in Houston, Texas
Texas lawmakers push for customer opt-out from smart meters
Thursday, Dec 06, 2012, 01:12PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
smart meter

After seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars in utility rate increases, Texas legislators are coming to the conclusion that maybe smart meters aren’t for everyone.

Please remind us again how the word “smart” ever got attached to this program?

The Public Utility Commission has indicated it might consider allowing some of the 6.2 million customers who were not given the same courtesy when utilities installed the meters of superior intelligence to say no thanks, the Houston Chronicle’s website Fuel Fix reports.

And if the commission fails to act, state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, and state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, have vowed to file bills to force the commission to think again.

This is the same Rep. Bonnen who convinced the Legislature in 2005 to force the commission to come up with a statewide plan to put a smart meter rather than a chicken in every pot in Texas.

This wonder of technology allowed our state government to do what it does best: act with utter certitude in the public good and back it with the public’s money.

Smart meters would provide digital readings giving ratepayers control over their own energy use, day and night, according to AEP Texas. Customers would save money on their utility bills and the reliability of the meters would greatly reduce service fees. Meter readers would be a thing of the past, AEP says.

Never believing in grizillion years that anyone might object, utilities began implementing the Public Utility Commission plan as rapidly as possible, according to the Legislature’s Public Utility Regulatory Act .

CenterPoint Energy in Houston installed 2.2 million smart meters and added $3.24 a month to the bills of the grateful customers who received them.

The monthly fee was reduced by 19 cents when the U.S. Department of Energy chipped in $200 million in taxpayer money to CenterPoint’s smart meter program.

The grant was part of a $3.5 billion national smart meter giveaway that was part of the $862 billion funding fest known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. And everyone except some very esteemed American economists know how that worked out.

While the Utility Regulatory Act doesn’t specifically instruct utilities to ram the legislation down the throats of customers, CenterPoint like the other major players contended that they needed “100 percent deployment in order for the smart meter to be effective,” spokeswoman Alicia Dixon told Fuel Fix.

The program was most effective in galvanizing a disparate group of Texans who shared a common hatred for smart meters. More than 650 groups and individuals have filed complaints with the Public Utility Commission.

According to the non-profit StopSmartMeters.org customers across the country found the new meters were smart enough to produce higher monthly utility bills with no explanation why.

Customers dislike the government installing an information gathering device without consent in their home, the site says.

Smart meters, the site contends, are health, environmental and safety hazards.

“Thousands of people have complained of tinnitus, headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, heart arrhythmia, and other symptoms after a ‘smart’ meter was installed.

“There is also emerging evidence that wireless, non-ionizing radiation harms wildlife and damages trees. There have been direct reports of how smart meters affect vital bee populations.

“A number of electrical fires have been caused by ‘smart’ meters.”

Dennis BonnenDennis Bonnen

Bonnen, in a kind-of “just kidding” moment, told Fuel Fix his legislation was supposed to have been a welcoming law, inviting customers to experience the wonders of smart meters. “Never was it presented as something that would be forcibly deployed,” he says.

It is now up to the Public Utility Commission to decide whether it will follow regulatory Bonnen or champion of the people Bonnen. Something has got be done about the malcontents. “But that shouldn’t be an excuse to let the PUC off the hook,” Bonnen told Fuel Fix.

The only people entitled to be more confused than the commissioners are the millions of Texans paying for the right to be part of Smart Meter Nation.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of smart meter by flickr user akpoff, used via a Creative Commons license.

Largest public pension plans sound, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says
Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012, 01:37PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Texas state Capitol

While the largest public pension plans in Texas continue to be financially stable, the underfunded Houston Municipal Employees Pension System is an example of why taxpayers need to pay closer attention to the health of a system with nearly $207 billion in assets, Comptroller Susan Combs says.

While it was difficult to determine whether she was on official business or making an exploratory appearance for a run for lieutenant governor she has not formally announced, Combs has issued a valuable primer on public pensions in Texas and the nation.

Combs pronounced the two biggest pension plans in Texas, the Employee Retirement System and Teacher Retirement System in "pretty doggone good shape," Associated Press reports today.

Statewide, pensions have a combined liability of $250 billion, meaning that all plans combine are underfunded by $43.8 billion. This 82.5 percent ratio of liabilities to assets is actually much better than in most states, Combs says.

Still, as Texas Watchdog has reported, betting on returns on investment that are not realistic has driven plans and in one case the state of Rhode Island to insolvency.

In the actuarial world, an 80 percent unfunded liability ratio is considered safe. By this standard, the Houston Police Officers Pension System and the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund are healthy.

The Houston Municipal Employees Pension System has a funding ratio of 61.4 percent.

Watchdog’s review of a Pension Review Board report on 96 pension plans in the state found 63 or nearly two-thirds of them with funding ratios below the magic 80 percent actuarial threshold.

The 10 largest membership plans in Texas had a combined unfunded liability of $36 billion at the end of 2011.

Combs and her report are a little fuzzy about what is to be done about chronic underfunding of some public pension plans. She referred to herself as “agnostic” on a call by some conservatives to convert public pensions into 401(k)-like plans for public employees.

Spoken just like someone running for something.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Texas state Capitol by flickr user matt rife, used via a Creative Commons license.

Texas windstorm agency withholds records that would shed light on consultant costs
Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012, 01:19PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
Hurricane Ike

A state agency so troubled that regulators took it over is complaining the costs of that oversight have become burdensome.

The $6.4 million a year, in part for outside consultants charged with helping turn around the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, is a “sore subject” for board members of the agency and state lawmakers, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports. The agency’s general manager, John Polak, points out that TWIA has no control over the hiring of those consultants and so cannot be held responsible for those costs.

Board members must have forgotten the fears of insolvency and allegations of mismanagement that led to oversight in the first place. All this outside meddling was brought about by the agency’s own bungling of claims following Hurricane Ike, which brought charges of fraud and a torrent of lawsuits.

Ongoing litigation costs stemming from Ike are expected to reach $2.5 billion, the paper reports -- or nearly 400 times the annual cost of the management consultants, who have recommended a restructuring of TWIA, reviewed legal bills and given legal advice to the board.

While board members are miffed about the mounting consultants’ costs, their agency could help shed some light on them by releasing invoices sought by the paper for Alvarez & Marsal, the costliest consultant of them all. TWIA joins the North Texas Tollway Authority, Lehman Brothers and the Central Bank of Cyprus on the firm’s client list.

But as one board member put it: “I still wonder what we are getting for the money.”

TWIA has appealed the newspaper’s request to the attorney general, saying the information may be proprietary -- a common but flawed argument when private companies do the public’s business.

Records released so far list six-figure costs for vague reasons like “special projects” and “additional services.”

By releasing the records swiftly and in full, TWIA would take a step toward rebuilding the public trust and maybe, just maybe, eventually being allowed to operate on its own.

***
Contact Lee Ann O’Neal at 713-980-9777 or leeann@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of Hurricane Ike by flickr user NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, used via a Creative Commons license.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst suggests funding water, road projects with $1 billion from Texas’ rainy day fund
Friday, Nov 30, 2012, 01:13PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
umbrella

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst yesterday told some Dallas-area business types he would entertain spending more than $1 billion for water and transportation projects from the state’s rainy day fund.

If you weren’t thinking, even in this day of trillion-dollar government deficits, that $1 billion is still a lot of money, you might have thought, ‘What in the heck is this rainy day fund?’

And a fine question it is.

About this holiday time for the last 20 years or so, before every biennial session of the Legislature, it seems that one big-name elected official or another waxes philosophical about how or whether to draw money from the Economic Stabilization Fund, its formal name.

The Legislature in 1987, having the bejesus scared out of it by a bad economy, asked Texas voters to approve a constitutional amendment allowing the state to set aside a portion of oil and natural gases taxes collected each year for budget emergencies. A rainy day, if you will.

Voters in November of 1988 saw the wisdom and passed the Economic Stabilization Fund into law.

Everything you might want to know about the rainy day fund is provided in an excellent primer from the Texas Comptroller here.

Everything except the development of the fund as a political tool. As recently as a decade ago, there was less than $200 million in the fund. Today, the estimated value of the fund is more than $8 billion, according to the Comptroller’s figures.

Of the $3.5 billion the Legislature has spent from the fund overall, about $1 billion was spent in 2003-04, another $1 billion in 2005 and $1.2 billion in 2006-07, particularly tough budget times.

The money in those years was allocated to help prop up the Teacher Retirement System, the Texas Education Agency, Department of Health and Human Services programs and Gov. Rick Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund.

With the Emerging Technology Fund accused of crony capitalism and saddled with several business failures, the Legislature has debated when, exactly, does the state draw from the rainy day fund.

Before the 2011 session, when all involved parties took turns inflating the estimated shortfall in the upcoming budget, the Austin American-Statesman suggested there had never been a better time to use the fund.

In March, sounding all fiscally conservative, Perry warned the Legislature that the rainy day fund should be tapped only as an “absolute last resort.” A week later, Perry said he thought it would be all right to use $3.2 billion to help balance the budget.

David DewhurstDavid Dewhurst

Weeks away from the start of another session, Dewhurst told the Dallas Regional Chamber it might be nice to create a development bank from which local governments could draw to build reservoirs and other water infrastructure, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Rainy day money might also serve as the feathering for a highway construction project bank, Dewhurst told the group.

But, in fine political fettle, Dewhurst was careful to point out that his infrastructure expansiveness would be done within a framework of ideological austerity.

“In any circumstance – and this is bottom line — we have to maintain a healthy balance in the rainy day fund,” he said. “But as a fiscal conservative, we can draw down a little bit and still keep a very healthy balance.”

As Dewhurst is well aware, such long-range forecasts are useless heading into a legislative session. It remains to be seen come March whether he can convince lawmakers to get out their umbrellas and put on their yellow slickers and boots.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of umbrella by flickr user lakewentworth, used via a Creative Commons license.

Student sees ‘mark of the beast’ in school’s microchip tracking program, files suit
Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012, 12:20PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
RFID microchip

A San Antonio School district spent $261,000 in an effort to save money by using microchips to track its students, bringing religious and civil liberties groups together in a pitched battle against what one student called “the mark of the beast.”

What do you mean, not even global positioning systems embedded in bloodhounds led by Sherlock Holmes can help you track this logic?

Relax and think like a bureaucrat.

Like most districts in the state, the Northside Independent School District endured a tough 2011 session of the Legislature that left it with $61.5 million less over a two-year period and 256 teacher positions unfilled.

Because the state has a Stephen Hawking-like calculation for school funding based in part on average daily attendance (please see p. 10 of the Texas Education Agency guide to school finance), Northside did its own calculating.

Maximize attendance of the 4,200 students in the district and realize an additional $1.7 million in revenue from the state, Associated Press reports.

But how to do that with all those kids sleeping in, skipping off to the malt shop for sodas and the jukebox or hotwiring those jacked up Ram pickups for some gang initiation?

As simple as finding $261,000 in your strapped budget to embed tracking microchips in the identification badges of your students at one high school and one middle school. On a test basis, or course. And, please, the district prefers you call them locator chips.

Only one of the students, Andrea Hernandez, prefers to think of them as religious sacrilege. From the time microchips were developed for human beings, evangelical Christian groups have interpreted their use, even the barcoding of the devices, as “the mark of the beast,” as described in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

We swear, we aren’t kidding.

The school district relented on the chip, but when it insisted Hernandez wear the ID badge, she refused to submit to a false god. She and her parents went to court, the AP story says.

The Rutherford Institute, a civil rights non-profit in Charlottesville, Va., that has made school surveillance one of its causes, has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hernandez.

A hearing in district court scheduled for Tuesday was postponed after attorneys for the school district requested the case be moved to federal court.

You can see now the wisdom of maximizing all that state revenue.

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, quite often a voice of reason in a habitually zany Legislature, intends to file a bill that would prohibit Texas public school districts from using tracking chips for any reason, Chris Steinbach, her chief of staff, told AP.

Roughly the same bills Kolkhorst has filed in every session since 2005 have been routinely ignored. The Hernandez lawsuit might change that.

"How often do you see an issue where the ACLU and Christian fundamentalists come together?” Steinbach told AP. “It's unusual."

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of RFID device by flickr user xampl9, used via a Creative Commons license.

Government contractors resist Texas public records law with lawsuits
Tuesday, Nov 27, 2012, 12:04PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
dome

People who work for your government and deal with your government would rather you didn’t know so much about your government. And they would like the law to reflect that view.

Don’t take our word for it. As many as half of the lawsuits filed with the Attorney General’s office come from government contractors who want to skirt the Texas Public Information Act, Amanda Crawford, the assistant attorney general for open records, told a Senate Committee on Open Government hearing Monday, Associated Press reports.

As we have been reporting for more than a year, the Austin American-Statesman has been fighting in court to determine exactly the taxpayers’ involvement in a recently staged Formula 1 race outside of Austin.

Circuit of the Americas, the company that made agreements with the state, Travis County and Austin to build its grand prix race track, has argued disclosing details of those agreements would compromise it in the marketplace.

Crawford told two-fifths of the committee (Chairman Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and vice-chairman Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, were there. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler and outgoing Sens. Florence Shapiro and Jeff Wentworth were not.) what she regularly sees are contracts drawn with government bodies who are allowed very little access to the contractual fine points.

If your elected officials don’t know what is going on, what are the odds that you will?

The committee leaders also heard from the staff members from cities pestered by what they refer to as frivolous open records requests. Camila Kunau, an assistant city attorney for San Antonio, asked that state law be changed to allow the city to charge more for those kinds of requests.

Kunau did not offer at the hearing to help lawmakers define what, exactly, would be a frivolous open records request, although we are relatively sure she would be glad to.

And, speaking of frivolous, there is the reflexive response of some local officials to being asked to abide by the Public Information Act and its companion, the Texas Open Meetings Act: going to court on the taxpayer’s cuff.

Crawford told the committee the city of Lubbock and a commissioner in Bexar County are currently fighting to keep e-mails about public business private because they were sent on a private account.

City officials we have come to call Furtive Fifteen have taken their challenge to the Open Meetings Act to the Supreme Court, after having lost in every Texas court that would have them.

And taxpayers in Austin are still watching the legal meter run after Travis County attorneys ran up a legal bill of nearly $350,000 trying to determine whether Austin city officials violated the Open Meetings Act nearly two years ago.

Terri Burke and Russell Coleman, speaking on behalf of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, reminded the committee the reason the public information laws in Texas exist is not to make life less burdensome for elected officials but to give the public information.

If the laws need to be changed, Burke told the committee, they need to be made clearer to those officials who are currently unsure. More information is always better than less.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Texas state Capitol dome by flickr user coffee is for closers, used via a Creative Commons license.

Should Texas use billions from state vehicle sales tax for road projects?
Monday, Nov 26, 2012, 11:14AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Austin traffic

Robert Nichols, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, wants voters to approve dedicating the billions raised by the state’s vehicle sales tax directly to the Texas Department of Transportation budget.

If this doesn’t sound like a new idea, then you were paying close attention. Sen. Nichols, R-Jacksonville, offered such a bill to the Legislature during its 2011 session, which it mostly ignored.

But rather than leave it to his fellow lawmakers, Nichols told the Austin American-Statesman he intends to win their support in asking voters to approve it for the 2016-17 biennial budget by amending the state Constitution.

Although using vehicle sales taxes for major road projects sounds logical to real people, keep in mind Nichols is trying to persuade politicians who have come to rely on a 6.25 percent sales tax that generated $2.7 billion in 2010-11 for pretty much everything but roads.

Instead, the Legislature has been financing infrastructure work - much of it in and around  the state’s biggest cities - by borrowing. The Department of Transportation debt stands at $17 billion, leaving taxpayers to finance a full 10 percent of its budget for the next two years on debt and interest alone.

Robert NicholsRobert Nichols

“We don’t need to use more debt to solve our transportation problem,” Nichols, a former member of the Texas Transportation Commission, told the Statesman. “We need to identify a long-term, predictable revenue source so (TxDOT) can actually plan. If you want the most efficient way to do it, that’s what you’ll do.”

To make his plan politically palatable, Nichols says the shift of sales taxes would be phased in by 10 percent a year beginning in the 2016 fiscal year. To take a burden off of the general fund, the sales tax would also service the debt on $5 billion borrowed by TxDOT through a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2007.

Best of all, the change spares elected officials from even considering raising the motor fuels tax which, like a faulty fuel gauge, has been stuck at 20 cents a gallon since 1991. Taxing gas to pay for road work might make sense to real people, but not to representatives of rural taxpayers not inclined to support urban infrastructure projects.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of traffic in Austin by flickr user rutlo, used via a Creative Commons license.

Daughters of the Republic of Texas misused state funds, failed to preserve Alamo, attorney general finds
Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012, 11:47AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Alamo

Judging by a Texas Attorney General’s report, the only thing the Daughters of the Republic of Texas weren’t responsible for at the Alamo was killing off Crockett, Bowie and Travis.

The volunteer custodian for the Alamo for more than a century failed to preserve and maintain the shrine to Texas independence, misused and used state funds for its own benefit and violated state nonprofit organization laws in the process, according to a 38-page report provided to the Texas Legislature.

(You can read the entire report here.)

The Attorney General’s office released the report more than a year after concluding an investigation that began with a complaint of mismanagement by the DRT made in June 2010, the report says.

Daughters of the Republic volunteers continue to provide services at the Alamo, but under the direction of the state General Land Office, given authority over operations by the Legislature in 2011.

Even then, the report says, DRT leaders were not altogether honest in describing their stewardship of the Alamo to lawmakers.

Only because the Legislature removed the DRT from direct control of the Alamo is the Attorney General’s office refraining from legal action against the group, the report says.

Karen Thompson, president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, told the San Antonio Express News the organization was shocked “at the outrageously inaccurate conclusions within the report.” Thompson said the report was not an accurate picture of her organization today.

The Attorney General’s report makes clear that much of its criticism is directed at DRT leadership.

“This report recognizes that the DRT and its members have committed countless volunteer hours to serving the Alamo and the State of Texas,” the report says. “Indeed, generations of DRT members have demonstrated tireless commitment to the Alamo.”

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of the Alamo by flickr user Rhubarble, used via a Creative Commons license.

Secretary of State Hope Andrade resigns, says post was ‘highest honor of my professional life’
Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012, 04:26PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Texas state Capitol

Hope Andrade, who oversaw five elections over the past four years as Texas Secretary of State, is resigning, effective Friday.

Andrade, 63, felt it was the right time to move on after the Nov. 6 statewide election, her spokesman, Rich Parsons, told Associated Press this afternoon. She submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Rick Perry today.

“It has been the highest honor of my professional life to serve as the Secretary of State for the greatest state in our nation,” Andrade said in a press release. “I am truly humbled by the trust and confidence Governor Perry placed in me nearly four-and-a-half years ago and will forever be grateful for the opportunity to represent Texas in this esteemed office.”

Hope AndradeHope Andrade


“As the first Latina Secretary of State, Hope has a permanent place in our state’s history books,” Perry said in his own release. “Her leadership was fundamental during five successful statewide elections. I’m thankful for her service, and I’m proud to call her a friend. I wish her all the best as she continues to make our state a better place.”

Andrade was active in promoting voter registration and rigorous in following state law in maintaining the integrity of voter rolls.

She defended, but put a temporary halt to, the purging of the names of dead voters from the rolls prior to the November election after critics objected to a change in the method mandated by the Legislature.

Andrade is the former chairwoman of the Texas Transportation Commission and a longtime businesswoman in San Antonio.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of Texas state Capitol by flickr user chascar, used via a Creative Commons license.

New ethics complaint filed against San Antonio city officials over handling of convention center contract
Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012, 10:36AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
money

A former city contract coordinator for San Antonio is not satisfied that a brisk but gentle paddling of Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni is sufficient to make the handling of a $300 million Convention Center contract go away.

Michael Cuellar filed a complaint with the city’s Ethics Review Board against DiGiovanni, David Zachry, CEO of one of the winning contractors, and three city employees, the San Antonio Express News reports today.

The board is expected to consider the complaint at its meeting Dec. 17.
 
The complaint followed a decision in October by the board against taking action against DiGiovanni for his role in the Convention Center negotiations because he had “unknowingly” violated the conflict-of-interest guidelines in the ethics code.

While DiGiovanni was voting to give the largest construction contract in city history to Zachry Corp. and Hunt Construction Group of Phoenix, he was in the final stages of accepting a job as chief executive officer for Centro Partnership, a non-profit downtown development promoter.

Zachry is a member of the executive committee for Centro Partnership.

Pat DiGiovanniPat DiGiovanni

DiGiovanni insisted he violated no ethics code rules, but admitted making a mistake he said he regretted.

Cuellar contends an apology just isn’t enough. “City staff have demonstrated a failure to scrupulously avoid the appearance of impropriety at all times,” the complaint says.

Each of the five have proclaimed innocence in letters to the board. In a bid to discredit Cuellar, Robert Newman, an attorney for Zachry, called his complaint “unfocused, rambling and substantially incomprehensible.”

Newman told the paper Cuellar had a history of “harassing behavior,” referring to 33 open records requests of the city he made in the past five months. Police Chief William McManus drafted a letter Newman provided to the Ethics Board saying Cuellar is no longer allowed in City Hall, but did not say why.

Cuellar resigned from his coordinator’s position in February, but would not tell the paper why.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of money by flickr user 401 (K) 2012, used via a Creative Commons license

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Grits for Breakfast
Governor signs omnibus innocence bill to track informants, record interrogations Governor Greg Abbott today signed HB 34, Texas' latest omnibus innocence legislation. Grits explained in this post why the eyewitness ID...
Update:1 year 7 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston meeting of Texas Latino GOP PAC tomorrow evening From the InBox: The Texas Latino GOP PAC are the gatekeepers to the conservative Latino Community, for far too long GOP outreach to Latino...
Update:1 year 7 months
Big Jolly Politics
Sen. Joan Huffman to recap the 85th From the InBox: Join us THIS WEDNESDAY, June 14 (Flag Day!), for our meeting with State Sen. Joan Huffman, SD 17, who will be discussing...
Update:1 year 7 months
Big Jolly Politics
Gov. Abbott mistakes incarceration smell for "freedom" Governor Greg Abbott made a speech in Bell County recently declaring that, as one drove north out of Austin, one could notice a different...
Update:1 year 7 months
Grits for Breakfast
Unanswered questions about law-of-parties beyond death penalty In our podcast the other day, Texas Defender Service Executive Director Amanda Marzullo estimated that 10 percent of death-row defendants...
Update:1 year 7 months
Grits for Breakfast
Priorities The headline from the Victoria Advocate declaring that the Texas Legislature prioritized mental health treatment over incarceration is...
Update:1 year 7 months
Grits for Breakfast
Legislative Session The 85th Legislative Session was different in many ways. Two things changed the narrative this session. First, Empower Texans successfully...
Update:1 year 7 months
Big Jolly Politics
Court trends advise tempered enthusiasm for HB 34 eyewitness ID reforms Does this sound like a suggestive photo array to put before a witness?A witness described being robbed at gunpoint by a “[b]lack male,...
Update:1 year 7 months
Grits for Breakfast
MAY 22, 2917 / Theodore Dalrymple on secularization and transcendence THE SECULARIZATION of Europe is hardly any secret. Religion's long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no...
Update:1 year 8 months
Unca Darrell
MAY 10 / James B. Comey . . . . . . needed firing. Everything he did during the 2016 election was wrong. He was wrong . . . . . . back in July to release information...
Update:1 year 8 months
Unca Darrell
Droppin' F bombs, Beto O'Rourke style It's not often that a politician decides to start cursing repeatedly during speeches and interviews. But that hasn't stopped...
Update:1 year 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
APRIL 5, 2017 / Weeding out the audience at the Alley is . . . . . . a feature, not a bug. Houston's Alley Theatre is running "An Act of God," a loosely dramatized collection of irreverent one-liners...
Update:1 year 10 months
Unca Darrell
Statewide primary rumors It's that stage of the election cycle where politicians are trying to figure out if they should run for something else or stay put. ...
Update:1 year 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Not really. Sure, he's not liked, Texans think Ted puts Ted first, his approval rating is upside down, etc...
Update:1 year 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
MARCH 16, 2017 / Jim Webb on what it means to be a redneck, and . . . . . . why redneck culture matters. In 2004 Jim Webb wrote Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Though the 2016 presidential...
Update:1 year 10 months
Unca Darrell
MARCH 3, 2017 -- Goodbye, and thanks, to Thomas Sowell THOMAS SOWELL, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of America's most important public intellectuals, retired from...
Update:1 year 11 months
Unca Darrell
March 2, 2017 / The poem our teachers got wrong TWO ROADS diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Generations of commencement...
Update:1 year 11 months
Unca Darrell
FEBRUARY 27 / Eric Hoffer on . . . . . . baby boomers and alienated intellectuals. "SCRATCH AN INTELLECTUAL, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the...
Update:1 year 11 months
Unca Darrell
2017 Project: January “Progress” There are two different ways to interpret my 2017 project: that it's a way more complicated New Years Resolution, or that it is essentially...
Update:2 years 1 week
Greg's Opinion
Ted Cruz's first senate term in a nutshell The National Review's Tim Alberta switched to Politico, and one of his opening pieces put Ted Cruz's first term in a nutshell It...
Update:2 years 1 week
Rick Perry vs The World
Andrea Parquet-Taylor named KTVT CBS 11 news director Former KHOU 11 assistant news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor named Vice President, News Director for KTVT CBS 11 Andrea...
Update:2 years 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
VIDEO: KPRC 2 10pm newscast (1-24-99) ...
Update:2 years 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
Democrats actually thought Wendy Davis was a serious candidate? Hat tip to Willisms: VIDEO- Wendy Davis being Wendy Davis: https://t.co/SHq3ACGVDJ #txlege— Will Franklin (@WILLisms) January 24,...
Update:2 years 2 weeks
Rick Perry vs The World
Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:2 years 3 weeks
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 6 years 8 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 6 years 8 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 6 years 8 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 6 years 8 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 6 years 8 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 6 years 8 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 6 years 8 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 6 years 8 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 6 years 8 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 6 years 8 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 6 years 8 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 6 years 8 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 6 years 8 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 6 years 8 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 6 years 8 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 6 years 8 months
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 6 years 8 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 6 years 8 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 6 years 8 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 6 years 8 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
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