FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Mayor Ray Nagin (D) Finds Himself in Hot Water
Tomorrow, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin will be deposed in a civil proceeding stemming from the City’s (and Nagin’s) relationship with a vendor. There is sworn testimony that the Mayor has accepted gifts and trips from the vendor, the provider of a trouble-plagued crime surveillance camera system.
The examination, to be held at City Hall, is expected to focus on lavish gifts, including a 2004 family vacation to Hawaii and a junket to the 2007 NFC championship game in Chicago, that Nagin is said to have received from a city technology vendor.
Also likely at issue will be whether those gifts influenced the mayor to steer public business in New Orleans and elsewhere to companies owned by Mark St. Pierre, who partially financed the largess, according to sworn testimony by a former Nagin aide.
In a nine-page pleading filed two weeks before a deposition originally set for November, the administration’s lead lawyer on the case, Assistant City Attorney Bob Ellis, assailed as “intrusive, embarrassing and burdensome” the request by plaintiffs’ attorneys asking Nagin about the surveillance network.
What a joke. Ever since Katrina, Nagin has spent considerable time out of the city, even to the extent of buying his wife a house in Dallas. I’m sure N.O. will be able to scrape by for a half a day while he’s being deposed.
The case was brought by Southern Electronics and Active Solutions, which set up the city’s earliest crime-camera program in 2004. The plaintiffs allege that Greg Meffert, then the city’s chief technology officer, conspired with employees of St. Pierre’s firms on contract at City Hall to steal their business model and market it across the country.
Meffert testified in a 966-page deposition unsealed this month that St. Pierre, through various firms he owned or directed, covered part of the cost of a Hawaiian vacation Nagin and his family and Meffert and his family took together in 2004.
In the filing, Meffert also acknowledged that a firm owned by St. Pierre paid for him and the mayor to go to Chicago to watch the Bears and the Saints face off at Soldier Field, though Nagin’s attorney said later that the mayor paid for that trip. [Nagin has stated in his own defense that he thought that the Hawaii trip was paid for by Meffert. How he thought <em>that</em> would be ethical has not been explained. – ed.]