Granite & Politics

Adapted Gordon Russell –

With the presidential debates in full swing and my absentee ballot ordered, I am anxious to exercise my right to vote. Which is why this story from the city that was my second home caught my eye…

Former Mayor Ray Nagin’s business dealings in the world of granite countertops are at the center of a federal probe that last week led to his two sons — and business partners — being hauled before a grand jury. The family’s local granite outfit, Stone Age LLC, is long gone, after being shuttered in early 2009.

But the Nagin family apparently hasn’t given up on granite yet: They’ve taken their idea to Texas.

According to the Texas secretary of state’s office, the Nagins incorporated a new firm called Basics Natural Stone in February.

The business is headquartered in Frisco, the Dallas suburb where the Nagins began living part-time immediately after Hurricane Katrina. Texas records show the officers in the company are the former mayor; his wife, Seletha; and his sons, Jeremy, 28, and Jarin, 25.

There was no answer at a phone number for the business listed online, which described Jeremy Nagin as the point of contact. A message left at the number was not immediately returned.

Lawyer Clarence Roby, who represents Jeremy and Jarin Nagin, confirmed Monday that the Nagin brothers had been summoned last Friday to appear before the federal grand jury investigating their father. They also delivered records, Roby said.

Roby said he could not discuss the brothers’ testimony or say what records they had delivered. But he did say they have complied with every request made by federal authorities, and added that prosecutors have not identified his clients as targets of the probe.

Their father, however, is clearly at the center of that investigation. In June, businessman Frank Fradella pleaded guilty in June to paying $50,000 in bribes to Nagin and delivering “numerous truckloads” of granite to the mayor’s business. Fradella had several city contracts during Nagin’s second term in office, which ended in 2010.

The Nagin family’s part-time residency in Dallas as New Orleans struggled to recover from Katrina caused some controversy during his second term. The family began renting a townhouse in Frisco immediately after the storm, and they bought it in 2007.

Nagin put his Park Island house on the market for $729,000 late last year. It sold for $485,000 several months ago. Real estate records do not show the Nagins having purchased another house in the city.

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