The Insider

One of Piacentini's sins, says a supporter on the board, was to have the temerity to take issue with Elyse Lanier and openly disagree with her in front of other board members. Piacentini declined to discuss the details of her relationship with Lanier and the Friends board, saying, "When you're dealing with people as an equal and not just saying, 'Yes sir, yes sir, I'll do whatever you want,' they don't always like that."

Piacentini also pushed for programs that would make Hermann Park more accessible to the minority populations on its east and southeast borders, rather than concentrating exclusively on the capital improvements designed to "prettify" the park. Piacentini had brought in the largest foundation contribution to the Friends, a $1.5 million Lila Wallace Reader's Digest grant to encourage the creation of outdoor science-education facilities at Hermann. Since Piacentini left, says one board member, development of the project, including the redevelopment of a storage facility into a science center, has languished. Chad Shaw, who had been in charge of the project, has also left the Friends and relocated to Chicago.

The Friends' efforts are funded by $13.5 million in city and Metro funds, some $8 million in private grants and donations and an expected $3 million annually from the refurbished, BSL-run golf course. As part of its deal with the city, BSL has pledged an additional $250,000 to renovate the historic old clubhouse.

Most of the Friends' staff under Piacentini have also moved on or scaled back activities with the group. Tiggy Garrett, the Friends development director, left at the end of the year to take a position at the University of Houston. Margaret Frick, the education coordinator, has cut back her participation to a two-day, part-time arrangement. Neither was available for comment on the current state of the Friends' effort.

Winn had little to say concerning the tree-cutting controversy. "I'm very happy to be a part of this phenomenally strong and dynamic organization," said Winn, who left most of the talking to Rylander, the Friends board chair. Rylander dismissed the idea that the Friends' failure to question BSL concerning its tree-removal plans reflected a lack of leadership by Winn. "The board is growing, the organization is growing and we have a very strong, dynamic situation here," Rylander gushed.

Barbara Hurwitz, considered the heavyweight fundraiser on the Friends board, resigned her position as chair of the nonprofit's development committee last week, diplomatically citing a desire to spend more time with her family. Hurwitz declined to discuss in detail Piacentini's ouster, although she professed to be a "big admirer" of the former executive director and said Piacentini had done "an absolutely phenomenal job."

By contrast, Hurwitz was noncommittal about Piacentini's successor: "Patricia Winn comes highly recommended, although she doesn't have the background on the park, the history in the park, that [Piacentini] had."

On the subject of the removal of Hermann Park trees, Mrs. Hurwitz seemed more than a little sensitive, perhaps because her husband, Maxxam chief Charles Hurwitz, is reviled by environmentalists for threatening to clear-cut an ancient stand of redwoods in California.

"That was a surprise to me when I came back," said Hurwitz, who had just returned from a three-week holiday trip when she learned of BSL's plans.

"I will be talking to [Schatte] and everybody and finding out more about that," she added, "because truly, Friends of Hermann Park is about preserving and protecting the park. And over the years, Hermann Park has lost a lot of trees."

Until there is a satisfactory resolution, we suggest that Mrs. Hurwitz and her husband abstain from any outings on the ski slopes. The trees have been very active of late, and they might not be taking all this talk of arboreal Armageddon as lightly as the leadership of the Friends of Hermann Park.

Even More Weasel Droppings
Lloyd Kelley and friends may have zapped the hard drives on personal computers in the city controller's office before vacating City Hall, but they still left behind some interesting souvenirs for Kelley successor Sylvia Garcia.

After the new controller asked for a police probe of the computer alterations, Kelley claimed it was standard procedure to disable hard drives when leaving an office. But former controller George Greanias recalls that no such procedure was necessary when he turned over the office to Kelley two years ago. Normally, the files on a hard drive can simply be deleted from an operating system without disabling the system's programs themselves.

Of course, Greanias had no reason to worry that anyone could reconstruct previous files in his computers. Kelley, who both practiced law and exercised his fascination with state and national Republican politics during his stint as controller, might have deemed some of the computers' contents inappropriate for sharing. While we apparently will never know what was in those computers, some of the old-fashioned paper documents left behind by Kelley's aides provide tantalizing hints.

Among those leftover documents discovered by Garcia aides were papers pertaining to the divorce of Kelley's sister, Marie Elizabeth Kelley Garner. A six-page fax from attorney Karen Menzies regarding the proceeding was sent to Kelley at City Hall on June 19, 1996. It contained the notation, "Call me if you have any questions." Notes on Kelley's City Hall stationery include the phone number of the lawyer for the sister's estranged husband. According to an itemized list of community property, Kelley's sister wanted two chain saws and a weed eater returned by her spouse.

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