Four years ago, federal agents serving a search warrant battered down the door of Jacques Morial, the youngest son of New Orleans’ first black mayor. The next week, 30 African-American ministers led an angry protest against a federal probe into City Hall, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. A year later, Jim Bernazzani took charge of the FBI’s Louisiana operation, overseeing about 300 employees and a raft of investigations into allegedly corrupt officials.
Last week, five months after a former City Council member began a 37-month prison sentence, Bernazzani made two television appearances suggesting he might run for mayor of New Orleans. His superiors acted swiftly, removing him from his position three days later and ordering him to report to Washington. “The bureau didn’t have any choice,” said Charles McGinty, a retired FBI agent from New Orleans who considers Bernazzani a friend. “Did he break the law? I don’t think so. Should the bureau have removed him? Without a doubt.” Bernazzani, who would have been ineligible to run for mayor because of a five-year residency requirement, apologized for sparking the controversy. Despite the quick removal of Bernazzani, the furor seemed to reignite the view among some prominent African-Americans that the investigations are politically motivated.