The Insider

Meanwhile, McConn suggests there are much deeper, darker scandals at Memorial than the mismanagement of a food-and-drink bar. "I tell you one thing," says the disgruntled former vendor, "I know a lot that went on at Memorial. If you want the Big Mamou, I've got the Big Mamou. And it jeopardizes the entire city of Houston. That thing you did in the Press [about his concession] -- it's a joke compared to what the whole thing's about." And with that, McConn told us he had to run.

Get This Judge a Spellchecker
State District Judge Mark Davidson recently raised the hackles of 14th Court of Appeals Justice Maurice Amidei by describing the jurist as "Maurice 'Alzeimer's' Amidei" in an e-mail message to fellow civil district judges [The Insider, "Can You Spell Alzheimer's?" April 10]. In addition to insulting Amidei, Davidson managed to misspell the mind-fogging disease. Davidson's e-mail was copied by a court reporter for Judge John Devine and faxed to Amidei, who hasn't forgotten it for a month and counting.

Now, in a follow-up apology sent to Amidei, Davidson seems less mindful of his colleague's bruised ego and more regretful over the exposure of his e-mail. And this time, he managed to misspell Amidei's real name. Here's the text, with our annotations added in boldface to enhance your comprehension:

"Dear Justice Amedei: Last week, after I received notice of a ruling of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, I sent what I had assumed was a private message by e-mail to the civil judges of Harris County informing them of the ruling. In it, I used intemperate language in making a feeble attempt at humor that could be construed to be at your expense." [Yep, nicknaming someone with a mentally incapacitating disease could be construed that way, couldn't it?]

"I understand that one of my colleagues saw fit to send you the private communication, and that it has been leaked to the press. I want to assure you that it was not my intention to publicly embarrass you. I had nothing to do with, and deeply regret, the public distribution and dissemination of the letter." [Of course, I intended to ridicule you privately, and I'm only sorry I got caught.]

"I suppose that, just as lawyers have a right to complain about judges, and appellate judges, in private communications, have the right to give their frank opinions of the abilities of various trial judges, trial judges have the right to privately complain about appellate judges. It is unfortunate when those communications are made public, as it demeans us all." [And also exposes us to possible censure from the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for lowering the public's opinion of the Texas judiciary.]

"I regret this entire incident and apologize for any embarrassment it may cause you." [But I'm not going to get Judge Devine to rehire that poor woman he fired for sending you my e-mail.]

"Sincerely Yours, Mark Davidson"
We'll let you readers pass judgment on the sincerity of that apology.

Long-Term Hand Job
A tipster in the city's Public Works and Engineering Department just had to share an office joke with us last week. It seems a crew of hapless maintenance workers has been toiling away at the department's office building/warehouse at 319 St. Emanuel for the last two weeks, scrubbing the off-white anodized-metal exterior of the structure by hand with rags and cleaner -- just like you'd do with your own bathtub.

A visit by The Insider to the scene of the cleaning found the workers perched on a cherry picker and scrubbing away with their rags in the mid-afternoon sun, with no end of their toil in sight. Asked why the city doesn't use high-pressure water cleaning equipment or simply contract the work to professionals who could do it in days, city spokesman Dan Jones claimed the city's mechanized equipment just couldn't cut the grease and dirt on the building. He then confided his own cleaning philosophy.

"Not all jobs can be done mechanically," said Jones. "Sometimes there's no substitute for elbow grease. A power washer is sometimes not as good as a human being."

Jones challenges any professional building cleaner to demonstrate that they can scrub down the St. Emanuel building better than manual laborers. If they can, Jones offers to talk contract.

Special Crime
After an anonymous note and an advertisement for a weight-reduction method were left on the desk of a secretary in assistant district attorney Bert Graham's office several weeks ago, Graham, the chief of the D.A.'s special crimes division, knew just what to do: He ordered his investigators to find out who had insulted the woman by implying she needed a trip to the fat farm.

According to one source, D.A.'s employees were interviewed by investigators, the advertisement was dusted for fingerprints and several ancient typewriters in the office were checked to see whether they matched the typed note left on the secretary's desk.

With all the crimes -- special and otherwise -- out there to investigate, one would think an in-house prank hardly merits that level of attention. Graham disagrees.

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