The Insider

The following day, city workers blocked off Norhill, tore up newly laid pavement and directly connected Kelley's sewer tap into the main line, Smartt says. In the process, they tore up a sidewalk between the Kelley and Smartt driveways, and when a city crew came back to replace it, Smartt says, Kelley stopped them and later tried to plant grass over the area.

"He was out there planting his grass and soil [where the sidewalk had been]," says Smartt, "picking out the concrete with this little grin like, 'Guess what I'm doing?' " Smartt suspects Kelley has used his influence to get the sewer line connected and then to stop the replacement of the sidewalk.

Dan Jones, the Lanier administration's agenda director and general Mr. Fix-It, recalls that Kelley did telephone him last month to try to expedite the sewer connection, but Jones denies anything improper occurred. Asked whether helping an elected city official with a personal sewer problem is unusual, Jones replies, "Oh, hell no. I get these kinds of things all the time."

Jones says he warned the supervisor working the Kelley tap not to do anything he wouldn't do for the average citizen. "Everybody in the world is watching Lloyd and that house," says Jones. "If anything here smells like a political favor or is out of line and you wouldn't do it somewhere else, don't do it, 'cause you're going to kill all of us." Jones says he's confident Kelley did not receive special treatment in the digging of the tap and that the street connection was the only feasible solution.

As for the sidewalk replacement, Jones says he raised that issue with Kelley later and that the controller claimed his sole concern was the safety of a large oak whose roots ran under the sidewalk path. After checking with public works staffers and determining that a ten-inch sidewalk is no danger to a large tree's roots, Jones says the sidewalk replacement will go forward. Kelley did not return an inquiry from The Insider, although one of the controller's aides says Smartt should be grateful that Kelley took a derelict building and turned it into a beautiful home.

Wiley Smartt isn't buying it. "That's B.S. about killing the trees," he says. "I think it has more to do with tough love for the neighbors."

The Insider can't help with your sewer connection, but he is available to accept information from you at 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax), or through e-mail at Insider@houston-press.com.

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