In early November, we covered the proposed redevelopment of the Memorial Auditorium as CECI – the Center for Entertainment and Creative Industry. Reviewing what I wrote, I feel like I missed something obvious – that the proposed multi-purpose entertainment complex was given its ambitious sprawl to accumulate a broad constituency, which would make it harder for naysayers to oppose. What kind of cad would oppose the Leah Chase culinary school? A jazz museum? The return of Mardi Gras balls to the auditorium? And, dealing with all those constituencies would earn someone some serious jack as the designated wrangler.

This week, The Times-Picayune reported on city Inspector General Ed Quatreveaux’s scathing review of the proposal, which he considered “abject waste.” Some of his issues were ones that occurred to some of us when CECI was announced. Would City Council approve the lease? It is to be financed with tax credits and FEMA money, and we wondered if FEMA would actually pay for their plans, a question the city should have seen coming considering the challenge it’s having coming to an agreement with FEMA on how much it’s to pay for Charity Hospital. Cindy Chang writes:

Because the contract deviates from FEMA guidelines, the agency is likely to reject requests for reimbursement, leaving the city on the hook for most or all of the estimated $100 million cost of renovating and redeveloping the building, Quatreveaux said in letters to Nagin and the council that were posted on the inspector general’s Web site late Monday.

Chang writes that in Quatreveaux’s estimation:

The proposed consulting contract would allow Le Triomphe [the developer] to bill the city by the hour, at rates of as much as $280 an hour, without specifying any obligations, such as work products or project milestones, that the company must fulfill, Quatreveaux wrote.

“[Le Triomphe’s Stewart] Juneau can just bill hours for breathing,” he said in an interview.

Under the contract, the company would have a further incentive to inflate price tags because it would calculate expenses such as travel and office supplies as a percentage of the total project cost, a practice that is not allowed by FEMA, Quatreveaux wrote.

In a second story, Cindy Chang writes about the possibility that proposed redevelopment could directly benefit Mayor Ray Nagin’s photographer and friend Bernardo Wade:

A draft contract for “professional services” between the city and Stewart Juneau’s Le Triomphe Property Group, which was the prime mover behind the original plan giving Wade a large cut, quotes hourly rates of as much as $280. Beyond a list of broad subject areas and job titles like “project executive” and “special consultant,” there are no detailed descriptions of the work to be performed.

Under the contract, which has been signed by Juneau but not Nagin, Juneau can bill the city up to 5 percent of the project’s total cost, or at least $4 million, for work such as “cost management and control consulting.”

“There are no parties identified, with a rate of $280 an hour. It could be anybody,” Quatrevaux said in an interview Tuesday.

The proposed deal had the sufficient whiff of corruption and cronyism from the start that it has been hard to imagine this deal going through. Still, if Quatreveaux’s reading of the draft contract and proposed deal are accurate, this represents a disturbingly naked and shameless attempts to feed Nagin’s friends.