To hear former City Hall technology guru Greg Meffert tell it, it's hard out here for a pimp. A pimp for the city, that is.
That's how Meffert described himself from the witness stand last week while testifying in a high-stakes civil trial. Two local firms initially hired by Meffert's office are now suing Meffert, the city, Mayor Ray Nagin and computer giant Dell for allegedly conspiring to steal the companies' crime camera technology.
So far, Meffert has been the star witness — but not necessarily for his own or his fellow defendants' cause.
Asked to explain an email in which he told a favored contractor that an industry conference offered a "chance for me to pimp your guy's stuff," Meffert said he meant it as an opportunity to promote the city's accomplishments — which seems equally galling in light of how little the Nagin Administration has accomplished post-Katrina. "I did a hell of a lot of pimping for the city," he deadpanned.
Poor Meffert. He took a 50 percent pay cut to take a job that enabled him to help his friend and former business associate, Mark St. Pierre, score a multi-million-dollar crime camera contract from the city — but, like aspiring rapper DJay in the film Hustle & Flow, he's still gotta get money for his Cadillacs — not to mention his yacht, strippers and some first-class vacations for himself and Nagin.
No problem. St. Pierre gave Meffert unfettered use of a company credit card, which Meffert used freely to live large during his days at City Hall — while St. Pierre held city contracts. Meffert ran up more than $130,000 in charges, including a 2004 trip to Hawaii with Nagin.
Technically, I'm not sure if Meffert's relationship with St. Pierre makes him a pimp or a ho, but we'll let the feds sort that out. Meffert's attorney acknowledges that his client is a target of a federal criminal probe, and he predicted before the civil trial began that Meffert would take the Fifth on the stand.
Instead, Meffert spent seven hours last week giving jurors and the public a dose of his gigabyte-sized ego and microchip-sized judgment. He suggested that the pay cut he took when he joined Nagin's team — at a salary of $150,000 a year — entitled him to lavish perks from St. Pierre. Then, with a straight face, he compared it to cops working overtime or paid details to supplement their meager incomes.
Asked about the Hawaii trip, which was paid for by St. Pierre, Meffert blithely answered, "Good, bad or indifferent, Hawaii definitely had nothing to do with crime cameras, nothing to do with the city of New Orleans. I had this business. I had the opportunity to give him (Nagin) a break. We went up there as friends. We barbecued."
Let me get this straight: Meffert and Nagin sat around eating pani-popos on St. Pierre's dime while St. Pierre's companies gorged themselves on city contracts — but there was absolutely no connection between the two?
If Meffert can't come up with a better hustle and flow than that, it's gonna get a lot harder out here for one pimp.