BY ALLEN M. JOHNSON JR.
If you are coming to steal, there will be no deal! promises mayoral candidate and former state judge Nadine Ramsey in her campaign literature, promising a no tolerance attitude for corruption if she is elected mayor of New Orleans. So how does Ramsey respond to questions about a $5,000 campaign contribution from longtime supporter Burnell K. Moliere, a St. Charles Parish businessman and federal felon who admittedly helped to corrupt the Orleans Parish Public School Board contracting process?
The money will be returned, Ramsey told Gambit today. A mistake was made. Thats all I have to say. Thank you.
Moliere's donation was the largest of seven contributions totaling $11,600, according to Ramseys first campaign finance disclosure report as a mayoral candidate.
Molieres financial support for Ramsey dates to her first run for public office, her 1996 election to Civil District Court, Division J. She won the seat without opposition. After serving 12 years on the bench, including two years as chief judge of the Civil District Court, Ramsey resigned Sept. 11 to run for mayor. By then, court records show, Molieres role in corrupting the School Board had been well-publicized.
On Jan. 22, 2008, the businessman pleaded guilty to a felony charge that he helped structure an illegal scheme to transfer $40,000 in kickback payments in 2005 between two now-convicted co-defendants -- businessman Mose Jefferson and former Orleans Parish School Board President Ellenese Brooks-Simms, an elected official. This summer, Moliere testified as a prosecution witness in the federal trial of Jefferson, the brother and chief political strategist of former Congressman Bill Jefferson. After testimony by Moliere and Brooks-Simms, a federal jury on Aug. 22 convicted Mose Jefferson of bribery and other corruption charges.
While awaiting his own sentencing, Moliere on Oct. 14 donated $5,000 to Ramseys campaign for mayor, according to Ramseys campaign filing. On Nov. 5, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon sentenced Moliere to three years on federal probation; he faced up to 5 years in prison if he had not cooperated with the federal corruption investigation of Mose Jefferson. On Nov. 9, New Orleans CPA Jack Swetland, a second former federal witness in the Jefferson political scandals, filed Ramseys first mayoral report with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, records show.
Ramsey's first major fundraiser as an announced candidate is a $50-per-head event Nov. 18 at The Perfect Fit Bar & Grill (1355 St. Bernard Ave). Whether the $50 cover for the event will help up make up for the loss of Molieres backing remains to be seen in future campaign reports.