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New Orleans has hired two attorneys from New York’s Kelley Drye & Warren to advise it on ethical issues and the myriad federal investigations targeting the city. Washington-based partner David Laufman will lead the firm’s efforts with the assistance of associate Andrew Wein, according to the city contract. Laufman, formerly an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, specializes in white collar crime and federal investigations. “In essence, I will help guide the city with its compliance through the course of this investigative action,” Laufman said. “I have counseled many individuals and companies grappling with investigations, but this is the first time I’ve provided this type of advice to a municipality.” Laufman’s contract with the city extends from August through the end of October, and it appears there will be no lack of work. Federal authorities are investigating at least three matters involving City Hall, according to reports by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans and other published accounts. One is the disappearance of thousands of Mayor Ray Nagin’s e-mails. A New Orleans television journalist in January made a public records request for Nagin’s e-mail correspondence and calendar information for 2008, but nearly all of those files had been erased. A state judge ordered that city officials stop destroying the correspondence of Nagin and his staff, which violates Louisiana’s open records laws. The city hired a technology firm to determine what happened to the missing files, and that firm later said publicly that the e-mails had been intentionally removed. The city then fired the technology firm and filed a civil lawsuit against it, alleging breach of contract. Later, the technology firm revealed that it had turned over some of the data it had recovered to the U.S. attorney’s office in response to a subpoena. The missing e-mails also appear to be tied into a federal investigation of the mayor’s technology office in connection with the city’s contracts for crime surveillance cameras. Federal agents have been interviewing witnesses and examining data tied to payments from technology vendors to Nagin’s election campaign and vendor-sponsored trips for the mayor, among other things. In an apparently separate matter, FBI agents seized two of the city sanitation director’s computers after she released thousands of city council e-mail messages to an outside attorney, which bypassed city protocol. Laufman’s contract with the city says that he will provide advice and counsel on “compliance with applicable ethics, record retention and procurement laws,” as well as cooperation by city officials with state and federal inquiries. The city capped payments to Kelley Drye at $15,000, but left room for an extension.

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