In 2007, Jones Swanson filed suit on behalf of two New Orleans technology companies that had created the first successful citywide wireless video surveillance system in the world—and then watched as their business model was stolen by members of then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s office in conspiracy with technology giant Dell, Inc.
Jones Swanson and co-counsel Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert worked on this case for three years. By the time it went to trial, they had turned up some extraordinary evidence:
- E-mails from then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s top aide, Greg Meffert, showed that he intended to break the city’s contract with the plaintiffs and work instead with Dell.
- Billing statements showed Mr. Meffert had charged $130,000 to a corporate credit card belonging to his associate Mark St. Pierre, a former city contractor. Included in the charges were vacation expenses for Mr. Meffert’s and Mr. Nagin’s families in Hawaii in 2004.
- The same credit card charges to Mr. St. Pierre also included first-class air tickets for Mayor Nagin and his family to vacation in Jamaica—shortly after Hurricane Katrina had destroyed much of New Orleans.
- Documents showed that, after Meffert left his city position in 2006, he took up a $600,000 consultancy job with a company owned by St. Pierre.
- Also in 2006, another company owned by Mr. St. Pierre, Veracent, signed a deal to become Dell’s camera supplier.
- The apparent conspiracy between Dell, Mr. St. Pierre, Mr. Meffert and Mayor Nagin had cost taxpayers as much as $4 million.
After more than a month of trial, Jones Swanson had not only won the case for its clients, but also laid the foundation for a criminal case against Mayor Nagin and Mr. Meffert—the only time in New Orleans history that a mayor has been convicted and sent to prison for corruption in office.
“The seriousness of Mr. Nagin’s offenses can hardly be overstated,” said US District Judge Ginger Berrigan in July, 2014, as she sentenced Mr. Nagin to 10 years in federal prison. “Nowhere is this more harmful than the city of New Orleans, where the perception of public corruption stubbornly persists.”