CORRECTION: In the following post I originally said Brooks-Simms son-in-law was a partner in A.M.E....he was not a partner, he was an employee....my bad.
The recent indictment of Ellenese Brooks-Simms was a big victory in the fight against corruption in New Orleans. Nailing Ellenese is one thing, but the fact that she's bringing Mose Jefferson down with her is a much bigger deal than her own demise. Mose is a cornerstone of so much corruption in this city...he's grafted so much public money for so long, he had practically institutionalized the theft of public funds.
But this post isn't about Mose...it's about Ellenese. I happen to know Ellenese and I am very familiar with her tenure as a school board member. I've been reading her tar and feathering in our local media outlets with great interest. She's an easy target...she "stole from children"...truly despicable. She will no doubt become the pariah poster child for what was the worst and most corrupt school system in the country (pre-Katrina). I can personally attest that she epitomized the "corrupt New Orleans politician" and there are a multitude of transgressions on the diabolical side of her resume which will never be brought to light.
So to the scorned public, I say throw your metaphorical stones and drag her through the streets of shame...this city needs to see there are consequences for such actions...even if they are rarely brought to bare.
But after the castigation has run it's course, I hope we have the wisdom to listen to her and her account of why she did what she did and the circumstances which led her down the path she took. I say this because she wasn't forging any new routes...the road signs were clearly marked and the road map on how to get rich on the "public highway" was already drawn before Ellenese ever sat on the New Orleans Public School Board...she was simply "playing the game...brah" as Muppet so guilefully described it to Garland Robinette.
I can assure you, in her mind, she had justified everything she was doing....she undoubtedly felt she "deserved" the money being kicked back to her by the peeps she was setting up.
Ironically, in the case of the JRL bribe, the repercussions weren't detrimental to the children in the school system...the software actually proved to be a positive influence for the kids. I'm sure that in her mind...the 100k she fleeced was well deserved because the end ultimately justified the means.
But this wasn't always the case...specifically in the case of A.M.E. janitorial services. Ellenese helped push A.M.E. (A Minority Enterprise...no shit...that's what it stands for), a private contractor, into filling the role of cleaning the schools as opposed to union-protected, NOPS-employed janitors. When her efforts to completely replace the janitors with A.M.E. failed, she managed to get A.M.E. the contract to "supervise" the existing janitors. While it would have been a challenge for A.M.E. to outright fire janitors, they began to systematically "downsize" the NOPS janitorial staff by not replacing exiting janitors from resignations and retirements....while Ellenese would continually vote for increases in A.M.E.'s budget. The schools were filthy and getting increasingly filthier, while A.M.E. was continuing to downsize the number of janitors on staff so they could increase their profits. There were many attempts to terminate the A.M.E. contract, but Ellenese was clearly protecting them and using her sway over other board members to help her do so. Why did she do this? Her son-in-law was a partner in A.M.E.
The overall repercussions of this ploy were absolutely devastating to the children in the school system...what does it say to a child's self-esteem to have to go to a school every day which was falling apart? Bathrooms soaked in urine from broken toilets...the stench permeating the halls and classrooms. I wonder if Ellenese wrestled with her conscious when she walked through the halls of O. Perry Walker.
In the documentary,Left Behind, Brooks-Simms asked of her opponent in the last school board election, Lourdes Moran, "What is your motivation? I've been black for 57 years....these are my children...what's your motivation?" She was obviously exorcising her own demons...I would really like to hear Ellenese's perspective now that those demons have come back to bite her in the ass. If she is seeking redemption....I would hope she does so by reflecting on her decisions and sharing her experience with those of us who are trying to make this city a better place. We need, to first, understand the culture of corruption which has plagued this city for so long if we are to change it...I think her story may help us do that.