by Elliott Stonecipher

Among those of us who spent a lot of time in public speaking, writing and other such work in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, one journalist who caught everyone’s attention was television investigative reporter Lee Zurik.  His textbook investigative journalism has continued since, and in 2009 he won the prestigious George F. Peabody Award for an investigation into the New Orleans Affordable Housing program.

Lee is now reporting for WVUE-TV (“Fox 8”) in New Orleans, and to prove he’s still doing what investigative journalists do when they do it well, here is a link to a story from a few days ago.  Lee’s 2011 report on voting irregularities involving St. Bernard Sheriff’s Department deputies prompted some in that department to use Lee’s photograph for their target practice.

Calvin Grigsby

Lee’s latest investigation involves the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority and the way the public body hired its “financial advisor,” Calvin Grigsby.  Many of you will remember that Grigsby is also Mayor Cedric Glover’s “financial advisor,” and is one of the subjects of a Shreveport City Council internal investigation.  New Orleans has its own Metropolitan Crime Commission, and here, from Lee Zurik’s report, is a quote from the head of the Commission:

“Asking fundamental questions about whether there have been prior legal problems, whether they be criminal or civil, is something very, very basic,” says Rafael Goyeneche, head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “And if there are some red flags in an individual’s past, then I think this agency needs to explain why they chose to ignore those red flags. And more importantly, did they even pose these questions?”

It is interesting, and telling, that Grigsby was hired by Glover in 2007 precisely the same way he was hired by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority:  an inside deal, not vetted by anyone but Glover, with no Request for Proposals from other providers in advance.  Although Councilman Ron Webb attempted to question the targeting of Grigsby in previous federal and other investigations, Glover deflected all such questions with bombast, and that was that.

Lee’s full report is here.  You will notice that the RTA response to Lee’s requests is an attack on his professionalism.  Also, within Lee’s report is notable mention of Grigsby’s associate based in Shreveport.

New Orleans RTA

We might take a moment to remember just how much Shreveport’s bond debt has increased in Shreveport, and how much Mayor Glover intends – still – to add to that debt.  Mr. Grigsby and his employees are paid not only their hourly fee – up to $300.00 per, plus expenses – but are paid also per $1,000 bond “handled,” including bonds simply paid-off or refinanced, it appears.

To the knowledge of everyone with whom I have spoken in City Hall, the mayor’s “financial advisor” and his employees have never recommended that Shreveport’s bonded debt – $4,000+ per man, woman and child – is too high.  Since he would also be paid $300.00 per hour, plus expenses, for that advice, we might expect him to at least give that some consideration.

Elliott Stonecipher

For any reader who may not know, this and all other such commentary I forward to you has been done strictly in the public interest.  No compensation of any kind has been solicited, offered or accepted for this work.

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