Thursday, February 07, 2008

Area Businessmen

At the same time they're awaiting sentencing from a federal judge, two New Orleans area businessmen continue to collect on lucrative contracts with Armstrong International Airport; and the airport hasn't said specifically what it plans to do about it
The contracts for Moliere show a joint venture as well, between Molere's AME Services and Romelli Janitorial Services, worth more than $3.5 million a year.

The airport also contracts directly with AME and Moliere for general floor covering and resident inspection services. The airport said Moliere's initial 1999 contract lasted four years. In June 2004, the airport board approved a month-to-month extension that has been extended ever since.

Allow me to rephrase something that I brought up two weeks ago. Until the loss of local housing caused by the federal flood made a residency rule for city workers untenable, the city required all city employees to be city residents. It certainly seems fair to ask if it was deemed advantageous to only spend city payroll money on city residents, why wasn't it also considered advantageous to only give preferential treatment in the awarding of city contracts to truly local firms? Yet, it seems that a Norco firm was able to benefit from the city's DBE program. I'm sure that AME benefited from lower overhead in Norco, but I would have been terminated from city employment (pre-Katrina) had I attempted to benefit from lower rent and utility bills outside of the city. Considering the relative sizes of the pay check that I received from the city and the contracts that AME had with the city, that hardly seems fair.

You're probably thinking that the residency rule has been lifted for city employment and the city has more important things to focus on than fine-tuning the rules governing inclusion on its DBE list. You'd be right on the first point, but not on the second point. Sixteen months ago, the mayor issued an executive order mandating increased DBE participation in the city's rebuilding as a way of nurturing local businesses:
From now on, companies that seek subsidies or tax waivers from New Orleans city agencies will be required to work with local and minority-owned businesses under an executive order signed by Mayor Ray Nagin last month.

"Any community in America that is thriving and growing has small businesses that are doing well," Nagin said.

To be fair, one of the first firms to benefit from the mayor's new policy was a New Orleans business, but I do wonder by what definition it qualifies as a small business:
In an unusual facet of the downtown bids, documents show that SDT and Ramelli chose the same subcontractor -- Empire Janitorial Sales & Services, a subsidiary of Nolmar Corp. of New Orleans -- to handle a major portion of work under the deal.

Nolmar, founded by businessman Nolan Marshall, came under fire several years ago from the Orleans Parish School Board for what school officials said was its shoddy performance as part of a joint venture with ServiceMaster.

In 2003, a year after Nagin took office, the company was part of a team that became the sole construction management firm for the New Orleans Aviation Board after the board fired a second firm with strong ties to former Mayor Marc Morial.

For all three city sanitation contracts, the city has required the prime contractors to create a 50 percent partnership with disadvantaged business enterprises; Empire/Nolmar is a qualified DBE

If the only thing that the Norco business and the New Orleans business had in common was that they were both minority owned, I would have had second thoughts about this post. However, they do seem to have something else in common. You guessed it, AME and Nolmar not only contributed to Nagin during his mayoral campaign, both companies have given money to the mayor since his re-election as well.

I should add, that I know absolutely nothing about Nolmar Corp., but during the last election, everybody in the city saw the Nagin commercials that asked why businesses were giving money to his opponent. With that in mind, I consider any business that has city contracts and that has donated to the mayor since his re-election to be questionable. Perhaps I should say "question-worthy," it's not my intention to imply anything.

For more on AME, you might remember this post at Dambala's.

Update: The odd thing is, I really know nothing about Nolmar and it wasn't even in my consciousness when I started the above post. It just turned up when I looked up everything -- school board, airport, campaign contributions -- I had saved on AME.

It also distracted me from my original point about the credit Nagin got in his first term for supposedly cleaning up the Aviation Board. Some clean-up, he even reappointed his campaign manager to the board. I also know nothing about Sean Hunter, the man that Nagin's board named as Director of Aviation, but he also seems to have a Morial appointment -- an appointment of morial's board, rather. Not a big deal, but "cleaning up" the Aviation Board ranked up there with the dog-and-pony show at the Taxicab Bureau in terms of making the mayor's reputation as a reformer. Same businesses, same people, some clean-up.

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