Thursday, January 20, 2005

Observations of a Watchdog...

In a show of pluck, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin limped through Monday's Martin Luther King march, despite what proved later to be a broken ankle. Rumor has it that this demonstration of toughness caused several prospective mayoral candidates to re-think their plans for opposing Nagin next year.

In an unrelated development, New Orleans business executive Gilbert Jackson is among six people charged as racketeers in a wide-ranging indictment unsealed Tuesday in Cleveland that describes a pattern of corruption and bribery that involves that city, Houston, and New Orleans. We will have a better idea of Jackson's role when the expected wiretap evidence is presented.

T-P reports that "the case rubs up against the ongoing probe of contracts awarded during former Mayor Marc Morial's administration that is being led by local acting U.S. Attorney Jim Letten." Jackson was close to Morial and others among the former mayor's confidants, and was recently arraigned on separate federal charges of income tax evasion.

Jackson's attorney, Robert Jenkins, has said his client is innocent of the tax charges, and Jenkins said Tuesday that Jackson is innocent of the new charges as well. "I can assure you that Mr. Jackson is not guilty of any of these allegations, and we're prepared to fight them vigorously," Jenkins said. Still, Jackson is probably in trouble with his employer, national engineering firm Camp Dresser & McKee, for moonlighting as a consultant (against company rules) while cashing in on his contacts at City Hall.

The juiciest of the possibilities of this case centers on an unnamed official in Morial's administration who, it alleges, accepted a $2,500 bribe and was looking for more. But here's the part that gives New Orleans corruption a bad name --- the contract was not awarded to the group Jackson represented. Another alleged co-conspirator, in fact, questioned "whether continued payments to Gilbert Jackson were economically justified."

This sounds a lot more like "the gang who couldn't shoot straight" than it does like "all the king's men." We have come to expect more of our alleged perpetrators.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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