Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Et tu, Russell? Pt. 2

Once again, The Times Picayune glosses over a Nagin connection:
The trio also formed a company called Community Based Corrections that angled for a share of the local home-incarceration monitoring business. The company landed a Municipal Court contract from Mayor Ray Nagin's administration in 2005.

That's hardly doing it justice:

You'd think Mayor Ray Nagin would want to foster companies like Total Sentencing Alternatives Program.

The company is locally based. It has several years of experience in running a home monitoring program for Orleans Parish courts. Its owners are African-American, and encouraging the growth of minority-owned businesses has been a goal of Mayor Nagin and his recent predecessors.

After New Orleans advertised a contract to create a home-monitoring program for municipal offenders, an evaluation committee ranked TSAP's proposal second among three. But you could argue that the company deserved the contract -- or at least a chance to improve its bid.

Apparently, though, TSAP lacked the connections necessary to land the Municipal Court contract. So did the highest-rated firm, Georgia-based PPS, which offered the best prices and has been doing similar work across the country for 16 years.

In a decision that looks like pure political hackery, city officials gave the Municipal Court job to the lowest-ranked bidder, Community Based Corrections LLC. Never mind that the company submitted the highest-price proposal; the city gave CBC, but not its competitors, the chance to come back with a lower price, and the firm obliged.

Home monitoring systems use electronic technology to keep track of nonviolent offenders, and it can be an effective, low-cost alternative to putting people in jail. Chief Administrative Officer Charles Rice is touting the contract as a money-saver.

And maybe it will be. But it's hard to imagine an innocent reason why Mayor Nagin would award a monitoring contract to a company with no significant experience in the area.

The firm was created only in October 2003 by Burnell Moliere, Jimmie Woods and Ray Valdes. Mr. Moliere has a janitorial business. Mr. Woods runs a trash-hauling company. Mr. Valdes, whom company officials say is no longer a principal there, has worked as a financier in large municipal leases. All three men have been involved in lucrative public contracts in New Orleans in the past, and all three have political ties to District Attorney Eddie Jordan and former Mayor Marc Morial.

In awarding them the Municipal Court contract, Mayor Nagin wasn't just helping someone else's supporters. Companies owned by Mr. Woods and Mr. Moliere have contributed thousands of dollars to Mayor Nagin's campaign fund since 2003. Campaign finance records show no such contributions from PPS or TSAP.

Actually, I have a high opinion of Gordon Russell's reporting. I just figure that there should be some kind of counterweight to the idiots and/or paid hacks who write letters of complaint every time he does an investigative report about cronyism in City Hall.

However, today's article about political corruption, brings up something that I wondered about when I was city employee.
Norco businessman Burnell Moliere, president of the politically active janitorial services firm AME Services Inc., was charged in federal court Tuesday morning with helping former Orleans Parish School Board President Ellenese Brooks-Simms gain access to at least $40,000 in bribes she took while in office.

How could a city with residency requirements for employees justify preferential treatment for out-of-town firms as part of its DBE program?

This is a entirely separate question from any discussion of the pros and cons of the city's DBE program.

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