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Ex Fugitive Runs For Mayor Of New Orleans

From the same New York Times that celebrated a fourth grade drop out and Taliban spokesman at Yale:

Only in New Orleans: from fugitive to mayor?

Adam Nossiter, New York Times

Saturday, March 4, 2006

New Orleans — For a week, she was on the lam, a fugitive from the remnants of this city’s judiciary and from her high responsibilities as well.

Nobody knew where the Orleans Parish clerk of criminal court was hiding out — or if they did know, they would not say. In a kind of carnivalesque charade that seemed like an extension of Mardi Gras, arrest warrants were issued, the city’s top judges made threats, but still Kimberly Williamson Butler refused to appear. That she was also New Orleans’ top elections official in a week when candidates were filing to run for mayor only made the disappearance more breathtaking.

Butler had been asked by the judges to relinquish some of her responsibilities for applying for federal money to clean up the flood-damaged courthouse. As simple as that may sound, however, she refused, and the judges of the criminal court issued a warrant for her arrest.

Meanwhile, as she hid from the authorities, the linchpin of New Orleans’ faltering criminal justice system — cleaning up the city’s flooded evidence room — was balanced on Butler’s mystifying game of hide-and-seek. With thousands of defendants backed up, trials cannot move forward until rusty guns, muddy clothing and other items are decontaminated. But Butler wasn’t playing.

Finally, in a coda that segued perfectly into the frayed city’s uneasy perch between cheer and despair, the errant clerk showed up in court Friday to answer the judges’ summons, only to announce to baffled reporters on the courthouse steps that she was quitting her job — so that she could run for mayor.

"You know what? I don’t think I’m the right person to be clerk of court," a beaming Butler suddenly announced, her pastor standing behind her. "I think I’m the right person to be mayor.

A reporter called out: "Are you serious? Are you running for mayor?"

But Butler refused to back down.

Inside the courthouse, law clerks shook their heads in disbelief at yet another unreal post-Hurricane Katrina moment. Butler, meanwhile, had already warmed a stump speech to serve as the mayoral race’s 15th candidate, one based on the politician’s time-honored gambit of recent personal experience. She was, after all, facing a contempt hearing in front of every criminal court judge in the city, all of them unamused, Monday at 9 a.m.

" The things that I’m going through, I’m just like an average everyday New Orleanian," Butler said, her voice rising. "I can identify with people that have made mistakes and had to stand before judges. I can identify with people that have lost their homes, because I’m living in a hotel room myself."

Once close to Mayor Ray Nagin, Butler has pursued an erratic course in public life, plummeting from semi-folk-hero status after Nagin fired her three years ago — she was considered mayoral material back then — to opprobrium for failing to deliver all of the voting machines to precincts in an election in 2004.

In the meantime, the legal community in New Orleans has been observing the minidrama with bemusement, aware there is a serious underlying problem.

The evidence "must be decontaminated and reorganized," said Kevin Kelly, clerk to Chief Judge Calvin Johnson. "That must happen."

It sure sounds like Butler has as much experience as any of the other politicians down there, especially General Nagin:

For a week, she was on the lam, a fugitive from the remnants of this city’s judiciary and from her high responsibilities as well.

Speaking of criminals, I wonder if Mother Sheehan’s "bright spot" and GQ’s "Man Of The Year," Malik Rahim is still running for mayor.

He probably wouldn’t want to take the pay cut.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, March 4th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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