After spending $20,000 over a several year period for Meffert and others to party at strip clubs, St. Pierre purchased a yacht so the group could enjoy their vices in private.
Initially, Meffert lied about owning the yacht and his entire role in the scandal. Now, after being indicted and facing prison time, Meffert is coming clean about the kickbacks, the strippers and the gambling. He says he is finally telling the truth because he wants his children to know their parents.
For Meffert, he avoided the truth for so long because life was good as St. Pierre’s friend. Not only did he have a yacht to call his own, but he was treated to a constant stream of strippers, expensive dinners, trips and other extravagant gifts. When he encountered a gambling debt, St Pierre came to the rescue. In all, Meffert received an astounding $860,000 in kickbacks from St. Pierre, while he was employed as a city employee and in the private sector.
We will soon know the fate of St. Pierre and Meffert, but the question remains, what will happen to Ray Nagin? Did the Mayor know that his technology office was a conduit for strippers, gambling and expensive travel? Nagin must have been quite comfortable with St. Pierre for he issued an executive order allowing Meffert to circumvent bidding rules and award valuable technology contracts to his friend. Meffert even gave the crime camera contract to St. Pierre’s company on his last day in City Hall. Did Nagin know that St. Pierre was providing kickbacks to his chief aide? Did he care that St. Pierre’s company did such slipshod work that the crime cameras never worked? If the cameras worked, many crimes might have been solved. Sadly, the crime cameras were usually broken and of no value to police and the District Attorney’s office. This is another legacy of Meffert’s criminal dealings and one consequence that Ray Nagin must be forced to address.
With millions in city contracts, St. Pierre not only lavished Meffert, but he was also very generous toward Mayor Nagin, his major client. St. Pierre’s company, NetMethods, paid for Nagin to take luxurious trips to Chicago, Hawaii and Jamaica with his family. Nagin claims that he did not know who paid for these expensive trips, but that stretches the bounds of credulity to think that the Mayor went on these trips and just did not know who paid the bills. I guess only the Mayor of New Orleans accepts airplane tickets and doesn’t ask who paid for them.
When Nagin needed big money for his re-election campaign in 2006, he asked Meffert to help. Of course, Meffert turned to his high rolling friend, Mark St.. Pierre, who provided $100,000 in contributions. In Louisiana, the maximum allowed contribution is only $5,000, but Meffert alleged that St. Pierre funneled money to his employees and friends, who then wrote checks to Nagin’s campaign. Once the contributions were made, St. Pierre reimbursed his associates, a violation of the state’s campaign finance law. Did Nagin know that campaign finance laws were being broken?
It remains to be seen whether federal prosecutors will pursue charges against former Mayor Nagin. However, we do know that there are many unanswered questions about the Mayor’s role in the entire scam. When Ray Nagin begins the media tour for his upcoming book, “Katrina’s Secrets,” he will certainly face many questions about what secrets he is keeping about his involvement in this entire web of corruption. It remains to be seen what Nagin knew and when did he know it.
Jeff Crouere is a native of New Orleans, LA and he is the host of a Louisiana based program, “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m.weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. For more information, visit his web site at www.ringsidepolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].