The recent concatenation of reports run by the Times Picayune on the questionable nature and actions of Mayor Nagin's Technology office for the past 7 years seem to be leading up to a crescendo with today's article by David Hammer:
Public-private lines blurred at New Orleans City Hall under Nagin
Conspicuously placed in the Sunday edition...front page no less...it is essentially an overview of the nefarious M.O. by which Greg Meffert and peeps ran our city's technology department since Nagin won office in 2002. Perhaps an outline for reference of events to come this week?
While listing the low hanging fruit - Crime Cameras, the boat and the Hawaii vacation, the article doesn't so much as glance matters such as the 311 contract, the interoperability grant, or the "free" wi-fi deal struck with Earthlink.
As this blog and it's many anonymous sources have been hammering on these issues for years, I am happy to see at least some of these transgressions come into the public light. I think we all owe a great debt of gratitude to the hard work former Inspector General Cerasoli and his office conducted to bring the crime camera contract to light.
To think, this is just one of many multi-million dollar, no-bid contracts Meffert kicked back while holding the CTO position (or running it by proxy through Mark Kurt and Anthony Jones). I think the 311 and interoperability contracts are just as grievous as the crime cameras and deserve the same credence....but at this point, I am ecstatic that at least some of these issues are becoming public knowledge.
The obvious question on everyone's mind is wether or not we will see indictments against any of these mooks. Is Letten actually going to charge these guys or will they prove to be as teflon coated as Marc Morial? It is the multi-million dollar, taxpayer question.
I, for one, can't stress enough, my desire to see these criminals brought to justice (of course that's obvious if you read AZ). I truly believe it is crucial for the future success of our city. I have spoken before of the culture of corruption which I believe has crippled our city for so very long. The U.S. attorney's office now has the opportunity to send a very clear message to the top level of city government...NO FUCKING MORE!!!
It seems every politician runs on a reform platform, but shortly after taking office they go right back to the same old racket....of course I'm exaggerating....not EVERY politician but this city seems to produce an abnormally large number of crooks in public office.
Why is that?
I have my theories...most of them derived from a close examination of our pre-Katrina public school system.
The NOPS budget before Katrina was the largest public fund (half billion) in the state and the largest employer in the city of New Orleans. As the budget became more inflated every year, the graft only increased while the schools lay in rot....the children left ignorant of the basic skills needed to succeed in a city in which even the best educated have a tough time making ends meet. The devolution of the public school system was an example of what happens when public entities and public money starts being treated like private enterprise.
From the article:
The Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University and chairman of the city's Ethics Review Board, had a similar view.
"If nothing else, there were huge conflicts of interest all over the place" in Meffert's tech office, he said. "I really still do believe in public-private partnerships, but you have to have the right firewalls in place."
All well and good Rev but the problem with that notion is that private enterprise has a very real litmus test to ensure performance and eliminate graft which public entities don't have...its called the bottom line....call it the ultimate firewall. If people start stealing from a private company or it doesn't meet performance standards...that company ain't gonna be around for long (unless its AIG).
In the public sector....the money just keeps flowing. More often than not the result is even an increase in funding in order to "fix the problem". There are private contractors out there who make a living off public money by not just being mediocre, but actually being incompetent...and they quickly come to understand that. AME, the school system's former janitorial contractor comes to mind.
It's the promotion of incompetence. It's also known as the Peter Principle and here's another shining example of it which affected our city on a catastrophic level.
In the case of New Orleans, we have very little private enterprise to begin with. Public money is by far the most lucrative path to wealth, or even moderate wealth, available. After a half-century period of governmental neglect, we have practically institutionalized corruption. The result has been a steady descent into a complete and total kleptocracy.
I guess an argument could be made that the whole country has followed that same path, but as Cousin Pat has so eloquently noted, New Orleans is a magnification of every problem our country is facing.
Here and now, with Meffert and Nagin...we have a chance to make things right.
Here....Mr. Letten....now....in the midst of this national crisis of confidence in business, government and the interaction of the two....this is the time to send a very clear message to this city, and by media proxy to the country, that the game has changed and you are putting this train back on course. This isn't racial, this isn't partisan...its not even about socialism v. capitalism...its about the future of this city, and I believe the future of this grand experiment we call America.
That wreaks of grandiose, sentimental shiiite...I admit...but I honestly believe it.
The parallels between W. Bush and Nagin have been made before and here I will make another.
This country was nearly (and may yet be) destroyed by 8 years of incompetence and corruption under the Bush/Cheney administration.
This city, in it's most crucial and desperate time, has been forced to suffer under the cronyism, corruption, incompetence...and complete, fucking absurdity... of Mayor Ray Nagin. We will not survive another 8 years, or even 4 years, if "business as usual" is allowed to continue in City Hall.
When Nagin took office he ran on a platform of transparency and reform....here we are 7 years later and I would dare say Ray may have even outdone his predecessor. Morial skated....if Nagin skates, why should we expect anything to change under the next administration?
Couldn't agree more, Dambala. You nailed it again. Let's hope the nice folks at 500 Camp Street have you on their bookmark list.
The question of "why" is as important a subject as any. Are we doomed to repeat ourselves? I'll take a shot as to the "why": Orleanians often (not always) have no concept of conflict of interest or the idea that self-dealing by politicians is unethical. I think Cerasoli ran up against this; he spent a great deal of time trying to explain the real world, concrete consequences of such an organizational model. I think two things are needed to change: (1) the kind of house cleaning (indictments) and auditing process that we saw at the OPSB (hey, can we get an inventory of all City property, including all the 142 or more sub-entitites that Cerasoli used to talk about?); and (2) a change in the Charter structure. We should not have to rely upon the election of an "ethical" mayor (presuming we ever get one) and we cannot rely on always having a terrific US Attorney.
Seems to me the loss of the interoperability grant drew real blood and still awaits justice. Keep bangin', Dambala. Eventually, the spotlight will catch the center ring. Ashe.
Corruption feeds Incompetence feeds Corruption.
Incompetence masks corruption and provides opportunities to spend more public money to fix things.
How much money was spent to fix the crime cameras?
How much public money was spent to fix NOPS accounting system?
Incompetence shields wrongdoing. I noticed that most of the perpetrators of the IT scams had their email on the same server as Nagin. I'm sure that their email was deleted to "save space" as well.
House of cards, man. Congrats.
You deserve some kind of Internet Pulitzer. What award do they give for reporting a story 2 years before it's picked up?
The best place to start to understand "Why?" is a book entitled Moral Basis of a Backward Society.
Mefferts depo released. Nagin accepted bribe from St. Pierre per Times Picayune. Look for the indictments to be handed down any minute now because this puts serious pressure on US Attorneys office. FBI has done all they can do at this point....its all in Letten's court.
Judge Leddet just ordered Muppet's deposition released.
Exc. Summary says St. Pierre payed for Hawaii.
snakes in suits
As you know by now Judge Rose Ledet has unsealed Meffert's deposition and, as you predicted all along, it shows that Mark St. Pierre/NetMethods paid for the Hawaii trip and possibly others. Your headline could not be more accurate: now we just wait for the hammer to fall.
A word to all those who say that indictments are imminent: the feds move at a glacial pace. Don't expect indictments soon ... unless the investigations have been under way for many months. I don't know when the investigations began, but if they began recently, don't expect indictments until later this year. I say that so that folks won't give up hope if people are hauled away in handcuffs this week. The feds usually take a long time to wrap things up, particularly in public corruption cases.
The corruption, etc goes past Nagin & Bush's tenure to Morial & Clinton's, etc, etc.
Great blog, keep it up.
The investigations began several years ago and was "suspended" because several dozen offshoot investigations emerged. This is probably as wide of an investigation as the Feds have conducted since perhaps the Goti case in NY. I've heard numbers ranging from 60 to as high as 90 individuals that will ultimately be convicted. The corruption moves into several parishes statewide.
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