NEW ORLEANS (CN) — Former Mayor Ray Nagin arrived in shackles to the New Orleans federal courthouse Thursday, a brief respite from federal prison where he has been for two years, to be deposed in a legal battle between two landfill companies.
In the months after Hurricane Katrina in 2006, in the early days of Nagin’s second term, he refused an order to keep a landfill in New Orleans East open as an emergency measure, though it had been approved by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality as an appropriate place to send hurricane debris.
Waste Management, which oversaw the emergency landfill, filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 accusing its rival, River Birch, of giving Nagin’s campaign $20,000 in 2006 in exchange for insisting that the then-new landfill be closed.
The lawsuit appeared to fizzle out during a criminal probe of River Birch and its owners, Fred Heebe Jr. and his father in-law Jim Ward. That investigation involved a different matter and had to take place before the lawsuit could proceed.
The legal probe ended after Heebe and his attorneys helped uncover misconduct from then-U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s top lieutenants, including prosecutors who were found to be anonymously posting comments about federal defendants in ongoing litigation, on the Times-Picayune’s website, NOLA.com.
“In exercising his emergency authority, Mayor Nagin’s order superseded the normal processes of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance applicable to permitting a C&D landfill and granted the necessary approval,” the 2011 lawsuit said.
Nagin was deposed at 10 a.m. Thursday in Magistrate Judge Karen Wells Roby’s courtroom in Eastern District of Louisiana Court in downtown New Orleans. The deposition was not open to the public.
In 2014, mostly unrelated to the landfill controversy, Nagin was convicted of 20 of 21 counts of wire fraud and money laundering and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.