Lloyd Kelley's Dream House

The controller-elect's fixer-upper is a real sore spot and something of a mystery to neighbors in the Woodland Heights

The plot thickened yet again at the first ethics hearing on October 30, a week before the election. Kelley did not attend, nor was an attorney there to represent him. And when Hirst laid out the details of her complaint for the committee, it seemed as if her case was indeed pretty thin. But that was before Allan Van Fleet, the committee's new chairman, noted that Kelley had listed himself as owning 100 percent of the house at Norhill and 7 1/2 on the financial disclosure statement he filed earlier that month with the city secretary's office.

While Kelley, his aides and his attorneys insist there is a simple explanation for the convoluted chain of events that has led to the ethics hearings, the controller-elect continues to muddy the waters. He certainly did himself no favors at the December 12 hearing. With the councilman seated nearby, his lead attorney, Jeff Wray of Fulbright & Jaworski, copped an attitude with Van Fleet, a Vinson & Elkins lawyer.

The two spent most of the morning sparring, though the meeting was merely a pre-hearing to determine when both sides could present their cases. Wray became incensed when Van Fleet denied Kelley the chance to offer a statement in his own defense. When Van Fleet explained that the agenda didn't include testimony, Wray responded by railing about the committee's "Star Chamber-like" proceedings and an "obvious political vendetta" being carried out against Lloyd Kelley.

Alan Blakemore, Kelley's campaign consultant, says Van Fleet -- from his scheduling of the first hearing a week before the election to his joust with Wray on December 12 -- is showboating.

"He has set this whole thing up for maximum negative exposure for Lloyd," maintained Blakemore, who couldn't really offer much of an explanation on what Van Fleet might have against Kelley, who was elected controller with the fundraising help of one of Van Fleet's colleagues at V&E, Joe B. Allen.

Perhaps there is nothing to Hirst's case, but if that's so, Kelley certainly seems to have gone out of his way to make the ethics proceedings more interesting than they need to be. For his part, Van Fleet is clearly frustrated with Kelley and his attorneys.

"I can get along with anybody, but Mr. Wray shows up accusing me of running a 'Star Chamber' and attacking my committee," he says. "The committee has not experienced anything like that before."

Meanwhile, a member of Kelley's staff suggests that the controller-elect may ask Van Fleet to resign as chair of the committee. If that happens, neither Lloyd Kelley nor Jan Hirst will see the end of the dispute over the house at Norhill and 7 1/2 anytime soon, which could make for some interesting block parties in the Woodland Heights.

"I guess he'll end up making it a nice home and he'll live in it," Hirst says. "But it's not right what's happened.

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