The former Chief Information Officer of the city of News Orleans testified in federal court on Wednesday that for several years, starting in 2002, he directed millions of dollars in taxpayer money to vendor Mark St. Pierre, The Times-Picayune reports. In return, Greg Meffert told the court, St. Pierre provided kickbacks including, eventually, access to a yacht and cash with which to gamble, buy booze and hire strippers. The strippers were also paid “to perform sex acts on Meffert, St. Pierre and others in the city’s technology office,” according to the paper.
It was Meffert’s second day of testimony in St. Pierre’s bribery and fraud trial, and the newspaper characterized his demeanor as “[s]ubdued and at times emotional.” Meffert called his and St. Pierre’s actions “sophomoric,” and admitted to previously committing perjury in attempts to cover up what he called a “criminal enterprise.” Meffert, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in his own trial last November and was testifying as part of a plea deal, said this time he was telling the truth because he has grown tired of lying and out of concern for his family.
From The Times-Picayune:
When it came time to bid out technology work, Meffert testified that he got his boss, Mayor Ray Nagin, to issue an executive order saying tech contracts were excused from normal city bidding rules. Just to be sure, Meffert rigged the game to make sure the work went to St. Pierre.
And when it came time to prop up Nagin’s sagging re-election campaign account in 2006, Meffert was tasked by the Nagin campaign with rounding up $250,000. He turned to St. Pierre, his best friend at the time and the recipient of many of the city dollars Meffert controlled.
St. Pierre responded by contributing over $100,000, getting around campaign laws by having his employees make donations and then repaying them.
According to Meffert, St. Pierre took him and other technology office employees out to New Orleans strip clubs for a number of years, spending almost $20,000. But in 2005 they decided it would be prudent to hire strippers privately, so St. Pierre bought a yacht, called the Silicon Bayou, and the parties set sail.
“They would strip, take their clothes off during the poker games and sometimes perform sex acts,” Meffert said. “On me and on everybody. [St. Pierre] paid for myself, himself and sometimes some key Imagine partners or whatever.”
In addition to strippers, the yacht hosted poker games, and St. Pierre financed Meffert’s buy-ins. Meffert said it was agreed “it would obviously look awful if a contractor owns the boat,” so he told people the vessel was his.
St. Pierre provided Meffert with $860,000 in kickbacks between 2004 and 2007. While still a city official, Meffert used a credit card from one of St. Pierre’s company’s to pay for vacations for himself and Mayor Nagin.
Meffert left office in 2006, but continued to receive money from St. Pierre, even as their personal relationship frayed.
“He doesn’t have a choice, really, because none of us wanted this to come to light,” Meffert said. “You’re not going to sue each other over it. ‘Hey, you still owe me some of my kickback money’ isn’t really going to work. So, our fates were tied together.”
In exchange for Mefferts cooperation, prosecutors agreed to drop charges against his wife, Linda. The couple has two young sons.
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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com