Will it happen?
Yes, I believe Nagin will eventually be indicted. That is pure opinion, I do not have any inside knowledge which confirms that, but from the information I've gleaned about Nagin's administration over the past four years I find it hard to believe that he would not have to face the music for at least one of the possible transgressions which took place during his tenure....unless pleading ignorance has suddenly become a justifiable defense.
What would the charges be?
Most of you are aware of his recent Essence interview where he made the following comment:
"There was no corruption under my watch. I’ve only had one instance where there was a mention about anything corrupt, and that was an indictment, not a conviction, where a former employee may have improperly used a credit card. But if you’re talking about the previous administration’s indictments, that happened before I got here."
Maybe he's going to pursue stand-up comedy after office. But seriously, let's take a look at the possible transgressions he could be brought down on:
1. Kickbacks - As he admitted, the Netmethods' credit card provided traceable proof of illegal activity. There is no getting around the fact that he accepted gifts in the form of paid trips (Hawaii, Chicago, Las Vegas, Jamaica). There is also the possibility that St. Pierre and Netmethods paid for renovations to Nagin's house.
2. Destruction of Public Record - While it is still not known who erased the mayor's email database from City Hall Exchange servers, Mark Lewis and the LTC confirmed that of all the city employees on the Exhcange servers, only the mayor's email account was erased and this had to be done with deliberate intent. The Nagin administration refuted the LTC findings and subsequently hired a new contractor, Sunblock, to investigate the matter. We're approaching a year and we still haven't received a report from Sunblock. I know that local journalists have made numerous requests to Sunblock and the administration for the findings of that investigation but so far they have not provided anything substantive which contradicts the LTC's original assessment.
If the database was purposely erased, the issue becomes whether or not Nagin authorized the deletion or if he was aware of it.
1. NOAH - While there was a clear abuse of recovery funds surrounding NOAH, I think it will be difficult to find an indictable offense on Nagin's part in this scandal...just my two cents.
2. HSOA/Benetech - This speculation comes almost entirely from me and this blog. Having said that, there are many possible scenarios which could involve kickbacks and racketeering when it comes to these two companies.
Most notably, Stone Age, the company which Nagin started with his sons after the storm. The question is where was Stone Age getting their product from and at what rate. It's worth noting that an HSOA subsidiary was a Texas based company called Cornerstone Marble and Granite, which supplied many smaller shops, just like Stone Age, with their product.
Another interesting situation is the contract given to Benetech to remove the flooded cars from the city after Katrina. I received many reports that these vehicles were "re-purposed" and then sold through a broker in Memphis, Dennis Churchwell. According to Memphis sources, Churchwell (who is currently in prison), bragged about his dealings with Nagin and claimed that he had offered the mayor two condos in downtown Memphis and actually gave him a Cadillac Escalade as a gift.
What is known is that Nagin and Meffert, flew to the 2007 Bears/Saints playoff game in Chicago on Fireline's (an HSOA subsidiary) private jet with Frank Fradella (then HSOA CEO) and Aaron Bennet (CEO of Benetech). After being questioned about the trip, Nagin (the city) was then sent an invoice by HSOA for the price of a first class plane ticket.
My personal belief with HSOA/Benetech....where there's smoke there's fire. I think there may have been multiple gifts received by Nagin from these companies.
3. Perjury - Nagin has denied, under oath, any knowledge of the Meffert/Netmethod credit card kickback....that could come back to haunt him.
Remember that while under oath in the crime camera case, Meffert was asked how he came up with the idea to use a Netmethods credit card while serving as CTO. He answered, "The idea was presented to me." Who presented him with that idea? If Nagin suggested this kickback scheme then he certainly had prior knowledge of Meffert's actions and that constitutes conspiracy under RICO.
I could throw my 2006 election fraud conspiracy theory in, I will refrain because I simply don't have the evidence to remotely substantiate it....but I still think it happened.
When will it happen?
If it does happen, I can't possibly imagine it coming down while he is still in office. For a while I thought it would certainly come down before April, but now I've done a 180. I'm not pretending I know what the intent of Letten's office is, but from observation alone, I believe that they are certainly sensitive to timing issues and the court of public opinion...even if they pretend not to be. I think the proof of that is in the recent Danziger bomb which was conveniently dropped after Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl.
At this point I am betting on May or June if it does indeed happen.
What effect would it have?
Ok....this is where it gets complicated. I think the aggregate effect of a Nagin indictment is going to have some very severe repercussions on not just the city, but on the national partisan political landscape in general. Let's think about this.
The Effect to the City:
From a myopic view, we all know that Jim Letten has executed a furious cull since Katrina. While the current notches in his saddle, the Jeffersons, Eddie Price, Bill Hubbard, etc., are impressive enough, the fact that his office is now taking on the entire Jefferson Parish political machine is even more impressive. Clearly, the gig is up, brah....the "politics of the past" are finally being eradicated from the present.
We who dats understand our city's culture of corruption well enough to know that it transcends political parties and racial identity. Race and partisanship is often tactfully used to deflect scrutiny or invoke hostility, but most of us, at least those of us who pay attention, know the prime mover is good ole' greed. I think New Orleanian's are seasoned veterans, PhD's if you will, in the science of government graft and political corruption.
We have learned how to read between the lines and call bullshit.
The rest of the country...not so much.
And this becomes a very real issue in the potential indictment of Ray Nagin...one of the most well-known and emotionally charged politicians in the country. While I think the majority of New Orleanians, black/white, republican/democrat, may rejoice in a Nagin indictment, the resonate echoes which run through the country as a whole could prove devastating to the city's recovery.
Having grown up in the heart of Red State America, I think I can already project how this is going to play once FOX reports, "New Olreans' Mayor Nagin indicted for misusing Katrina funds". Never mind if that statement is true, that's how they are going to report it...."the black, democrat mayor in the corrupt, liberal African-American city of New Orleans took your tax dollars and lined his friend's pockets...and now Obama wants to send them more of your money for some global warming crap (wetlands restoration)!"
Since Obama took office, there's been a groundswell of xenophobic paranoia in this country which has been masked under the semantic construct of "socialism". This contingent has become increasingly frustrated because they can't come right out and express all that pent up racism against Obama. At least they've progressed to the point where they understand racism isn't socially acceptable.
You see, Obama hasn't broken any laws (unless you believe the birthers), so the only area they can attack him on is policy and ideology (socialism...a concept they don't even understand). It's been incredibly frustrating for them not to be able to come right out and express their inner racist.
If they are told by FOX news that Ray Nagin, the black man who yelled "get off your ass and do something!" to the honorable G.W. Bush, has stolen their tax dollars and funneled them to his peeps (which they will assume are all black, never mind they were mostly white republicans)....Katy bar the door. Ray Nagin and New Orleans could become a very real target for all that pent up anger and hate in the rebubbakin nation. Any effort by the Obama administration to increase the aid to our area is going to be met with howls of protest in the wake of a Nagin indictment.
An indicted Ray Nagin could put a very real face on the Red State America's notion of the corrupt, socialist government living on the taxpayer's tit.
That animosity could be used tactfully by the RNC, nationally and on a state level. Maybe I'm giving it too much gravity, but I really think Nagin's fate will have a much larger effect than what we may imagine. Then again, it may be the flavor of the week on the national stage...it's hard to tell.
Regardless, I think it's something to ponder and possibly prepare for.