The Insider

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Readers of the Press' recent exploration of the upheaval within the Variety Club children's charity may recall that board member Gary Becker vowed to oust the current management and return controversial former fundraiser Laura Rowe to her old job as executive director. Last week, Becker made good on the first part of the promise, as the club's board met and replaced Chief Barker Alan Markoff with Becker himself. Rowe's comeback, however, remains uncertain. The leadership of the Variety Club International, which charters local chapters around the country and was vocally unhappy over Rowe's tenure, has hired Houston lawyer Bennett Fisher to negotiate with the local board. Fisher declined to discuss the details, but says Variety International probably will have a statement on the issue within several weeks.

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When it comes to representing beleaguered public officials, there's plenty of work to go around for Houston lawyers this summer. At least four councilmembers, former councilman Ben Reyes and ex-port commissioner Betti Maldonado have retained counsel to defend themselves against the FBI, while the city hired former prosecutor Rusty Hardin to shepherd its interests. Three of Houston's highest-profile mouthpieces have clients in the fray: Mike Ramsey, who's representing Reyes, Dick DeGuerin, who's representing Maldonado, and David Berg, who's representing Councilman John "One Scoop or Two?" Peavy Jr.. One high-ranking type who's gone outside the city for help is U.S. Attorney Gaynelle Griffin Jones, the subject of an internal Justice Department probe regarding her handling of local investigations. Jones had already retained Hardin, but she's also hired D.C.-based Reid Weingarten to defend her interests. Weingarten, who formerly worked in the same Justice Department unit investigating Jones, has represented the likes of former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in ethics probes.

The Insider can be reached by calling 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax), or by e-mail at insider@houston-press.com.

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