The Insider

The Family That Testifies Together
It could be the "This Is Your Life, Ben Reyes" session of the federal grand jury hearing evidence in the FBI's investigation of corruption at City Hall. The panel is expected to get an earful at this week's three-day sitting from Tony and Greg Reyes, brothers of the former councilman, who operate Penco Group. The company helped clients find appropriate city contracts for which to bid, and in that capacity, had contact with the bogus investors of the FBI-created Cayman Group after the feds set their sting in motion last summer.

Also subpoenaed to testify is engineer Rosalie Brockman, Ben Reyes' significant other and cohabitant at the Reyes family's two-house compound on El Paso Street. Occupying the other residence is Reyes' former wife Cammie, an arrangement that must make for some interesting conversational openers in the driveway. Brockman is a former supervisor in the Greater Houston Wastewater Project, the federally mandated billion-dollar upgrade of Houston's sewage treatment system. The Insider couldn't determine what subjects Brockman will be asked to address in her testimony, but she was undoubtedly a very well-placed fly on the wall during the eight months or so of Reyes' association with the undercover agents, which began last summer -- when he was still on Council.

Politically Incorrect
With the ouster of talk show host Roger Gray, KPRC/AM 950 radio has completed its downward spiral from a respected local news station to a one-note echo chamber for conservative yakkers. Hardly a liberal, Gray was once described by a caller as a "heterosexual centrist," a label he found appropriate. But that, apparently, was way too middle-of-the road for KPRC, whose owner, Clear Channel Communications, has bought out the final four months of Gray's contract, raising suspicions in some quarters that station manager Dan Patrick wanted to clear the decks prior to the November election for a replacement who more closely hews to the party line. Patrick did not return our phone inquiry, and Gray declined to speculate on whether his dismissal might have something to do with his inability to uncritically parrot every Whitewater-related fax from the Republican National Committee. He did acknowledge that his knack for exploring more than one side of an issue has put him increasingly out-of-step with right-talking KPRC colleagues Jon Matthews and Mike Richards and the listenership they attract. Presumably, KPRC listeners -- if few others -- will be more appreciative of the syndicated Michael Reagan Show, which will air, at least temporarily, in Gray's old evening slot.

The Official Car of the FBI!
The rampant commercialization so evident at the Atlanta Olympics has even spread to an institution considered untouchable. Last week, the new agent-in-charge of the FBI's Houston office was welcomed to town at a reception sponsored by two local businesses, Sykes Communications and River Oaks Chrysler Plymouth. On hand at the St. James Condominiums to greet Don K. Clark, the former head of the agency's San Antonio office, were all manner of glad-handing politicos, from Mayor Bob Lanier to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Conspicuous by their absence: all the publicly fingered targets of the FBI's City Hall sting.

Channel 11's Marlene McClinton emceed the reception, during which Clark was the recipient of effusive greetings from the likes of all-but-declared mayoral candidate Lee Brown and Brown patron Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale, who also did the Olympics together and may come to be known as The Inseparables. McClinton coyly referred to Brown's mayoral aspirations and aired a journalistic one, declaring, "I hope I get the interview." Veterans who've waded through oceans of murky Brown-speak might counsel McClinton to be more careful about what she wishes for.

Clark deferred a question from The Insider on the appropriateness of the privately funded welcome to his agency's chief division counsel, Cindy Rosenthal, who explained that federal regulations allow employees to accept modest items of food and refreshment. Rosenthal said private interests also paid for two other receptions for Clark. "It's no big deal," she said. Concurring in that opinion was Ray Sykes, co-sponsor of the St. James reception. Sykes said he's frequently organized welcoming get-togethers for new arrivals to Houston and also had done work for the FBI in the past, though he didn't elaborate on what kind.

Clark's status as one of the few African-Americans in charge of an FBI office could provide valuable cover for his agency if, as appears likely, most of those who wind up indicted in the City Hall sting are blacks and Hispanics. Look for Clark to be very visible at the post-indictments news conference.

Un-Tyra-ed
Thwarted political ambitions must not make for the most stable marital life. They certainly haven't for former Harris County district clerk and failed county judge and City Council hopeful Katherine Tyra. She and her husband of 18 years, Lewis, are headed for splitsville after the 82-year-old semi-retired businessman petitioned for divorce last week and moved out of their Hobby Airport-area spread. He cited "conflicts of personalities" with the 65-year-old Katherine, and requested that she be restrained from abusive or anonymous phone calls, injuring or making threats of bodily injury to the plaintiff, or damaging or appropriating his property. Mrs. Tyra did not return a phone inquiry from The Insider. As district clerk, Tyra had plenty of "conflicts of personalities" with subordinates, as she enforced a dress code that forbade women from wearing pants, banned Rockets T-shirts during the team's first championship run and busted a jury selection supervisor back to the mailroom for talking to the media. After her last unsuccessful run for office, her husband reportedly pulled the plug on any further financing of the missus' political ventures, a move that apparently did nothing to enrich their home life.

Spice of Life ...
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.

Jobs Program
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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