Obviously we in the media know nothing about ethics, according to Mayor Ray Nagin. If we did know anything about such matters, The Times-Picayune would never have printed that scandalous story about our honorable mayor's most honorable dealings with Home Depot.
So, to clarify things, I called Hizzoner to get a refresher course in governmental ethics. Here's a transcript of our conversation:
CD: Mister Mayor, I apologize for calling before 9 a.m. I know that's your time to work out at the gym, but I wanted to catch you before you got really busy.
RN: Man, I'm bustin' my butt already. What do you want?
CD: Well, it's about that Home Depot deal
RN: Man, I can't believe you guys are making such a personal thing out of this! Can't a man earn a living? Can't a father help his sons?
CD: Of course, Mister Mayor. That's why I'm calling. I want to get your side of this.
RN: My side? Lemme tell you something, man. You come at me with that stuff and you're gonna see a different side of Ray Nagin.
CD: I think I've heard that before
RN: I'm not jokin'. I'm gonna cold-cock you.
CD: Um, would that be before or after you go one-on-one with the news director at WWL-TV?
RN: Hey, man, my schedule is over the line, just like all the attention you guys in the media are bringing to my family. It's putting my family at risk and that's over the line.
CD: OK, then, can you tell me where the "the line" is drawn? We in the media seem to have some difficulty figuring that out.
RN: The line is drawn around my family. Anything concerning my family is private and none of your business.
CD: Well, speaking of business, what exactly are you doing in the countertop business when you have a full-time job as mayor?
RN: Man, my personal time is my own. You guys just don't seem to get that.
CD: Okay, educate me. When does your personal time start and the city's time end?
RN: Like I said, I draw the line at my family. When it concerns my family, it's personal time. I don't know how to make it any plainer for you.
CD: So, when you were at a "meeting" of the family company that day you know, the day somebody got shot nearby and your security guys had to whisk you away that was "personal" time?
RN: You see, this is a perfect example of you putting my family at risk. How do you know that gunman wasn't aiming for me? My family's safety is at stake here, and all you can think about is some stupid ethics question. Man, this is over the line. Over the line!
CD: But Mister Mayor, the people want to know that you negotiated with Home Depot on behalf of the citizens and not on behalf of your sons and your family business. Don't you agree that it looks funny for your administration to sell city streets to Home Depot for less than 15 percent of the appraised value while your family business has an exclusive installation contract with four Home Depot stores?
RN: Like I said, my family's business is nobody's business but ours.
CD: So you're not gonna tell us how much of a stake in the company you and your wife own?
RN: Over the line. Next question.
CD: Can you at least say whether it's 25 percent or more?
RN: I'm gonna cold-cock you!
CD: Is that, um, etched in stone?
- A.J. Sisco
- 'Man, I'm bustin' my butt already. What do you want?'