Well, well, well. The Nagin Administrations court-ordered forensic review of the citys computer servers has determined that the mayors missing emails were deleted on purpose by someone who knew what he or she was doing and not as the result of some automated program designed to free up space on the citys overloaded servers.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
Whats most interesting to me about last weeks announcement by the Louisiana Technology Council, which was hired by the administration and then brought in Carrollton Technology Partners to conduct the review, was the statement that the mailbox containing Mayor Ray Nagins emails was the only one missing of 59 mailboxes on the server. So much for the administrations declaration, made in court earlier this year, that the mayors emails were deleted to make room on the citys server, which was running out of space. If the server were genuinely overloaded (a preposterous claim), lots of mailboxes would be missing, not just Nagins.
This brings me back to my column of March 9, in which I compared Nagin to Richard Nixon. The parallels between Hizzoner and Nixon were striking even then; now they glow in the dark.
For example, last weeks announcement should trigger the public search for Nagins Rose Mary Woods. Woods was the longtime Nixon secretary who erased some of the Watergate tapes and created the infamous 18-minute gap. One can only assume (hope?) that the feds are already on the trail of the person who erased Nagins emails or already know who did it. It would be interesting to hear what that person might say under oath. It would be even more interesting if the feds could locate the missing emails. What a treasure trove they must be. Why else would they be deliberately erased?
Another parallel between Nagin and Nixon is the protracted, public nature of their respective downfalls. Nixons took roughly two years and led to his resignation. Nagin has only 10 months left in office; this scandal surfaced in February. He may well serve out his term, but the federal statute of limitation runs for at least five years.
Another interesting parallel is the courts role in ferreting out the truth. In Watergate, U.S. District Judge John Sirica earned the nickname Maximum John for giving Watergate co-conspirators oodles of jail time. In Nagins case, Civil District Court Judge Rose Ledet ordered the administration to search for the missing emails. That led to the hiring of the Louisiana Technology Council and last weeks announcement. I cant wait to see Ledets reaction to the revelation that Nagins emails were deliberately deleted as a result of what the auditors termed technologically competent human action.
Anyone who has followed Ledets handling of this matter knows that she wont look kindly on this development. I wouldnt be surprised to see her rule Nagin himself into court and put him under oath to answer questions about the deletions. If not Nagin, perhaps a city attorney or two. At a minimum, the administration appears to be in contempt of court for its insultingly ridiculous prior claims about the missing emails.
And lets not forget the role that the press played in both scandals. Nixon was brought down by a pair of dogged Washington Post reporters. Nagins lawbreaking has been exposed by Lee Zurik of WWL-TV, who first asked for the mayors emails under the Louisiana Public Records Act and then haled Hizzoner into court after the administration ignored his request.