The FBI had to work hard for years to get a grand jury indictment of
former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin yesterday (a searchable PDF of
the indictment is attached; see below).
A lot of what occurred could have been stopped a long time ago if
the city and state had better ethics laws and the city's ethics
board was able to initiate complaints and hold public hearings on
ethics issues that came to its attention. It appears that every time
I read the indictment of a mayor or council member, the misconduct
is such that a good ethics program might have prevented it from ever
occurring. That's why, unlike many in the good government world, I
don't cheer when I see another indictment. I see it as unfortunate.
Lives were ruined and the public trust was undermined because simple
ethics reforms were not instituted and an ethics commission did not
do its job.
When I read about the indictment in an
article in yesterday's New Orleans Times-Picayune
, the two
words that jumped into my mind were "no-bid" and "indirectly." The
word "no-bid" appears twice in the article, but "indirectly" does not
appear at all. In the indictment, neither word appears. But if the
ethics program had dealt with just these two words, all of this
would have been dealt with years ago.