Nagin, who is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for city
contracts, said his administration had needed to streamline
contractor selection as the city struggled to recover from Hurricane
Katrina in 2005.
"Eighty percent of the city was damaged, three-fourths of our
citizens were dispersed ... we were fighting with state and the
federal government to fix our city," Nagin said as his attorney,
Robert Jenkins, had him explain how vendors were selected.
The city ordinarily awarded about $25 million a year in capital
improvement contracts, but that figure soared to some 600 projects
worth billions of dollars after Katrina, he said.
"We had to find people who could help us get that done," Nagin
testified, adding that he never deviated from a commitment to make
the city's contract-awarding business transparent.
Nagin, 57, faces 21 counts of bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy, money
laundering and filing false tax returns.
Prosecutors have accused him of receiving cash and gifts valued at
more than $500,000 during his two terms as mayor and for a short
time after leaving office.
Nagin denied testimony by witnesses that he had traded city
contracts for cash, including tens of thousands of dollars injected
into the countertop installation businesses he co-owned with his two
Jenkins asked Nagin about a trip his family took to Hawaii while he
was mayor. Witnesses have testified that it was paid for by
businessman Mark St. Pierre, who is serving a 17-year prison
sentence for bribing city officials.
Nagin said he believed that
the city's then-technology director, Gregory Meffert, had paid for
the trip for the Meffert and Nagin families out of friendship.
[to top of second column]
Nagin contradicted testimony on Monday by Meffert, who has pleaded
guilty to bribery, tax fraud and conspiracy and is awaiting
The prosecution rested on Wednesday after witnesses portrayed Nagin
as desperate for money and willing to trade on his position to get
cash. Nagin, a former cable TV executive, was swept into office in
2002 on promises of good government and won re-election four years
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Matthew Coman, Nagin denied
that he had shown favoritism in awarding city contracts.
When Coman showed him an executive order he had signed that appeared
to broaden the mayor's authority for awarding contracts, Nagin said
the order was prepared by the city attorney, not the mayor.
"Who signed this order?" Coman asked, showing him the signature page
of the order.
"I did," Nagin answered.
Nagin, who now resides in Frisco, Texas, faces a potential prison
term of 20 years or more. Cross-examination is due to continue on
(Reporting by Kathy Finn; editing by Toni Reinhold)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.