Monday, February 16, 2009

What DID ever happen to HIM? (store)

Did anybody else notice this little item from everyone's favorite Saturday T-P politics article?

Among the noteworthy entries on Nagin's 2008 report are three payments totaling $9,500 to EC Advertising of New Orleans for campaign-related work.

The company is owned by Trellis Smith, a City Hall contractor who got caught up last year in an investigation into a city-financed home-remediation program. The controversy centered on the relationship between contractors, including Smith, and Stacey Jackson, the former director of New Orleans Affordable Homeownership.

A probe by the FBI and the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development focused on whether contractors -- particularly those with links to Jackson -- did the work at homes for which they were paid a total of about $1.8 million. Neither Smith nor Jackson has been accused of a crime.

Records show Jackson, who quit the agency in June, had a business partnership with Parish-Dubuclet Services Inc., also owned by Smith, which was one of NOAH's two highest-paid contractors. Smith's firm received $320,684 from the program.

Oh HIM! Now I remember.

Satuday's Times-Picayune article indicates that Smith and EC Advertising were paid for campaign work from Mayor Nagin's campaign warchest toychest. EC Advertising gets a lot of business from the city government of New Orleans. For instance, EC Advertising did NOAH's website, when it was operational but not functional. Considering that it's a small firm of just five people, what rules govern potential conflicts of interest that might arise when companies paid to provide municipal services are also paid to do explicitly political work?

NOAH, eh? Blast from the past right?

But wait!

There's more!

On Sunday, David Hammer wrote a fantastic, must-read article about NORA, the agency charged with flipping properties sold to the LRA back into commerce. Hammer highlights a rule change that occurred this fall that requires those that purchase blighted properties via NORA to remediate the blight within 90 days of purchase and have made substantial progress on an agreed development plan within 270 days. With the old rule, inexplicably maintained since before Katrina until this past fall, only requires blight removal within 270 days. Under that system, those that acquired properties through NORA could simply demolish the dilapidated structure and sit on the vacant lot indefinitely. Now, there appears to be a requirement that the landlord put the property back into use - which I thought was the point of NORA all along.

Anyway, another issue then and now was and is enforcement. NORA needs to have the manpower required to do regular inspections.


Responding to concerns from developers and its own board of directors, the redevelopment authority's three inspectors and its attorneys and policy analysts recently redoubled efforts to track the properties the agency sold under the pre-Katrina model.

They are trying to get the latest information on hundreds of properties, the vast majority of which are in a swath of the city's midsection stretching from Central City downriver through lower Mid-City, Treme, the 7th Ward and the 9th Ward.

At least one of the untouched properties was bought by Stacey Jackson, who until last summer ran New Orleans Affordable Homeownership, another city-affiliated agency responsible for remediating blight. The FBI is investigating allegations that the agency paid contractors for work that was never performed. Jackson has ties to some of those contractors.

Jackson's own company, TJ Enterprises of New Orleans, purchased the corner property at 2732 Danneel St. and 1937 Washington Ave. from the redevelopment authority in 2005, records show. TJ Enterprises bought other parcels from the authority, too.

Before purchasing them, Jackson was required to give the redevelopment authority a rebuilding plan and sign a purchase agreement giving it the right to take back the property if the blight wasn't cleared in nine months.

On Nov. 18, 2008, almost four years after Jackson bought the property at Danneel and Washington, redevelopment authority inspectors found virtually no work had been done there. On Friday, the yellow corner store-style structure was boarded up.

Jackson's attorney, Eddie Castaing, declined to comment for this report.

Sooooooooooo, I got the old NOAH case on my mind...

And I'm wondering why why why we haven't heard a peep about NOAH from Assistant US Attorney Fred Harper, to whom the investigation has been assigned.

Or from anyone at the IG's office.


Let's see some freakin' charges filed.


Anonymous said...

my thoughts exactly.

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