Nine years and 11 months ago, five FBI agents armed with a search warrant rapped on the door of an Uptown home in the 1900 block of Marengo Street.
So began the downfall of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, long one of New Orleans’ most powerful political figures. Later convicted of corruption charges, he is now a federal inmate in Oakdale, about a third of the way through a 13-year prison term.
The six-bedroom, 5,000-square-foot house where Jefferson’s world began to crumble was quietly sold last month for $758,000, more than Jefferson and his wife, Andrea, sought when they first put it on the market in 2011 but less than they asked for when they relisted it early this year.
They took it off the market in 2012, for reasons that are unclear, although they were in bankruptcy proceedings at the time. Their bankruptcy case was closed last year.
The property went back on the market in January; this time, with Uptown home values booming, the Jeffersons asked for $900,000. They dropped that to $860,000 in March and accepted an offer for $758,000 later that month.
The Jeffersons had owned the property since 1978 and raised their five daughters there.
The closing documents from the June 12 sale show that Andrea Jefferson has power of attorney for her husband and signed on his behalf. They also show she has a new mailing address, in the Saulet apartment complex in the Lower Garden District.
Jefferson’s infamous freezer, where the FBI found $90,000 in marked bills tucked into soybean burger boxes, was not in the Marengo Street house. It was in his Washington, D.C., townhome, which also was searched by the bureau that day in August 2005.
Cyclist: N.O. motorists are killing his friends
As the local cycling community pushes for more dedicated bike lanes, better signage and additional safety education for bikers and drivers in the wake of a spike in cycling deaths in New Orleans, courier and messenger Alex Fleming implored motorists at Thursday’s City Council meeting to be mindful of cyclists.
“We wear helmets. We put on lights. We wear reflective clothing — and you keep killing us. All of you,” Fleming said. “You get in your cars and you think you own the road and you kill us.”
Fleming, who said he has lost friends and family members in bike accidents, said the city’s pothole-filled streets and “crumbling infrastructure” also are a danger to bike riders.
“My friends keep putting up ghost bikes all over the place,” he said. “I’m tired of this.”
Fleming’s comments came after the City Council voted to confirm four members of the city’s newly formed Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Committee. The committee will provide recommendations to the council on transportation safety, with a focus on people traveling on bikes and by foot.
Caitlyn Blodget, Naomi Doerner, Alex Lebow and Marin Tockman were confirmed at Thursday’s meeting.
Tammany councilman exits with unusual talk
Richard Artigue, normally one of the least loquacious members of the St. Tammany Parish Council, was uncharacteristically talkative Thursday, his final meeting as a councilman.
Artigue, who is resigning to take a job as director of Slidell’s municipal airport, said he had hoped to finish out his second term, but state law wouldn’t allow him to hold both jobs and Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan wouldn’t hold the airport job open for five months.
Surrounded by his colleagues, Artigue joked that James “Red’’ Thompson — another notably taciturn council member — is his hero.
He then spotted Carlo Hernandez, a fixture at Parish Council meetings, standing at the back and called out to ask why Hernandez had missed a special meeting on Monday. “I went to the hospital to see if you were dead or something,’’ Artigue quipped.
Then he turned his attention to two candidates who are running for his District 13 seat: Dan Crowley, chairman of the board of St. Tammany Parish Fire District No. 1, and Michele Blanchard, who recently served as chairwoman of a committee that reviewed St. Tammany’s home rule charter. The election is Oct. 24.
“My eyes are on you,’’ he said with mock sternness. “I quit a job to run for this once before.’’
The Parish Council has 20 days from Artigue’s final day, Tuesday, to appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term for the southeast St. Tammany seat.
Artigue, who spent his career in law enforcement with the New Orleans Police Department and then the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, owned a business at the Slidell Airport in the 1990s.
He said his goal as director, a post that the city has left vacant for several years, will be to expand the airport.
Tammany schools boss gets contract extension
Unlike many school systems in Louisiana, St. Tammany’s is usually a collegial place. The board and the administration get along, and with the exception of certain curricular issues, the public seems satisfied with the product.
Thursday, the School Board reinforced that satisfaction by extending Superintendent W.L. “Trey” Folse III’s contract by three years, meaning he will lead the school system until July 1, 2019. Folse’s contract was set to expire next year.
The new contract includes a base salary of $200,040 and a $1,200-per-month car allowance.
Folse has been the system’s superintendent since 2010. He oversees 55 schools, 5,000 employees and 38,000 students.
In a statement, he said the past few years have been challenging for public educators in Louisiana but that he is “very excited about the future of the school system and the possibilities ahead.”
Compiled by Gordon Russell, Jaquetta White, Sara Pagones and Faimon A. Roberts III