Nagin was a political novice before his first term as mayor in 2002, buoyed by strong support from white voters. He cast himself a reform-minded progressive who wasn’t bound by party affiliations, as he snubbed fellow Democrat Kathleen Blanco and endorsed Republican Bobby Jindal’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2003.
Katrina elevated Nagin to the national stage, where he gained a reputation for colorful and sometimes cringe-inducing rhetoric.
During a radio interview broadcast in the storm’s early aftermath, he angrily pleaded with federal officials to ‘‘get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans.’’ In January 2006, he apologized for a Martin Luther King Day speech in which he predicted New Orleans would be a ‘‘chocolate city’’ and asserted that ‘‘God was mad at America.’’
Strong support from black voters helped Nagin win re-election in 2006 despite widespread criticism of his post-Katrina leadership. But the glacial pace of rebuilding, a surge in violent crime and the budding City Hall corruption investigation chipped away at Nagin’s popularity during his second term.
Nagin could not seek a third consecutive term because of term limits. Mitch Landrieu, who ran against Nagin in 2006, succeeded him in 2010.
Aaron Bennett, a businessman awaiting sentencing in a separate bribery case, told The Times-Picayune that he introduced Nagin to Fradella specifically to help the mayor get Home Depot granite installation work for a business that he and his sons founded. Fradella’s company received more than $4 million in city contracts for repair work at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and in the French Quarter after Katrina, the indictment says.
Some of the allegations in the indictment have been the subject of state ethics complaints.
In April 2010, the Louisiana Board of Ethics charged Nagin with two possible violations of state ethics law. One charge involved Nagin’s ‘‘use of a credit card and/or gifts’’ from St. Pierre. In the other charge, the Ethics Board said Stone Age LLC, the Nagin family’s business, was compensated for installation services provided to Home Depot while the home improvement retailer was negotiating tax breaks from the city.
The indictment doesn’t mention Home Depot by name but says Nagin approved a 2007 ordinance that allowed city property to be sold to an unidentified ‘‘major retail corporation’’ at the same time he was soliciting the retailer for work for his granite business.
Nagin has largely steered clear of the political arena since he left office. On his Twitter account, he describes his current occupations as author, public speaker and ‘‘green energy entrepreneur.’’ He wrote a self-published memoir called ‘‘Katrina’s Secrets: Storms After the Storm.’’
A few hours before his indictment, Nagin retweeted a post by Texas megachurch pastor Joel Osteen that says, ‘‘You are closest to your victory when you face the greatest opposition.’’
Landrieu, Nagin’s successor, called Friday a ‘‘sad day’’ for the city.
‘‘Today’s indictment of former Mayor Ray Nagin alleges serious violations of the public’s trust,’’ he said in a statement. ‘‘Public corruption cannot and will not be tolerated.’’
Nagin’s indictment is another blemish on the reputation of the city, which has been plagued by decades of corruption.
‘‘I was really disappointed in him,’’ said Norlita Parker Wells, a city employee. ‘‘I expected more from him. I think it’s funny only because when he was entering office he said he was going to run such a tight ship. What happened?’’
Associated Press writers Danny Robbins in Dallas, Kevin McGill and Chevel Johnson contributed to this report.
Follow Michael Kunzelman at https://twitter.com/Kunzelman75.