A New Orleans City Hall corruption investigation has resulted in the indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin on Friday, a reminder that even after officials resign or their term ends, the FBI can pursue corruption charges.
Former Mayor Nagin, 56, was indicted on 21 charges of corruption in a federal court Friday for lining his pockets with bribe money, payoffs, kick-backs and gratuities as the chronically poor people in New Orleans struggled to survive with minimal humanitarian aid during Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.
Nagin served as New Orleans' mayor from 2002 to 2010.
Corruption amid human rights abuses in the Big Easy
As the poor in New Orleans suffered, their mayor was living high on the hog.
Among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, New Orleans ranks third in poverty concentration. In 2000, 23 percent of the poor in metro New Orleans lived in high-poverty neighborhoods where at least 40 percent of the population live below the poverty line.
It is alleged that city contractors paid Nagin over $200,000 in bribes and subsidized his trips to Hawaii, Jamaica and other places in exchange for his helping them to secure millions of dollars in work for the city.
The Big Easy former mayor is accused of accepting over $160,000 in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting interests of a local businessman, Frank Fradella, who secured millions of dollars in city contract work after the 2005 hurricane.
Fradella, "pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit bribery and has been cooperating with federal authorities," the Washington Post reports.
Nagin also is charged with accepting at least $60,000 in payoffs from businessman, Rodney Williams, for his help in securing city contracts for architectural, engineering and management services work. Williams, former president of Three Fold Consultants LLC, pleaded guilty Dec. 5 to a conspiracy charge.
The indictment accuses Nagin of getting free private jet and limousine services to New York from an unidentified former owner of a New Orleans movie theater and agreeing to waive tax penalties that the businessman owed the city on a delinquent tax bill in 2006.
On June 20, 2009 Nagin awarded a $1 million Katrina sidewalk repair project to a local businessman and the very next day, a Nagin family member allegedly was paid a $10,000 kickback from that businessman.
Nagin's 'God' and 'chocolate' Louisiana two-step remembered
The Post says, "Strong support from black voters helped Nagin win re-election in 2006 despite widespread criticism of his post-Katrina leadership. But the glacial pace of rebuilding, a surge in violent crime and the budding City Hall corruption investigation chipped away at Nagin’s popularity during his second term."
“Surely God is mad at America," Nagin said, marking Martin Luther King Day in 2006. "He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it’s destroyed and put stress on this country.”
“It’s time for us to come together. It’s time for us to rebuild New Orleans—the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans,” the mayor said. “This city will be a majority African American city. It’s the way God wants it to be. You can’t have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn’t be New Orleans.”
The Washington Post noted before Nagin's re-election, when many Katrina survivors has been relocated: “The election will be one of the most important in the city’s history, with the winners set to play a pivotal role in deciding how the city will be rebuilt. But with only a smattering of the city’s residents back home, it will also be an election in which voters will be difficult to find and residency hard to prove, leaving candidates unsure of how to campaign.”
Prof. Peter Dreier wrote in 2006, "Katrina also underscores the human disaster resulting from the ascendancy of right-wing ideas and corporate domination of the federal government, which extols market forces, individualism and private charity over public responsibility and the common good."
"This indictment should serve as a reminder to current and former public officials that, in the interest of full accountability, the FBI pursues corruption even after an official leaves office," said Michael Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's New Orleans Field Office.
Nagin is expected appear in court later this month.
Deborah Dupré is author of "Vampire of Macondo, Life, crimes and curses in south Louisiana that Powerful Forces Don't want you to know," packed with censored stories about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that continues causing catastrophic human and environmental devastation.
See the "Vampire of Macondo" book trailer, "First book to reveal BP Gulf Oil Human Rights Abuses."
Follow Dupré on Twitter @DeborahDupre. For radio and television interviews, firstname.lastname@example.org.