Destrehan engineer played key role in Nagin’s conviction

February 21, 2014 at 3:08 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

When jurors returned a guilty verdict on 20 of 21 charges in the corruption trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a few of the key bribery charges were pinned on underhanded deals between Nagin and a Destrehan engineer.

Nagin’s conviction came over a year after Destrehan resident Rodney Williams stepped down as president of Three Fold Consulting following his guilty plea to providing more than $72,000 in bribes to Nagin in exchange for helping his engineering firm in securing contracts with the city of New Orleans.

Of 21 charges against Nagin, three involved bribes involving Williams and Three Fold Consulting. Williams was the first witness called to testify against Nagin.

The first two counts of bribery against Nagin involved Three Fold Consulting and one was for $60,000, the largest bribery payment revealed during the trial. According to documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Williams’ plea deal, Williams and two other principal officers of the engineering firm are alleged to have provided three separate $20,000 checks to Stone Age Granite, a business Nagin and his sons created after the payoff was provided.

Later a separate $2,500 bribe was connected to Nagin via a personal check written by Williams. The penalties for each charge could include up to 10 years in jail for Nagin.

The only charge of which Nagin was found not guilty was a $10,000 cash bribe Williams said he arranged for Nagin and was accepted by Nagin’s sons.

Williams is scheduled to be sentenced on May 21. In the plea deal filed in federal court in November 2012, Williams acknowledged that he could face up to five years in jail and a fine of $250,000 for his role in the scheme.

Following the scandal, Three Fold Consulting is still operating as an engineer for public entities in the New Orleans area. After Williams’ guilty plea, the engineering firm still provided engineering services for St. Charles Parish Public Schools.

Engineering firms working with the School Board oversee construction projects, including bid specifications, and receive payment based on a percentage of the overall work done on the project.

Contracts between engineering firms and the school system are up to the discretion of the superintendent. Numerous contracts with Three Fold Consulting were initiated under the guidance of former St. Charles Parish School Superintendent Rodney Lafon and most recently included engineering services provided on a construction project at R.J. Vial Elementary School in late 2012, following Williams’ plea deal.

When asked last year about their continued association with Three Fold Consulting, St. Charles Parish School Board members defended the contracts.

According to School Board member John Smith, all engineering firms working with the school district are vetted by school officials.

“Those firms are scrutinized by our staff,” Smith said. “When the board begins projects (school officials) make a recommendation to us to use the firm.”

School Board member Al Suffrin said since Williams had stepped down from the firm he did not see any reason why they would discontinue the relationship.

“Why should the company be penalized if he is no longer attached to the company?” Suffrin said. “It just seems that after he left the company it would be unfair to penalize the company.”

View other articles written Kyle Barnett

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