The Insider

But Cornelius has no doubt that her boss's rule is being exploited to clear the field for Shelsey.

"I do think Barkley will file, and I think Marshall will file right behind him. And Barkley will then withdraw his name," she says.

Cornelius met with Holmes last week to vent her frustration. "As I told Johnny," she recounts, "they're going to get away with doing this, and circumvent the whole democratic process, whether you like it or not." Cornelius says she is not in a position to resign and forgo county insurance coverage for her family.

Holmes has no intention of altering his rule banning his prosecutors from running for occupied benches, a stricture he formulated after then-judge A.D. Azios accused Holmes of encouraging a subordinate to run against him in the early eighties.

"I don't want that rule to be used in this manner," Holmes says of the alleged Barkley-Shelsey squeeze play. But if it is indeed a conspiracy, Cornelius has the option of either resigning and running now or waiting out her opponents to see what they do. Holmes says he had this advice for Cornelius: "Suppose [Barkley] stays in there? How bad do you want the bench? If you want the bench, run for it, whether it's occupied or not."

Easy for him to say.

Hotzemania, Round Two
The legal contretemps splintering the first family of Houston conservatism, the Tanglewood-bred Hotzes, has taken an exceedingly nasty turn, judging by a court filing last week in Fort Bend County.

As first reported here ["All in the Family," July 24], Chris Hotze and Gretchen Hotze Heerensperger filed suit in February against five of their older brothers -- including political activists Bruce and Steven -- accusing them of damaging the younger siblings' financial interests by exploiting the family business, Compressor Engineering Corporation, for their own benefit. Chris and Gretchen accused their older brothers of taking disguised dividends and inflated compensation, and of squandering "time and money on personal political gains."

Steven Hotze runs a web of political action committees and private companies involved in religious right politics. Bruce Hotze spearheaded the unsuccessful initiative to force City Council to get the approval of voters for substantial tax and fee increases. Compressor Engineering has been used as a political staging base by both.

Last week the younger Hotzes claimed their brothers have retaliated against them for filing the suit by engineering a cash call against notes held by the family's limited partnership, Inter Nos, which is funded by Compressor Engineering. Chris and Gretchen are minority shareholders in both.

According to court documents, Bruce, Steven, Rick, David and Mark Hotze control both Compressor Engineering and Inter Nos, and Compressor Engineering is now refusing to loan Inter Nos funds or allow renewals on outstanding promissory notes from Inter Nos to Compressor Engineering.

"If plaintiffs fail to meet the cash call, they are in jeopardy of forfeiting their entire partnership interest to defendants," the younger Hotzes claim in their pleading. The tactic, they contend, "is merely a continuing attempt" to force them out of the family business.

The latest filing also adds another brother, Jim Hotze, a Republican activist and CPA, to the list of defendants. However, the document specifies that Jim is included only because of financial technicalities and exonerates him from involvement in the alleged "oppressive" actions by the other Hotze brothers against Chris and Gretchen.

The plaintiffs are asking that prior to a jury trial, the court appoint a receiver for Inter Nos and an appraiser for Compressor Engineering, and enjoin the older Hotzes from using funds from the family businesses for their legal costs, or from trying to dun their siblings for more cash for Inter Nos.

If this mess ever gets to trial, those who have long wanted to put a microscope on the connections between the Hotzes' private and political finances should have plenty to eyeball.

Maxine, Hard at Work
A sharp-eyed correspondent called our attention to this July 30 press release from UH's office of media relations:

"University of Houston School of Theatre Director Sidney Berger will be in Los Angeles Aug. 35 to make a cameo appearance on the set of the remake of the 1962 cult classic Carnival of Souls. Berger played the role of John Linden in the original, and film producer Peter Soby has asked him to play a small part in this new Hollywood version. Berger says this will be the second time he has had to revisit Carnival of Souls. Several years ago People magazine documented the rescreening of the film, and Berger was a part of the endeavor as well. 'The film itself is spooky and looking at my character from a distance would be even spookier,' says Berger."

As our correspondent noted, the UH-produced verbiage had a remarkable similarity to this item from gossipist Maxine Mesinger's column in the Chronicle two days later:

"Sidney Berger, director of the University of Houston School of Theatre, will be in L.A. Sunday through Tuesday to film a cameo role in the remake of the 1962 cult classic Carnival of Souls. Berger played the role of John Linden in the original, and producer Peter Soby has asked him to play a small part in this one. Actually, this will be the second time he has had to revisit Carnival of Souls. Several years ago People magazine documented the rescreening of the flick, and Berger was a part of the endeavor, as well. 'The film itself is spooky and looking at my character from a distance would be even spookier,' says Berger."

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