TV reporter talks about Nagin calendar redactions

Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration refused to produce the mayor’s 2008 electronic calendar, which had been requested by reporter Lee Zurik in early 2009, until his television station filed a lawsuit against the city and the mayor, Zurik testified Wednesday morning.

And the calendar the city eventually turned over – at the order of Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Rosemary Ledet – was rife with redactions. So Zurik, then with WWL-TV and now of WVUE-TV, went back to Ledet, who ordered the city to produce an unredacted calendar.

The difference between the two calendars was striking: All of Nagin’s meetings with Frank Fradella, Greg Meffert and Rodney Williams — all of whom are now convicted felons who have testified to bribing Nagin or facilitating bribes to him — were blacked out in the version initially handed over to Zurik.

The second version showed the meetings.

Zurik’s testimony recounted an episode many New Orleanians likely remember from early 2009. But it helped make the prosecution’s case to the jury that Nagin sought to cover his tracks from the media and the public as he got more deeply involved with a handful of crooked businessmen during his second term.

Fradella has pleaded guilty to paying Nagin $162,500 in cash bribes, as well as arranging for truckloads of free granite slabs to be sent to the Nagin family countertop business, Stone Age. Fradella’s publicly traded firm, Home Solutions of America, did work for the city, and Fradella met numerous times with the mayor as he tried to land a major contract to redevelop the Market Street power plant or to build a NASCAR racetrack in New Orleans East. Neither deal ever materialized.

At least six meetings between Fradella and Nagin were blacked out on the calendar the Nagin administration initially produced to Zurik.

Nagin’s lawyer, Robert Jenkins, sought to sow doubt about who was responsible for the redactions, noting that it was the city attorney’s office, not the mayor himself, who responded to public-records requests.

Williams has admitted paying Nagin $72,500 in bribes, some of which was contributed by his two partners in Three Fold Consultants, an engineering firm that won a raft of no-bid contracts under the Nagin administration.

Meffert, Nagin’s chief technology officer, testified that he served as a conduit for bribes from tech vendor Mark St. Pierre – who enjoyed a lucrative no-bid contract from City Hall – to the mayor.

Kathleen Allen, a lawyer for the state Board of Ethics, is on the stand now.