Insider

Baby Tug-of-war. They're common folk from Converse, locked in a legal battle to get their grandchild back from a Houston judge

McCorkle and his wife contended in court that they have had the child for more than 90 days, have bonded with the baby and should be allowed exclusive custody without visiting rights for the Acuñas. Attorney Medley argues that the judge and his wife were well aware of the situation before they took the baby home.

"Our point is they could have had any number of babies through any number of agencies, and they chose to grab ahold of this baby, who this Hispanic family is trying to keep in their family."

However the case turns out, Jose Acuña hopes the publicity alerts other grandparents to the dangers of the adoption process to families. He says his daughter was immature and confused, and received little counseling.

"This child was not in lack of a family, as most adoptive children are looking for," says Jose Acuña. "This child had a family already there that loved and wanted to keep her."

A Blast from the Past

The last time Cheryl Dotson held a salaried position in Houston city government was 1989, for then-mayor Kathy Whitmire. Dotson was deputy director of finance and administration behind finance director Camille Cates Barnett, the flamboyantly nicknamed "Dragon Lady" who frequently clashed with City Councilmembers.

When Whitmire named Barnett chief administrative officer, Council balked and stripped her of the title. Barnett resigned, and Dotson followed soon after to take a position in private industry.

Now she's back as the $110,745-a-year deputy chief administrative officer who will provide the Brown administration with advice on technical strategy in improving management. Dotson reports to chief administrative officer Al Haines, another Whitmire-era face Mayor Lee Brown brought back to City Hall. The mayor should be more than familiar with Dotson's work, since she served as director of budget and finance for the police department during the mid-eighties, when he was HPD chief.

Dotson's last public splash came last year in Washington, D.C. It was in connection with her old boss, Barnett, at the time the district's chief management officer.

According to the Washington City Paper, Barnett never conducted open bidding in awarding an $893,000 contract to consultant Dotson to outfit the District's antiquated Department of Motor Vehicles with a new computer system.

According to the paper's Loose Lips political column, city officials waited several months for action on the computer project before examining how Barnett was handling the matter. "The result of the inquiry was a contrite admission in late August by Barnett that she had illegally awarded the contract to an associate," the publication reported.

"In addition to holding up the motor vehicle project by over eight months, the Dotson fiasco has all but scuppered other key management reforms, including creation of a departmentwide call-in center and various technology upgrades."

Dotson says her contract was scuttled because Barnett failed to get the proper approvals but that the work was eventually completed without any delays.

"We didn't have to start from scratch," scoffs Dotson. "And frankly, if we had been doing a bad job, why did they take the person that worked for me, give the contract to a huge company and let him keep right on working?"

Dotson says she was offered another contract in D.C., proof that she was doing good work. Instead, she decided to come back to Houston "because the tide had begun to turn in terms of people there wanting to make a real specific change in administration."

Among those the tide washed out was Barnett, who stepped down after less than a year in her D.C. job. Barnett has now been the short-lived, controversial chief administrative officer of Dallas, Houston, Austin and D.C. If Brown decides he needs a well-traveled Dragon Lady to fill any more administrative holes, he knows where to go hunting.

Help the Insider in his hunt for news nuggets. Call him at (713)280-2483, fax him at (713)280-2496, or e-mail him at insider@houstonpress.com.

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