The Insider

So why hasn't the suit already been settled? Apparently, that's because the Blanton purse strings are controlled not by Eddy but by his parents, Houston Endowment chairman Jack Blanton and wife Laura Lee. Eddy's grandmother, Elizabeth Scurlock, set up a multimillion-dollar trust fund for him -- but she didn't make it easy for him to get to the money. Without the trust fund, Eddy Blanton does not have the resources to fund a payout to Roberta.

"The trust is a spendthrift trust," explains an attorney familiar with the case. "That means third parties cannot levy execution on the trust for debts of the beneficiary. Mother and father absolutely control the trust. As long as they are alive, the question of paying a judgment by Eddy depends on whether his parents fund it."

Eddy Blanton may be a 42-year-old with two children, but it appears mom and dad will have to come to the rescue if he's to avoid a potentially explosive divorce trial.

With Friends Like These, Part 2
The Friends of Hermann Park are still smarting from a public relations disaster over a favorite contractor's plans to cut trees in the park -- but that embarrassment apparently hasn't stopped many board members from snuggling up to one of the contractor's favorite political allies.

New mayor pro tem Jew Don Boney is the councilman who championed BSL Golf Corporation's successful bid to operate Hermann Park Golf Course for a whopping 15 years -- never mind that BSL planned sharp increases in greens fees. Like Boney, the Friends of Hermann Park also supported the deal, which City Council approved.

Now, apparently, the Friends and BSL are showing their gratitude. Former Friends president and board member Kenny Friedman and board member Barbara Hurwitz serve as co-chairs for a January 29 political fundraiser Boney is holding at the Warwick Towers; 15 other board members are also listed as "hosts." And BSL principals Andy Schatte and Richard Bischoff are also on the host committee.

Friends golf committee chair Bill Coats, one of the fundraiser's hosts, sees nothing untoward in the group's mass show of support for Boney, whose district includes Hermann Park. Coats also calls the recent flap over BSL's plan to remove 111 trees much ado about nothing, and says that no matter what BSL proposed, the company would never have gained approval to cut any significant number of healthy trees. (Somewhat belatedly, Coats now insists that no more than a dozen trees will have to be removed.)

Attorney Friedman explains the evolution of the Boney fundraiser this way: Barbara Hurwitz called him and suggested that since Jew Don Boney had been "such a great advocate of the park," the two of them should do something nice for him. Friedman agreed, and the pair used their considerable clout to draw others onto the host committee. Friedman sees nothing inappropriate in the committee's makeup, explaining that "the Friends of Hermann Park as an institution doesn't have anything to do with it."

Maybe the same people will form a second group: "The Friends of Jew Don Boney."

Lee Brown's Late Train
All you downtown contributors who helped Rob Mosbacher set a spending record in last year's mayoral election now have the opportunity to buy your way back into the good graces of Mayor Lee P. Brown. Brown's fundraiser Sue Walden is circulating an invitation asking underwriters to purchase ten-person tables at a February 3 dinner for the mayor at the Westin Galleria. The price? A cool $20,000.

Brown's troops are aiming not to pay off campaign debts (Walden says the red ink on the recent election will likely be minimal), but to amass a million-dollar war chest toward the mayor's re-election.

"Why so soon?" you might ask. After all, that contest isn't until 1999. But the first few months of the new Brown administration are a particularly sweet time for fundraisers. City law restricts individual donations to $5,000 per election cycle -- and this particular cycle closes in March. If you missed your opportunity to curry favor with Brown before his election, now's your second chance. Ostensibly, of course, the money doesn't buy you special consideration at City Hall. But Houston mayors have been known to keep track of their friends.

The Case That Just Won't Go Away
First KTRK-Channel 13 lost a highly publicized libel suit filed by state Representative Sylvester Turner -- a 1996 case that was dissected in unflattering detail two weeks ago on Dateline NBC. Now, ABC and KTRK are appealing that jury verdict. And in the meantime, the station is engaged in an angst-ridden effort to sever its ties to a reporter whose testimony in that trial was damning to the station.

At KTRK, the case has long made former medical reporter Mary Ellen Conway an untouchable -- in both senses of the word. During the 1996 jury trial, she testified that five years before, in the closing days of the mayoral election, she'd overheard a conversation between fellow reporter Wayne Dolcefino and anchor Melanie Lawson. According to Conway, Dolcefino told Lawson that he would not air comments from a news conference favorable to the former mayoral candidate. Dolcefino, claimed Conway, was angry because the Turner supporters at the conference had not returned his calls earlier. Turner lawyer Ron Franklin argued that the omission of the news conference footage showed Dolcefino was biased in his reporting.

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