The Insider

City spokesman Jones declined to address the issue of what role if any politics played in Hunt's dismissal.

"For a variety of reasons," says Jones, "we do not publicly discuss personnel matters."

For her part, Hunt claims to still be in a state of amazement over her fall from the top of one of the largest department divisions in the city.

"You can check me out nationally, and I check out real good," she says. "I'm 51 years old. I wouldn't throw my career away on a damn ticket."

Exit Julio
Who says you can't rouse City Hall to action? After The Insider informed the powers-that-be last week that planning commissioner Julio Laguarta did not live in the city of Houston, as required by city bylaws, action was swift in coming. So swift, in fact, that The Insider is wondering whether the Lanier administration wasn't already itching to get rid of the Bellaire-residing Laguarta.

Robert Litke, director of the city's Planning and Development Department and secretary to the planning commission, dropped the ax on Laguarta in a rather brusque missive last week. "I was very recently made aware that you no longer reside in the city of Houston," Litke wrote. "As you are aware, the position that you were appointed to on the planning commission requires that the member shall be a 'resident and qualified voter of the city.' Since you do not meet the residency requirement, I am herewith advising you that you are no longer a member of the city of Houston Planning Commission."

Laguarta did not respond to phone messages from The Insider, and he's apparently been mum with the city as well.

Caution: Rodney Ahead!
Elected officials who'd like some free state-supplied signs should follow the lead of state Senator Rodney Ellis, who's taken full advantage of the Texas Department of Transportation's willingness to provide directions to legislators' offices. Motorists who've taken the downtown exit off of I-10 lately have no doubt encountered the first of the four highly visible signs pointing the way to Ellis's state office in the Lyric Centre building on Louisiana Street.

Tx-DOT deputy engineer Steve Simmons says all kinds of elected officials, including members of Congress, can qualify for the green signs, which cost the state about $75 each. Unaccountably, no such signage directs constituents to the downtown office of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who rarely passes on a promotional possibility.

"I'm not so sure she's asked for them," says Simmons, "and that's one of the requirements -- that they must request them."

We won't tell her if you won't.

Star's Chamber
Look for Kathy Whitmire to be back in Houston more often in the coming months. The ex-mayor, who's director of the National Resource Center for Public Leadership at the University of Maryland, is part of a three-member mediation team on sex and race discrimination issues hired by Star Enterprise. Star is a Houston-based joint refining and marketing venture of subsidiaries of Saudi Aramco and Texaco, which recently reached a multimillion-dollar settlement on racial discrimination claims with black employees. Star also owns Texaco outlets and supplies gasoline to stations in Eastern and Southern states.

Joining Whitmire as paid consultants for Star are Benjamin Hooks, the former head of the NAACP, and James DeAnda, a Houston lawyer and retired federal judge.

The panel will meet with Star employees raising discrimination claims "and will seek to assist these employees in reaching an agreed resolution," according to the company. Star spokesman Paul Doucette says the panel was created not because of existing complaints but "out of an abundance of caution to absolutely ensure that we didn't have any kind of a problem." Doucette was aware of only one pending discrimination accusation against Star -- an EEOC complaint by an employee at Star's Port Arthur plant -- and he characterizes Star's record on job discrimination as no different from other major corporations.

Help The Insider expose the true face of the high and almighty by dialing 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax) or by e-mailing him at Insider@houston-press.com.

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