Monday, March 31, 2008

Dumber than Nagin -- 3/30/08 edition

Couldn't finish this post last night, because Jeremy Nagin's letter wasn't yet online, and I wasn't totally sure that Dumbass Jr. didn't address the main issue in Gordon Russell's first article.

Today's dumber than Nagin award goes to...another Nagin. So, Jeremy Nagin writes a letter in repsonse to recent articles that he thought made his(?) company look bad. Despite being allowed ten paragraphs, Jeremy Nagin's letter consist of little more than a pro hominem defense that fails to address the key issue raised in Gordon Russell's first article:
Also, Loyola Law School professor Dane Ciolino, who specializes in ethics questions, said the arrangement would run afoul of state ethics laws if Nagin's stake in Stone Age is 25 percent or more. The ownership of the company is not a matter of public record.

It does, however, inform us that:
Our company is family-owned, and I am very blessed to have parents who believe in me and have invested a significant amount of our family net worth and taken on major debt to put this company in position for growth.

Jeremy, I don't know how to explain this to you, but that makes the Home Depot deal look more, not less, suspicious. Trust me on this one, it really does.

He also tells us that the firm is five years old, but as Schroeder points out, Jeremy and his brother were in high school five years ago. So that statistic is, at best, irrelevant.

Jeremy Nagin even offers the same defense that his father, the one that prompted the first "Dumber than Nagin" post:
We also made a pledge to my father never to seek city contracts.

Apparently, the Nagins thought that if they stayed away from city contracts, they couldn't break any laws. Frankly, I assumed that Stone Age would get ridiculously expensive contracts to redo the homes of certain business owners, but I seriously doubt we'd ever find out if that kind of thing were going on. Apparently, the Nagins were too stupid to keep it that simple.

On the other hand, maybe not so stupid. As Celcus commented on the previous "Dumber than" post:
I'm not convinced it isn't more due to an utter and complete lack of shame, sense of entitlement that would make Paris Hilton blush and a level of hubris so that he really doesn't give flying flip about what anyone thinks about anything he says.

And then, other than some bad press, has he ever faced any consequence as a result of anything he did?

I'm not a lawyer, byt I can't imagine Stone Age or the mayor getting more than a small fine for an ethics law violation. If the Home Depot deal doesn't lead the press, other politicians, and the general public to call mayor transparency a liar, he'll face no real consequence.

At first, it appeared that this might be the end of the mayor's reputation for integrity. The Picayune ran a reasonably critical editorial, Stephanie Grace wrote a somewhat harsher* op-ed, and Lolis Eric Elie wrote that the Home Depot Deal couldn't pass a smell test and we could no longer take it for granted that the mayor was not corrupt.

Unfortunately, in today's column, Elie apologized for calling the mayor corrupt. The thing is, Elie didn't call the mayor corrupt. He may have insinuated it, but the apology went further than the original column. I don't know if Elie felt pressure or if he's just unnecessarily circumspect, but last week's column was not over the top.

The city's is beginning to award contacts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet, a mayor who answers all critics by proclaiming himself a "champion of transparency" breaks state laws to maintain secrecy. Even if you assumed that corruption wasn't the reason for the secrecy, there's simply no way that much secrecy can surround the spending of public money without corruption seeping in. Elie doesn't owe the mayor an apology by any stretch of the imagination. I'd say that a couple of his colleagues may owe the city an apology.

*No criticism of Grace intended. Her column pointed out how bad the deal looked even making the best possible assumptions. She made some good points, but I'm afraid the story's going to die.

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