Ray Nagin's Fall from Reformer to Convicted Corrupt Politician

February 13, 2014

Ray Nagin was the business executive who swept into City Hall on promises of reforming how government does business, only to see those ideas disintegrate. He was the face of the city after Hurricane Katrina, shouting anguished distress calls to the world, seeming urgent but also at times unhinged. He was the nontraditional politician who corralled support across racial groups and then turned divisive with an awkward attempt at welcoming back storm-displaced African Americans to a "chocolate city."

Nagin was the first New Orleans mayor indicted and tried on federal charges for corruption. On Wednesday, he was the first to be convicted.

Jurors overwhelmingly agreed with the prosecution's narrative in finding him guilty on 20 of 21 charges: Nagin sold his office for personal gain.

Both his successor, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and his predecessor, Marc Morial, were quick to say after the verdict that Nagin's woes represent the city's past.

"Hopefully, this closes a very kind of ugly chapter in the history of the city of New Orleans," said Landrieu, whose 2010 landslide was thought to be fueled in part by "buyer's remorse" over Nagin's defeat of Landrieu to win a second term in 2006.

Said Morial: "New Orleans has been damaged in an immeasurable -- yet, thankfully not irreparable -- way." Morial said the conviction -- on charges that Nagin took kickbacks and payoffs for funneling work to shady characters eager for city business -- should remind current elected officials to maintain the integrity of their offices.