5) Recovery Chief To Leave Post
Recovery Director Ed Blakely confirmed that he plans to leave his position at City Hall no later than July 1, and possibly sooner. His departure would coincide with the reorganization of the Office of Recovery and Development Administration he now oversees into a new city agency to be called the Community Development Department. Blakely’s current deputy director, Austin Penny, would lead that new department.

4) Jazz Fest Numbers Show Resurgent Event

Attendance at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was the largest since Hurricane Katrina, with more than 400,000 tickets sold for the seven-day event. Attendance ranged from 300,000 to 375,000 in the previous years since Katrina, down from the 452,000 tickets sold for Jazz Fest in 2005, before the storm. Weather and the number of festival days scheduled have a big influence on turnout, but with fears that the national recession would hurt tourist travel the milestone was a welcome one in New Orleans.

3) New Orleans Schools Respond to Flu Threat

Local and state health officials continued doing their part in the global response to swine flu. Locally, officials at Audubon Charter School in New Orleans decided to close the school for three days for cleaning after a young student there tested positive for swine flu. The student was the only confirmed case of the virus in New Orleans as of last week, and he was reported to be recovering at home. State health officials were monitoring test results for two dozen other people in Louisiana possibly infected.

2) Gretna Councilman Indicted

A federal grand jury indicted Gretna City Councilman Jonathan Bolar on allegations of extortion and failure to file income tax returns. U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s office accuses Bolar of collecting nearly $100,000 from constituents in his district in return for his support for zoning variance requests for their properties. Investigators also say he failed to file tax returns from 2003 to 2006.

1) City Hall Vendor Details Emerge in Court Case
An ongoing civil lawsuit alleging unethical favoritism of one vendor over another in the Mayor’s Office of Technology shed more light on the relationship between Mayor Ray Nagin and former City Hall technology chief Greg Meffert. Records presented at the hearings show Meffert’s vendor-provided credit card paid for the mayor and his family to travel to Jamaica in November 2005. Nagin has previously said he remembered taking only one family vacation to Hawaii in 2004 on Meffert’s tab. The lawsuit stems from complaints by some City Hall vendors that other firms got preference for lucrative technology projects, including the city’s long-troubled crime camera program. The
Metropolitan Crime Commission submitted a complaint asking the state Ethics Commission to look into Nagin’s vacations with city vendors.

Ian McNulty is a freelance writer in New Orleans and contributing writer for New Orleans Magazine. Reach him at imcnulty@cox.net.