Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Big Bushel of Road Apples

Crime cameras...

I realize most folks who read AZ probably cringe at those two words and have no desire to rehash the debacle that has come to define the corruption and ineptitude of the Nagin administration.  I realize most folks think the final nail was buried in the coffin when St. Pierre was sent off to a Texas pokey to serve a 17 1/2 year sentence.  I realize most folks drive around the city, gaze up at those lifeless cameras sitting on tilted, wooden poles and murmur under their breath, "un-fucking-believable".

I understand...it's like driving by the house of a crazy ex....you can't help but look even though it conjures up horrible memories.  You just hope he/she didn't see you drive by.

In this case, it's like your crazy ex lives on telephone poles all across the city...the ultimate silent stalker.  Although you don't have to worry about it seeing you...it's too fucked up do that.

Anyway...I hate to do it but I need to rehash the crime cameras in light of a recent series of memos of opposition filed by the prosecution in response to motions to dismiss filed by the many defendants in the Camsoft civil suit.  You see, the Camsoft lawyers never stopped conducting the autopsy on exactly what was going on.  In the wake of the St. Pierre trial they seemed to have filled in many of the gaps...some of them are infuriating and I think you need to hear them.

Six memos were filed in total but for the sake of brevity I want to focus on this one:

Camsoft Memo in Opposition to Earthlink MSJ

Unfortunately, many of the exhibits in the case have been sealed by the judge.  I don't understand this whole concept or why it is necessary but I would love to get my hands on the original emails and documents referred to in this case.  Even the cursory info in the memos is tantalizing enough.

Regardless, this memo is a quick read and it not only fills in some blanks, it also provides a great snapshot of what actually happened with the crime camera contracts in multiple Louisiana cities.  Most importantly, it spells out why 900 pound gorillas like Dell and Earthlink took such an interest in the little mud puddle we live in.

One thing I want to restate in this post that you absolutely need to understand....the crime cameras themselves were not the crown.  They were just a jewel in the crown.  The crown itself was the wifi antennae array which encased three jewels:  crime cams, public wifi, and an interoperability communication system.

Of all the companies listed in the Camsoft case, the pivot point is Tropos.  This is the company that actually made the individual antennae nodes...the crown itself.  This is the company who hired Patton Boggs, one of the largest contributors to Senator Mary Landrieu's campaigns.  Mary Landrieu who serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.

Even before Ciber, Tropos was the center of the wagon wheel.  In fact, I think they may have even been the catalyst which inspired the 7 million dollar DOJ grant the City of New Orleans was supposed to get in order to install the first municipal interoperability communication system.  That initiative never transpired thanks to Meff's hijinks but Tropos would have been at the center.

Let me break the big picture down this way:

Tropos:  Antennae array distributor

Motorola:  Antennae manufacturer

Dell: Camera sales and any mainframe servers/computers

Earthlink:  Public wifi

Ciber:  Prime vendor/ Staffing services/ Money funnel

Netmethods:  Installation/maintenance services and possibly interoperability

Imagine:  Software services and possibly interoperability

The hidden player in the equation being Microsoft with Ciber serving as the underlying buffer between them and the city.  I'll get to that in a second.

Now the memo.  First let's look at this email sent by MOT employee and Netmethod principal, Chris Drake, to then Tropos rep., Ellen Kirk:

Yes, I knew. 
Now comes the bitching. Everyone has their deal lined up except the guys who
put it all together. I’m gonna come unglued here at some point really soon. 
I can’t pimp Tropos and Earthlink the rest of my freakin life, and neither can other
folks (Darth Vader) without some ROI [return on investment]. This is getting out
of hand. 
Allen [Carr of Tropos] said he would call Tolepegin [Earthlink Defendant]back when he gets off the plane to Atlanta and let him know that we will be theholdup on this if EL [Earthlink] can’t get a deal done with us and get theirpanties out of a wad over the fact that we have worked for the City like rightnow… 
‘Scuse me if I don’t join the celebration just yet. (Emphasis added) 

I'm not sure if Darth Varder was Meffert or St. Pierre...although I love Star Wars metaphor whenever and wherever.

It's pretty clear all the parties involved understood the kickback scheme to Netmethods and the possible problems it could cause for everyone if it was discovered.  New Orleans City Council voted on giving Earthlink the public wifi franchise agreement (that's a story in itself) after Google and Yahoo withdrew their bids.  Apparently, Google and Yahoo caught wind of the stink coming off the Netmethods kickback scheme.  Motorola (the actual manufacturers of the antennae) went along with the deal but tried to hedge their bets by suggesting a $35/node installation price in the contract.

Drake and the boys didn't take too kindly to that line item and threatened to scuttle the whole deal if Netmethods didn't get to set their own price.  Even though city council voted on the franchise agreement, the CIO (Kurt/Jones) could have killed the deal.

The memo goes on to explain that St. Pierre bribed the CTO/CIO of three different cities:  Meffert/Jones - New Orleans, Donald Evans - Baton Rouge, and Keith Thibodeaux - Lafayette.  We already knew this but it's important to note that Evans and Thibodeaux were never charged.

Speaking of folks who never got charged, the memo then moves on to reveal some shocking revelations about Ed Burns and Ciber's graft of the city.  Just so we know how much money was officially pumped out to Ciber and funneled to Imagine during Nagin's tenure, here it is spelled out in the memo:

Ciber’s answers to interrogatories revealed that in exchange for giving St. Pierre’s and Meffert’s companies $9,326,075.20 in kickbacks payments to Imagine Software, Ciber billed the City of New Orleans a total of $44,072,217.00. This constitutes a 4 to 1 return on Ciber’s kickback investment dollar.
Now we already knew those approximate numbers.  But what follows is something I didn't know:

Ed Burns (“Burns”) of Ciber, Meffert and St. Pierre developed a mutual business that not
only extended to the City of New Orleans’ basic IT computing needs, but further extended to the sale and marketing of CamSoft’s municipal wi-fi networks and video surveillance applications.  Ciber even enlisted the help of a Mississippi lobbiest, Chip Reno, to land federal funding for their joint projects.
Reno works for the Jackson based firm, The Talon Group...I don't know a lot about them but I will defer to the Mississippi maestro over at Slabbed to fill in the blanks on these guys.

The memo goes on to discuss how Reno set up meetings for Burns, Meffert and St. Pierre with Sen. Thad Cochran through Patton Boggs lobbyist, Jeff Turner.  Turner was/is apparently the point man at PB for Tropos.  This meeting was set up for Sept. 15, 2005 but it never transpired because of Katrina.

Of course after Katrina the whole game had changed:

On November 10, 2005, Burns emailed Reno and carbon copied Meffert, St. Pierre, and
Guzman. See Exhibit “15”. Burns noted his discussions with Meffert regarding the upcoming meeting with Senator Cochran. The email further noted that Meffert intended to send either Drake or Kurt to Washington D.C. In a reply email, on November 11, 2005, Meffert emailed Reno, Burns, St. Pierre, Guzman and Whitwell with Meffert’s list of desired technology projects.  Meffert’s list expressly identified $12,654,900 for “Citywide Crime Camera Network.” 
Meffert noted his belief that President Bush approved the entire $414 million technology budget for the City of New Orleans. Meffert further noted that he needed the money forwarded directly to the City of New Orleans, where obviously Meffert could divvy out the federal proceeds between the kickback gang (“We already have approval from presidential level, but need these projects to remain as is and not sliced up down the political vulture chain and be appropriated directly to the City of New Orleans.”) Meffert later asked Kurt to explain his costs estimates for the $43 million 911 call center. Kurt replied, “I think the 43M number came from our ass.” 
Can you imagine?  $414 million coming down the pipe right into Meff and the boys' hands.  I can't begin to "Imagine" how much these guys could have fucksnu'd with that kind of cash.

With that amount of dough, you assume some big players would be involved:

Emails dated November 15, 2005 indicate Meffert coordinating his Washington, D.C. trip
with former Mayor Nagin. See Exhibit “16”. Emails dated November 16, 2005 evidenced
Meffert and Mayor Nagin on their way to meet with Senator Hillary Clinton in Washington D.C.
See Exhibit “17”.

Whaaaa....whaaaattt!!???!!  WTF??!!??  Did that happen?  Nagin and Meffert met with Hillary?  That is surreal...surreal, I tell you.  What the hell were they meeting with Sen. Clinton for?

Alright...twas a crazy sidebar but let's get back to reality.

Moving on:

Given the overall $414 million technology budget, Ciber, Meffert and St. Pierre even recruited technology giant, Microsoft, Inc., to join forces. The plan by Microsoft, Ciber and Imagine Software to entirely take over the technology rebuilding process for New Orleans was called, “Phoenix Rising.” (“This document is produced
by a joint team effort between the City of New Orleans, and key partners Imagine Software, Ciber and Microsoft to provide a response to FEMA following Katrina.”) See Exhibit “19”. Phoenix Rising specifically included their plans to take over of the New Orleans crime camera project.

Ok...now this is a very big revelation.  I don't know what is in exhibit "19" and I don't know how they know crime cameras were being bundled under "Phoenix Rising" but if this is correct...it adds a whole new dimension to what the hell was going down with Microsoft and the city per Ciber.  I have contract amendments with CNO and Microsoft regarding Phoenix Rising which shows Microsoft as the prime contractor and Ciber as a sub for "Phoenix Rising" but I thought Phoenix Rising was just a name for the educational software the city purchased from Ciber and never received.

This is an amendment to a work order regarding Microsoft's services for accounting systems they provided to the City of New Orleans....post-K:

Amendment #6 to Work Order #20060271 

This amendment appears to be a stop work order to the original contract for the accounting services and pares down Microsoft's services....I assume they didn't get paid or realized they weren't getting the amount of money they expected:

Amendment #7 to Work Order #20060271 

Now this document is, I believe, the original proposal from Microsoft/Ciber/Imagine for the educational software the city actually purchased but never received:

Phoenix Rising - Solution Area Profile - Education Student Information Managing System

I've pointed this out before, according to that document, the business reference for this software came from Chicago Public Schools.  The word from anon on that post was that we actually purchased the software from Ciber and they (Ciber) then turned around and donated it to Chicago Public Schools.  There was also some speculation that Nagin got some campaign kickbacks for that maneuver when he had his campaign fund raiser in Chicago circa 2006.

Campaign conduit financing....Matt Coman kept repeating that term in the St. Pierre trial.  I hope his department didn't forget it.

After reading this memo, I am now assuming that "Phoenix Rising" was some kind of overarching code name for all the IT initiatives the city was launching after Katrina.  If  Phoenix Rising was actually the overarching tech. recovery plan for the city and Microsoft was the prime....that adds a whole new dimension to this thing.

Back to Chip Reno....this is the revelation that absolutely chaps my arse (in Kentucky we always mispronounce that adage...I know it's chaffs but I love to say it the wrong way):

After examining Ciber’s invoices for Imagine Software’s time, most interesting of all is
the fact that Ciber was not even paying for Reno’s lobbying efforts. See Exhibit “27” at NOIG 13697, 13699, 13701, 13703, 13705, 13707 and 13709. Rather, Ciber directly billed the City of New Orleans for all or a portion of the work performed by Reno and his associate, Whitwell, just as if they were direct employees of Ciber performing computer related work under Ciber’s GSA schedule. But despite all of the above, when CamSoft asked Ciber in Interrogatory No. 7 to identify any project involving the sales, marketing, deployment, lobbying or other similar efforts related to municipal wi-fi systems or wireless video surveillance systems, Ciber wrote, “Without waiving the objections, CIBER states that it has engaged in no such efforts and thus, has no information pertaining to same.”

How...for the love of Dambala.....how....the fuck.....is Ed Burns not in jail?  How did Ciber completely skate out of this bullshit?  They hired Reno and The Talon Group to pimp their private services but instead of paying for it...they bundled the cost of the Talon Group's services into the City of New Orleans tab....the 56 million dollar tab.

You know...that one.

Jesus Homer Christ, Jim...as in Letten.....WTF?!?!  They not only screwed us...we were being billed for their marketing efforts to screw everyone else?  What fucking planet am I on that these fucksticks don't go to jail?  Better yet....what country am I in?

Luckily the memo does a pretty good job of summarizing the situation, albeit to a civil court judge not a criminal court judge:

As far as CamSoft is concerned, Ciber’s interrogatory responses are unethical and Ciber will be held accountable for its lies before a jury of its peers. Ciber simply left too great a paper trail, which utterly contradicts Ciber’s interrogatory responses. CamSoft’s mountain of evidence implicating Ciber’s involvement in kickback contracts and in the takeover of the crime camera project constitutes much more than “formulaic incantations,” as if CamSoft could somehow put a spell on the Court. If anything, the Court should be spellbound by the level of RICO enterprise operated by these MOT officials, along with some of the biggest technology companies on the planet. At the heart of these arrangements is one common denominator: MOT officials teaming with Ciber and Dell to circumvent the state’s public bid laws for municipal wi-fi network contracts and video surveillance deployments. Ciber, Dell and St. Pierre’s companies surreptitiously sought to take over the very wi-fi networks and video surveillance applications CamSoft developed and marketed to public officials legally and in good faith. Considering the overall level of corruption involved in the case sub judice, if Ciber and the other defendants win this case on written motions, then something is very wrong with our justice system. CamSoft cannot imagine that our legal system has degenerated to the point where our rules and laws condone and protect from liability those individuals and companies that engage in illegal acts of bribery and back-door kickback contracts for the corrupt influence of public officials.

I realize this is a highly subjective take from Camsoft, but it seems to be backed up in documentation.  It is, after all, being presented in a court of law.

I am truly dumbfounded as to how so many people in this cesspool escaped criminal prosecution.  It concerns me greatly because the one public official who I believe is most responsible, Ray Nagin, may get the same free pass as Burns, Minyard, Thibodeaux, Evans, et al.  That would be the straw that broke the camel's back for me.

If Nagin is not prosecuted for what he did to this city...at a point when it was struggling for its life....that negates St. Pierre's conviction, Meffert's, Bennett's, Jones'...anyone else involved in this bullshit.  Nagin, above all, betrayed the public trust.

Once again, the Camsoft memo touches on that betrayal of public trust and the overall effect it has on our community:

If CamSoft loses this case before ever seeing a jury, we as collective citizens of Louisiana have no room to ever complain about the public corruption that forever entangles our local and state governments. If you’re a Fortune 500 company, why not come into Louisiana knowing that you can make four dollars for every one dollar you spend on kickback contracts, especially when you know that there are no legal repercussions? Public
corruption continues to tarnish the reputation of our beautiful state, and we have no collective reason to argue that Louisiana’s national reputation for corruption is not otherwise warranted, unless our legal system does something to stop it. Nor do citizens of Louisiana have any reason to complain why our small local companies never grow to become Fortune 500 companies like Dell, Ciber or Motorola, who can afford to enter our state and pay for political influence through kickback contracts with politician’s friends, which contracts are equally as corrupt as a direct bribe itself.
That pretty much nails it in respect to the criminal issues as well.  If we can't expect our justice system to punish the public officials, all of them, that have fucked us over for so long then we may as well just throw in the hat and do our best to create a cottage industry out of pimping our corruption stories to Hollywood.  We've made enormous strides in fighting public corruption since the storm but if those strides sidestep the biggest horse turds in the road, we're still as stinky as we ever were.

Still Editing.....




Leigh C. said...

I was asked about the cameras by a tourist the other day. He was shocked that they didn't work. Please keep up the documentation. This one will be haunting us for a long time, and if we can't learn from it, we'll be some of the biggest fools alive.

Anonymous said...

The link to the opposition memorandum is not working.

Jason Brad Berry said...


Anonymous said...

A small punctuation change would alter the title of one of those memos to the name of this story. Citywide Crime: camera network

Bigger than citywide. This is epic. This is like post Dayton accord Bosnia, but on US soil.

You're a brave man, to be taking all this on. Why were there no whistleblowers working for their people, their citizens, at New Orleans City Hall? I am disappointed in all those people. Not because I'm a natural cynic, but because I am basically hopeful and I'd like to think of public servants as good people who try hard to get it right.

How much anxiety does it cause, knowing that a dirty little local mud puddle includes fishes that swim in the bigger ponds, too? Your mention of the big name commitees and some of the big name players was chilling. 900 pound gorillas indeed.

Maybe that is how the tougher Clinton can stare down all sides in the Middle East: she has practiced on the good ol' boys in Baton Rouge and Atlanta.

The kind of all seeing, all knowing surveillance grid is itself kind of a messed up notion. If it had worked, would ordinary people be better or worse off? I like the thought of wifi internet access because I'm bougie like that. I am not sure I like the idea that I'm watched or locatable all the time. Life without a Briar Patch.

Maybe the out of control corruption and graft saved New Orleans from a sci fi nightmare future/ guidance counselor's wet dream. Thanks, Mr. Nagin.

Jason Brad Berry said...

- How much anxiety does it cause, knowing that a dirty little local mud puddle includes fishes that swim in the bigger ponds, too? Your mention of the big name commitees and some of the big name players was chilling. 900 pound gorillas indeed.

I don't feel anxiety, I feel potential. I feel potential to tell the truth and hook these fish...from minnows to whales. We've lost a lot of freedoms in this country since 9/11, fo' true. But we still have the most important arrow in the quiver of democracy...the 1st amendment.

Aim far....aim true.

Anonymous said...

Now that my boyfriend has stopped hogging our computer (Wait, it is my computer. How has he managed to convince me that it is "ours"? Sneaky!) I will write in to tell you that Wonkette has a little video of Darth Vader opening Wall St.'s stock exchange embedded in a recent post.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Dambala... finally someone connecting the muni wifi with the crime camera debacle. Six years ago, just after katrina, I made that connection. Never dreamed it went as deep as it did though...
I still have a nagging felling that we are missing a piece of the puzzle. What company above all others has the infrastructure to provide municipal connectivity and connectivity to crime cameras on telephone poles throughout the city? Why was Cox cable not tasked with connecting the crime cameras when they already had broadband networks on every one of those telephone poles in place? Just seems to much of a coincidence that their former CEO was mayor at the same time!

Anonymous said...

I cant wait to re-read this post tomorrow when I am not intoxicated.. may be then I can make a more intelligent reply.. THANKS :-)

Jason Brad Berry said...

All replies are accepted here :)


Anonymous said...

WOW. One of your most informative posts ever. US Attorney's office certainly is selectively prosecuting a couple of low level crooks while leaving the real bad guys off the hook and for the real victim here (ca soft) to fend for itself.

Anonymous said...

Ciber inc (CBR) is a publicly traded company. if you do not believe the DOJ will prosecute you may want to send this information the the SEC.

Anonymous said...

jason, here is the link to the sec whistleblower office. might as well send them a tip. you could get a nice reward. http://www.sec.gov/about/offices/owb/owb-tips.shtml

Anonymous said...

Hey Zombie? You kick ass.

You are awesome. You are everything the staff at city hall who did nothing when they saw this happening were not, and should have been.

Way to go, whistle blower.

You are doing what the fifth estate is supposed to do, and the mainstream media chooses not to do with much zeal. I love it every time they pick up a story you started covering (or uncovering) two years ago.

I love it that you see potential where I've been seeing reasons to be afraid. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last anonymous poster that you should report this to the SEC in the form of a complaint. Ciber, Dell, Motorola, and others are publicly traded companies.

Anonymous said...

A couple of things to think about:
1. Meffert either lied in the Civil Trial or lied in St.Pierre's Federal Trial...why is he not being charged with Purjury? Selective prosecution? You think?

2. St.Pierre was the criminal who made everybody break the law right?
You think or was he the fall guy? Do the Feds seek the truth?

3. Nagin will will never be implicated. How do you think he kept his job after a change in the Administration? Hands off, Ray!

Anonymous said...

This work is solid!

I lpve you, man.

This freaks me out. I am a dude, and as far as I know I am not gay. Or at least I am no gayer than every other guy out there.

But I fucking LOVE YOU, man.

Thank you for that brass set somebody high up gave you.

Your Gods or my God, whoever the fuck is really in charge, they did a good thing creating you.

And speaking as a PK (preacher's kid), let me say, you keep representing the way that you do, Satan, or Dambala, or whomever, is swaying me over.

I'm a liberal, ecumenical kind of Christian, and I was in the Navy, so Lord knows I've lived among the gays, but your reportage sends me right back to my childhood faith... and the question I have for my childhood conception of God is: Why doesn't our side hold Satan's feet to the fire the way you do?

Oh, by the way, I thought I'd mention that I am drunk right now. I am really fucking drunk. Let's pretend this post never happened. Maybe you don't even need to post it.

I do recognize that I am sounding a little crazy, so I will use alcohol as my defense.

The last time I spent ages reading your posts and responding to them, my girlfriend's daughter, who I was supposed to be watching at the time, (the kid {and I do love this kid, I'm not a total jerk] was in the room, but I was paying attending to the computer) stuffed a lot of hot pink playdough into "the family sewing machine" (important professional and personal tool of the girlfriend.)

I thought I might get into serious trouble.

Iif it had been some other website, I might have been in deep expletive.

However, my girl thinks well of you.

She put the kid to bed.

Then she gave me The Gimlet Eye. I'm talking Smedley Butler.

Ladies, no matter what you may have heard about the patriarchy, we men will do anything to please the source of awesome pussy in our lives.

Gentlemen, I promise you, this one is worth it.

AZ, I mentioned that while the kid had been destroying her livelihood on my watch, I had been reading your site.

What did my girl do?

She opened a bottle of wine, and dug the pink stuff out pf the gears while drinking and chatting happily, and then I got lucky.

She was very, very good to me.

I fucking love you, Zombie, in the most heterosexual way possible.

The more muck you rake, the happier my home is.

God Fucking Bless You, Man.

I'd never tell you not to post this, but my very flexible and good giving and game girl might appreciate it if you did not.

Fuck, am I drunk. We were at a fucking art opening tonight. Why do they bother?

Anonymous said...

Speaking as drunk anonymous from last night.. I want to state for the record.. that I am NOT drunk anonymous that posted that last post.. :-)

Though I do think I love you :-)

Nancy said...

Your Auntie loves you, too. Always have. Sometimes I worry what kind of monster might be connected to that toe you're stepping on, but you are the person I'm most proud of in our family tree. Plus you provide me with the most fascinating reading material.

Anonymous said...

Nagin was not the CEO of Cox (anon). he just worked there.

as for him being charged, I'd be shocked. as the top city executive it's his job to make sure he doesn't know the details of any graft his cronies are brewing up. it's called "plausible deniability" -- his ability to deny on the stand. it's a trait of successful executives...

Anonymous said...

Keep digging. Keep reporting.

Ruth said...

MOTOROLA & CIBER continue to reap the rewards, but not for long...City of Atlanta refuses to publish finance details? Nagin is taking the bait, just a diff city.

Ruth said...

To the COX CABLE comment:
You are tracking and oh so very right. COX has done one hell of a job keeping themsleves out of the lime-light. Now that Nagin, Motorola, CIBER, and others have let their guards down, someone will slip-up and begin to connect the dots back to COX and their hometown of Atlanta. Hummm

Ruth said...

Ok Jason I will give your readers a good one to chew on...Ed Burns rec'vd $365,700.00 in 2008 reported in 2009 from CIBER. 12,000 shares of CIBER stock & 8,000 options were reported as well. This over and above his other payoffs, or should I say salary?

Ruth said...

I love this blog!
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Holy shit.....WOW! Zombie are reading this Atlanta thing correctly? I bet they are using the Camsoft technology in Atlanta too.

Anonymous said...

i guess the bribes were not big enough. http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/246138/doj_charges_siemens_execs_with_100_million_bribery_scheme.html