's oil spill "ruined the Gulf." Instead, he says, it was Bobby Jindal's decision to divert fresh water into the salt water environment that caused massive losses to shrimp and oyster industries. The evidence doesn't back up any claims that the spill caused that harm, he says. Nothing to see here, move along.
OCT 24 The former mayor of Sorrento was arrested on dozens of child pornography charges, a post on The Creole reports here. Wilson Longanecker Jr. was arrested in his Ascension Parish mansion, the blog reports.
OCT 24 As Bobby Jindal's tenure as governor winds down, blogger Tom Aswell tells us to expect to see more and more of his appointees jumping ship. Some might get shown the door (or the federal indictment, as the case may be) and others are just going to want to avoid standing in "the inevitable unemployment line," he says.
OCT 24 Jim Brown is blogging about elections in this post. There's no one more recognizable when it comes to elections than he is, and yet he still had to show his ID, you know. He gives some easy-to-remember advice on the Amendments: vote against them all. This stuff needs to be handled by legislators, not added to the Constitution, he says.
OCT 24 Bobby Jindal's recent "magical" budget touch - you know, the one that turned a $140 million deficit into a $170 million surplus - is just imaginary, columnist James Gill tells us in this post. It's about as real as that story he tells about the "gold standard" of ethics, Gill says.
OCT 24 George Carter III, a teenage member of the group Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, died this week, the Picayune reports here. Educators who knew him called him a "visionary." He certainly had some highly-developed ideas for his age, but despite his ability to provide positive ideas for helping kids in the city, in the end he wasn't able to escape NOLA's problems, either.
OCT 24 John Dickerson posts this slice-of-campaign-life look at Mary Landrieu on the trail in Louisiana. Republicans are playing to a runoff, he opines, meaning our state will become "a zoo" if it turns out this race will decide control of the Senate.
OCT 24 Bike lanes have been quite the topic of convo over in NOLA recently, what with streetspace, already at a premium downtown, being sacrified for them. In this post on the Uptown Messenger blog, Owen Courreges opines that the lanes are not really being constructed for people who ride bikes, but instead because developers seeking to make money downtown feel they are needed. He's also predicting that they will increase already nightmarish levels of traffic to new heights. Nah -- that couldn't happen!
OCT 23 Blogger Tom Aswell posts the photo that started making the rounds of the Facebook this week; it shows our governor and his lovely bride, all bright and smiley and holding big guns. The Jindals look a little posed, down to their carefully and properly placed index fingers. They're both grinning wide, displaying how comfortable they are with weaponry. Whee!
OCT 23 This fascinating post on The Lens opens the discussion of New Orleans as subject. C. W. Cannon talks about the concept of dual consciousness and how New Orleanians, especially, have experienced this condition post-Katrina. Cannon attended a recent conference about the issue at Tulane, where the discussion focused on how the romanticization of the city by outsiders masks real social problems.
OCT 23 Bayou Buzz is taking Gov. Bobby Jindal and the GOP to task here for the Ebola shrieking. The so-called "travel ban" makes no sense, and these politicians should have done their homework before coming up with this stunt, Stephen Sabludowsky writes.
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