Sunday, March 18, 2007

What's She Telling the Feds?

There was something far more worrisome than a $170K bodyguard in Gordon Russell's article about Greg Meffert that appeared in today's paper:
Via e-mail, Quiett also declined to answer a number of specific questions, instead offering a response suggesting that asking questions about payments to city contractors slows the city's progress: "Issues relating to former employees and disgruntled vendors does nothing to advance our recovery mission," she wrote. "Further, having our one newspaper focus on rumors and innuendo also does not help citizens seeking critical information to rebuild their lives."

Combine that with the statement of another Nagin spokesman (how many are we paying for?), James Ross, that Ed Blakely never intended to share information with the public and we can see that the Nagin administration is finally starting to be honest about one thing -- it feels no need to share information with anybody. That, at least, is transparently clear.

But why should that bother anybody? To the pure, all things are pure. An incorruptible administration, couldn't possibly do anything corrupt. You'd have to be paranoid to think that such an attitude could possibly affect anything else, wouldn't you? There's no possible way it could possibly carry over into preservation/development issues, is there?

Unfortunately, the federal government doesn't seem to realize that listening to "former employees and disgruntled vendors does nothing to advance our recovery mission." The federal government is conducting two separate investigations of city spending. One of the investigations even involves overtime spending:
Among the most eye-popping cases laid out in the review of fiscal matters are claims that amid $39.2 million in overtime costs that the city asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse was an employee who earned $207 per hour after the storm; that employee normally was paid $23 per hour. Another worker earned overtime pay for 14 consecutive 24-hour days, the report says.

That seems to be a coincidence, today's article says nothing about attempting to bill FEMA for Goodson's overtime. On second thought, it seems entirely likely that the administration of Mayor "FEMA will pay for it" would attempt to bill FEMA for Goodson's overtime. The matter does make the state's insistence on thoroughly auditing all of the city's requests for reconstruction funds seem more understandable. Remember, the state offered to turn all of the reconstruction funds over to local governments if the federal government absolved it of responsibility for misspent funds. As long as sloppy spending practices on tolerated on the part of the city, the state and federal governments will have an excuse for the slow pace of reconstruction. In this case, it's hard to disagree with the state. I'm talking about the delay in releasing money for government reconstruction projects, not the slow pace of the Road Home.

As a minor note, I do need to question one statement in Russell's article in today's paper:
Meffert often bragged of owning the vessel -- even duping the mayor, who paid him $1,200 to use it for a post-campaign party.

Seems presumptuous to assert that the mayor was duped. By itself it's a minor point, but Times Picayune seems reluctant to acknowledge that the dishonesty and cronyism in the Nagin administration are clearly not limited to the technology office.

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