It's been three short years since FBI Special Agent In Charge James Bernazzani came to New Orleans. Transferred to our city just months before Hurricane Katrina, Bernazzani wasted no time in ferreting out the government weasels who have been nibbling away at our city's political infrastructure; two of the more notable clans being the Morials and the Jeffersons. But now those days are over.
Gambit, New Orleans' Weekly Newspaper, ran an item in their April 22nd Scuttlebutt section reporting that "heavy hitters (read: financial backers) with conservative leanings," (ie: Republicans,) had been pressing Bernazzani to run for mayor in 2010. Both WDSU TV 6 and WWL Channel 4 picked up the story and questioned Bernazzani, who never said that it was his intention to run. He told the reporters that it was a decision that, if made, would be made at least ten months from now.
For that simple statement though, James Bernazzani has been transferred back to Washington DC effective immediately. You see, there's a little set of Federal guidelines called the Hatch Act which prevents JB from entering any partisan election as a candidate. Go read it. It's short. I'll wait.
Pretty cut and dried, eh? The thing is, Bernazzani did not state an intent to run. The FBI, however, feels that his thinking about the job creates a conflict of interest in the public eye. I can't say I blame them. What happens if his investigations turn dirt up on his political foes? That would look pretty suspicious, wouldn't it? Keep in mind that the FBI holds JB in the highest regard. They're simply making a pre-emptive strike on what might have become a difficult situation. Still, I can't help thinking that JB's getting a raw deal.
Rawer still is the deal the City of New Orleans gets. We are losing one of the most honest public servants we have ever had. I mean, the guy was eroding corruption in our city like it was one of the Army Corps levees. He's not a moron, (and I know morons,) and I know for a fact that he's familiar with the Hatch Act. He spoke to legal counsel before appearing on TV in order to conform to the Hatch Act, so what's up with the reassignment?
Could it be that he was torpedoed? Was he getting close to someones dirty laundry? Did they ask a few cronies to get the ball rolling in the hope that JB would be summarily dismissed from his duties? Hmmmm. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Or is it possible that the Current Administration, already disillusioned because Katrina failed to wipe New Orleans off the map, started this whole thing in order to make life easier for the local Republicans? I mean, you can't steal cookies when there's a big, tough Italian-American pit-bull guarding the cookie jar, now can you?
Either way, what's done is done and there's no use crying over spilled agents. First Ape George Bush recently referred to New Orleans as a "City of hope," so we can hope JB's replacement is just as smart and tough. But there's a sliver of sunlight peeking out from behind this dark news cloud. JB has spent the last 25 years with the FBI and is just four years from retirement. He says he loves this city and cares what happens to it and to its residents.
And he hasn't decided whether to accept the transfer yet.