The Insider

The Unwelcome Christmas Guest
Plaintiff's lawyer Richard Mithoff annually throws one of the most lavish Christmas parties in Houston, taking up most of a floor at the posh Ritz-Carlton. He sometimes gets uninvited guests at the loosely regulated, boisterous affair, but this year he was given a real surprise. As he celebrated at his combination birthday-Yuletide bash, Mithoff learned a familiar, if not necessarily fond, acquaintance was circulating among the hundreds of guests: Vicki Marie Hubbard, whom Mithoff had recently deposed for a lawsuit alleging that she had been hired to gather information on some of the lawyer's breast implant clients and their families.

After Hubbard was pointed out to Mithoff, the lawyer approached the woman and, according to witnesses, ordered her "to get her fat [rear end] out of my party." Eventually, hotel security was alerted, but by that time, Hubbard and a friend had exited the soiree. "Nice party," was her only rejoinder to being asked to leave, according to Mithoff.

Mithoff filed suit in September on behalf of Sheryl Berry, charging that implant manufacturer Baxter Healthcare Corporation and Baxter International Inc. had retained Hubbard and private investigator Bernard Ash to collect information on Berry and her family. The suit claims Baxter engaged Hubbard to travel from Texas to New Mexico to pose as a patient of Berry's chiropractor husband, Jerry Smalling, "for purposes of intentionally invading the sanctity of the spousal privilege in order to obtain privileged communication between husband and wife in violation of applicable law and the Canons of Ethics." In an accompanying affidavit, Baxter Healthcare attorney Patricia Jones confirmed that Ash and Hubbard had been retained "in connection with the investigation" of some of the implant suits filed against the corporation. As noted in Berry's lawsuit, Hubbard had pleaded guilty to a prostitution charge in Judge Al Leal's county court in April 1988 and paid a $500 fine. Her plea, however, was placed in deferred adjudication, and that October, the charge was dismissed "in the best interests of society and the defendant." Hubbard declined to discuss the episode when being deposed by Mithoff, but she denied working as a prostitute or previously pleading guilty to prostitution.

We couldn't get in touch with Hubbard, but a man who answered the phone at a number we were given for her said he and the woman had been at another function that evening, and were invited by some lawyer friends to tag along to the Mithoff gathering. At the time Berry's suit was filed, Mithoff claimed Hubbard's activities for Baxter "have gone far beyond the boundaries of decency." But that was before she crashed his party.

A Little Less Public Expense
A previous item in this column ["Public Relations, Public Expense," October 19] highlighted the symbiotic relationship between Houston Community College System board trustee Herlinda Garcia and the system's rent-a-flack couple, Henry and Randi de La Garza. Apparently someone else had questions about the de La Garzas' $20,000-a-month public relations deal, as HCCS trustee Frank Medina recently proposed chopping the contract by half. He also advocated making the pact renewable on a monthly basis at the discretion of Chancellor James Harding, not one of the de La Garzas' biggest admirers, by one source's account.

The motion thus effectively put the job of managing the system's PR back in the hands of the administrators and theoretically out of the control of board member Garcia, who initially proposed the de La Garzas, her good friends, to the board. Medina's motion carried 7-2, with trustees A.J. Lynch and, naturally, Garcia opposing.

A Boatload of Dollars
The request most unlikely to come true in 1996 emanates from Jerry Dumas, who's seeking the Republican nomination in state Senate District 7 in northwest Harris County. Upon learning that Jon Lindsay is set to roll into the race for the seat being vacated by incumbent Don Henderson, Dumas has demanded that Lindsay return nearly $700,000 in campaign funds he amassed as county judge and is now planning to dump into his Senate bid. "It's our understanding that's he's testing the waters, and he's certainly well equipped to do so with his knowledge of boats and campaign dollars," quips Dumas consultant Todd Smith, in a sly dig at Lindsay's previous expenditure of campaign funds for his son's Caribbean fishing boat. Lindsay is expected to officially announce his Senate candidacy shortly. Henderson has said he is relinquishing his Senate seat for a bid to fill Jack Fields' departing white bucks in Congress.

Send your New Year's offerings to the Insider at 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax).

 
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