Friday, August 01, 2008

The Times-Picayune Helps Office of Recovery Development Administration Appear Above the Fray [UPDATED]

Or, NOAHtes on a Scandal

Today adrastros expresses his disappointment with the Times-Picayune's overdue treatment of the NOAH scandal.

I'm partially in agreement. Some of it does come off as a little generous to Mayor Nagin and regurgitates a mythical history of Nagin's reform efforts.

I think that their follow-ups with Mr. Willard of Willard Painting and Russell Kelly of Affordable Trucking are useful, relevant pieces of journalism.

More substantively, I question the amount of space provided for the denials and explanations of Anthony Faciane from the Office of Recovery Development.

Mr. Faciane has not been named in the NOAH investigation, nor has his agency. Not on my blog, not on Karen's blog, not in any of Lee Zurik's reports.

Yet the Times-Picayune gave him an advance opportunity to ensure that we all know that Stacey Jackson acted alone.

"We really didn't have to confirm that the companies were good, " Faciane said. "The only thing that we had to rely on was that NOAH said they had qualified contractors that did the work."

There you have a high ranking official totally absolving his organization of any responsibility. The Times-Picayune didn't press, letting that quote dangle in the wind. Instead, the T-P went on to describe the Nagin administration's recently launched in-house investigation.

Meanwhile, inspectors this week have surveyed about 100 of the 870 properties at which NOAH officials claimed its subcontractors worked during the program's eight-month tenure.

"Our inspectors to date do not show that payments were made at properties where work was not performed, " Faciane said, adding that the review should be completed by next week.

A responsibly-written article might have determined that, given the intentional release of multiple "inaccurate" lists and the obviously shady practices going on here, maybe people might question the validity of a ORDA-sponsored audit. A responsibly-written article might have then gone to a City Councilperson or to Karen Gadbois or Sarah Elise Lewis for a quote supporting healthy skepticism of an audit based on an "accurate" list that the city has yet to produce for anyone in the media.

The Times-Picayune did not do that. They irresponsibly refused to question whether or not the Nagin administration had the credibility to do their own audit. They follow up Faciane's touting of a totally questionable internal review like this:

He told the council's Recovery Committee on Wednesday that "if we find any duplication of payments or payments that were made for work that was not done, we will seek the city attorney's advice and work to make sure the city is reimbursed."

Basically, the Times-Picayune has determined that the Nagin administration is capable enough and credible enough to police this in-house with their own attorneys. Don't look at the man behind the curtain, City Council. We'll handle it. We can totally fix it. We can correct it ourselves. No need to look at systems, no need to question the lack of oversight that allowed the inconsistencies to occur in the first place.

After all, Nagin told Lee Zuirk that "I don't know, we'll take a look. But if there are any problems, we'll clear 'em up."

My question to the Nagin administration and the Times-Picayune is if money is laundered but then reimbursed when the graft is exposed, is it just a system glitch that gets corrected? Does that mean that the crime that occurred magically never happened?

Interestingly enough, Michelle Krupa wrote an article about NOAH in late 2006 that also lead with quotes from Anthony Faciane:

The city hired four contractors for the gutting program, though officials couldn't immediately explain the process for hiring them.

I guess they still can't immediately explain that process, can they?


Last night, featured the NOAH article in its own little front page box that included links to lists of properties so citizens could check if they ended up on the city's inaccurate only correct list or whatever it is.

This morning that NOAH box has been removed from the front of and replaced with a prominent news index box for "Alligator Attack."

Good Job.


jeffrey said...

This was largely my reaction to today's article as well. Although I think the bits about Kelly and Willard are (almost intentionally) written in such a gossipy manner as to suggest that they really shouldn't lead anywhere.

I've got more but it will just end up in a post at some point. Meanwhile... man that alligator was HUGE. They almost couldn't fit the whole thing on the front page.

E said...

Alligator continued on page A4

startrekchess said...

Anthony Faciane isn't one of Blakely's California hires. He's been around city hall a long time and should have been overseeing. He may be defending his work ethic or something more.

This is the question that troubles me as well: My question to the Nagin administration and the Times-Picayune is if money is laundered but then reimbursed when the graft is exposed, is it just a system glitch that gets corrected? Does that mean that the crime that occurred magically never happened?

I thought you would enjoy this link:

E said...

You're right, good link.

startrekchess said...

Her other government hustle stuff is also worth checking out: