As if the taken from the groundbreaking HBO mini-series Treme, former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was indicted Friday on charges that he used his office for personal gain, accepting payoffs, free trips, and gratuities from contractors while the city was struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
“The defendant C. Ray Nagin, knowingly devised a scheme and artifice to defraud the City of New Orleans and its citizens of his honest services through bribery and a kickback scheme, whereby Mayor Nagin used his public office and his official capacity to provide favorable treatment that benefitted the business and financial interests of individuals providing him with bribery/kickback payoffs in the form of checks, cash, granite inventory, wire transfers personal services and free travel,” the indictment said.
According to the New York Times, no one abreast with New Orleans politics felt caught off guard with this indictment, as numerous city officials and businesspeople have either plead guilty or accepted pleas for their involvement in the alleged conspiracy.
“This has long been a topic of conversation among the political class,” said Edward E. Chervenak, a professor of political science at the University of New Orleans. “When are the feds going to indict Nagin? Everybody’s been waiting for the shoe to fall.”
Rest assured though, unlike the seemingly remorseful jailed and disgraced former City Council President Oliver Thomas, who plays himself in Treme, Nagin, 56, judging from some of his brazenly incendiary comments post-Katrina, will fight these charges in a manner beset for criminals who not only feel they are above the law but the common folks who put them in office.
Nagin came into office as a political newbie after spending much of his adult life in the private sector. Running on big ideas and a new direction for people of New Orleans, Nagin won the mayoral race on a groundswell support of white voters who believed he was good for local business. After he inherited the worse disaster in the history of the American South, Nagin came to prominence, gaining widespread support from the African-American community for his sweeping indictment of the federal government and private enterprise’s glacial response to Hurricane Katrina.
According to numerous investigative reports in Times-Picayune, Nagin began his sketchy dealing before Katrina in 2004, but it wasn’t until a string of allegations reported by the paper in 2010 — after his second term coming to an end — that the city took notice.
According to reports, much of the bribery, the government alleges, involved Stone Age, a granite countertop business run by Mr. Nagin and his two sons, Jeremy and Jarin. Company accounts would be used to disguise the payoffs, and some of the payoffs came in the form of several shipments of free granite, or coveted business arrangements with local branches of a “major retail corporation,” reported to be Home Depot.
This should be interesting to follow considering how much corruption is entrenched in New Orleans politics.