Winning the War on Graft

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By Allen Johnson Jr. 

Jim Bernazzani, special agent-in-charge of the FBI in Louisiana, says the feds are winning the war on political corruption in New Orleans. “If you give my guys another six to seven months, this city will be as clean as it’s been since Huey Long’s time,” Bernazzani said recently. He added, “The vast majority of public servants in this town are sound.” FBI probes over the last five years have resulted in dozens of indictments and convictions for corruption, from the Jefferson Parish Courthouse to the Orleans Parish School Board and the City Hall administration of former Mayor Marc Morial. There is widespread speculation that the probes are winding down and that local U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s days may be numbered, particularly if a Democrat is elected president in the fall elections. “Jimmy is a political appointee,” Bernazzani said of Letten in an interview with radio talk show host Andre Trevigne. “He may be on the move, [but] I don’t intend on moving.” Bernazzani, one of the Bureau’s top anti-terrorism experts, drew loud applause at a local meeting of the FBI Citizens Academy recently when he announced that he passed up a promotion to stay in post-Katrina New Orleans. “This is historic. I want to fight this fight. I want to be here,” said Bernazzani, a native of Massachusetts.

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