Ray Nagin Charges Compound a Broken Legacy of Post-Katrina Leadership

The former mayor of New Orleans is well-known for his controversial efforts to rebuild his city after it was devastated in 2005. Nagin's legacy could be eclipsed, however, by new charges of corruption brought against him today in federal court.

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Former mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin is well-known for his controversial efforts to rebuild his city after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Nagin's legacy could be eclipsed, however, by new charges of corruption brought against him today in federal court:

A federal grand jury charged former Mayor Ray Nagin Friday with 21 counts of bribery, conspiracy to deprive citizens of honest services, money laundering, wire fraud and filing false tax returns, alleging that while in office, Nagin took cash bribes and gifts from two city contractors.

The two contractors — Frank Fadella and Rodney Williams — have each accused Nagin of soliciting bribes as they sought development contracts with the city of New Orleans. Though Nagin has never admitted to wrongdoing, two of his former aides admitted, in 2010, that they accepted bribes in exchange for approving contract work.

The charges give a new context to the difficulty New Orleans faced in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, a difficulty Nagin would repeatedly emphasize as he sought disaster aid from other states:

I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count.

Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.

How is Nagin reacting now? Earlier today he retweeted televangelist Joel Osteen's declaration that "you are closest to your victory when you face the greatest opposition."

Plenty of New Orleanians, though, see his charges as long overdue:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.