Former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet

Charbonnet expected to toss hat in ring

Desiree Charbonnet, who resigned recently from her Municipal Court judgeship, is expected to announce her candidacy for mayor of New Orleans on Monday.

She will make her announcement at 5:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street.

The mayoral field so far includes former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and would-be Six Flags site developer Frank Scurlock.

Before she resigned from the bench in April, Charbonnet was barred from even talking about the possibility of a mayoral run, and she has said nothing publicly since then. 

However, her supporters have cast her as a likable politician with a clean record whose family has lived in the city for generations and has deep connections. Her brother, lawyer Bernard "Bunny" Charbonnet, has been an ally of the 7th Ward political organization COUP, which has supported Desiree Charbonnet in past elections. 

She's also a cousin of former state Rep. Louis Charbonnet III, owner of the Charbonnet Family Services funeral home, also called the Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion funeral home.  

Desiree Charbonnet has received national attention for her work to get repeat offenders in drug and prostitution cases into diversion programs designed to help them curb their illegal behavior with the help of supportive services.

Qualifying for the Oct. 14 election is July 12-14.

Irons, longtime ally on opposite sides

Even Civil District Court Judge Paulette Irons’ one-time top political adviser couldn’t sway her legal opinion last week.

Bernard “Bunny” Charbonnet, who advised Irons’ 2002 campaign for New Orleans mayor, showed up at the last minute in the judge's court to help make the case for businessman Wassek Badr, who is being sued over his plans to replace a two-story former Bourbon Street strip club with a three-story restaurant. The City Council approved the plans even though the Vieux Carre Commission had not yet taken a position on the third-floor addition. 

“I’d love to hear what you got to say, Mr. Charbonnet,” Irons told him Tuesday. Several people in the room chuckled.

Charbonnet, who had not been listed as a lawyer of record in the suit, and others argued that work should be allowed to proceed while the Vieux Carre Commission Foundation’s lawsuit against Badr plays out.

But when he argued that the City Council had the authority to approve Badr’s project even without a VCC recommendation, Irons cut him off repeatedly before ultimately siding with the foundation.

The pair, nonetheless, have long been friendly.

Fifteen years ago, when Irons — a longtime state legislator — was a top contender for a mayoral seat that ultimately went to Ray Nagin, it was Charbonnet who helped her get financing for her run. That was unsurprising to many political observers, as the two were allies and friends long before she pitched herself as a reform-minded, anti-patronage mayoral candidate.

But her hopes were dashed in part by revelations early in 2002 that she had worked to steer state contracts to Charbonnet and political consultant Cheron Brylski during her tenure as a senator and that Irons had held multiple public jobs at the same time. 

The Gambit reported the story, which also noted that taxpayers at one point paid Irons to be staff attorney for Charbonnet’s younger sister, Desiree Charbonnet — who is expected to announce her candidacy Monday in this year’s mayor’s race.

In the end, former Police Superintendent Richard Pennington edged past Irons, only to lose to Nagin in the runoff.

Fielkow's coming back, but not for politics

Arnie Fielkow, who parlayed a top job with the Saints into a six-year stint on the City Council, only to return to the sports world, is coming back to New Orleans, but not to get back into politics — at least not immediately.

The former councilman will lead the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans starting in September. He will replace Michael Weil, who is returning to Israel.

Fielkow called the new job “an absolute honor and a privilege.”

A Wisconsin native, Fielkow came to New Orleans in 2000 after six years as president of the Southern League of Professional Baseball. 

The New Orleans Saints hired him as executive vice president, a job he was fired from in 2006, shortly after he criticized owner Tom Benson for suggesting that the team play all of its 2005 home games in San Antonio while the Superdome was unusable after Hurricane Katrina. Fielkow then negotiated a decade-long, $186.5 million contract between the team and the state.

The city, still reeling from the devastation of Katrina, embraced Fielkow when he ran for council shortly thereafter.

He easily beat veteran politician Jackie Clarkson in a runoff for the at-large seat in 2006. Before he ultimately decided to run for re-election, he seriously considered running for New Orleans mayor in 2010.

Still, the National Basketball Retired Players Association was able to lure him away from politics and New Orleans in 2011, hiring him as its CEO.

He'll leave that group, which represents retired professional basketball players, to work for the Jewish Federation, whose purpose is to build and sustain a vibrant Jewish community in the New Orleans area.

His wife, Susan Fielkow, will also return to New Orleans to lead the developmental pediatrics department at Ochsner Health System.

Even if he wanted to, Fielkow could not run for public office this year because he has not been a resident long enough. But in four years — who knows?

Wife's comments may trigger rules change

Kenner City Councilman Keith Reynaud couldn't garner any support from his council colleagues for a proposed resolution Thursday night, but he did get support from his wife, Dona.

Increasingly, that looks like the only support he has.

Keith Reynaud had proposed a resolution requesting City Attorney Leigh Roussel to withdraw a letter she sent him earlier this month. In the letter, Roussel informed Reynaud that, because of personal attacks Dona Reynaud made on her during the council's May 4 meeting, she would no longer work on items requested by Councilman Reynaud. Instead, those requests would be handled by an assistant city attorney.

But when Reynaud's resolution was introduced, none of the other six members seconded it, leaving an awkward silence for a few moments.

But later, Dona Reynaud got up to speak.

"I am surprised with the letter my husband got," she said before promising to return to speak at every meeting to point out what she considers unethical behavior in the city.

That prompted a stern response from Mayor Ben Zahn, who asked the council how long they would let the "circus" continue.

Indeed, Dona Reynaud's words may provoke a change in council rules. President Leonard Cline promised that the members would come up with a plan.

Councilman Dominick Impastato had a simpler solution. "I am asking that our rules of decorum and prohibitions against personal attacks ... are enforced," he said.

Compiled by Jessica Williams and Faimon A. Roberts III

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.