The Mod Squad

With Brown adrift, can this trio carry the ball?

"I didn't run for council to be part of one of two sides," says Vasquez. "Egos, confrontation and polarization are real high, and we just have to flat rise above that."

Reyes Goes to Club Fed

Former city councilman Ben Reyes has moved out of state to better digs, but he's still serving his nine-year prison sentence for bribery and conspiracy in the City Hall sting. The 52-year-old Reyes sought and received a transfer from a federal prison in Beaumont to a satellite minimum-security camp at Jesup, Georgia, a rural area north of Savannah.

While the move takes Reyes a long way from his family in Houston, Jessup is described as a more relaxed, more bucolic facility than Beaumont. The Georgia facility houses 300 white-collar criminals and drug convicts. Jessup spokesman Ron Doeblin says Reyes is working as a "unit orderly," which is a fancy term for janitor.

Left behind in Beaumont is former GOP judicial kingmaker George Bishop, the husband of district Judge Caprice Cosper. Bishop turned 59 in prison last week. He initially worked in the motor pool but is now doing housekeeping. The release date from his 18-month term for tax evasion is set for the end of next year.

Meanwhile, Reyes's co-defendant Betti Maldonado serves her four-year sentence at a federal facility in Fort Worth. Attorney Dick DeGuerin reports that she initially did janitorial work but is now tutoring fellow prisoners for their high school graduate equivalent diplomas. "She's got a job now that's a little bit more productive," says the lawyer. "She says it's fulfilling and gratifying and she's making the best of it that she can."

Early next month DeGuerin will present Maldonado's appeal before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans. DeGuerin will argue that federal agents entrapped the former port commissioner.

E-mail from Chuckie

Ward Larkin was just looking for some campaign chitchat when he e-mailed district attorney candidate Chuck Rosenthal at his campaign Web page. "I'm unconditionally opposed to capital punishment," Larkin wrote. "Why should I vote for you?"

To his surprise, Larkin received a reply from the assistant district attorney, direct from his county computer. Rosenthal advised that Larkin was entitled to his opinion. "I am in favor of the death penalty for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I believe the death penalty is Biblical."

Larkin countered that slavery was also biblical but not in current favor. Rosenthal, presumably writing from his desk in the D.A.'s office, went on to explain, "I am the only candidate in the race that has the experience to lead the prosecutors in this office. A vote for me is a vote for good government. The District Attorney's Office must remain independent from politics and just to all."

Larkin pointed out the contradiction that Rosenthal was using his county office equipment to spread the message of good government and no political involvement. Then Rosenthal answered archly: "All time spent in and out of this office is not done on "county time' nor is county property used without approval."

Actually Rosenthal was violating the county guidelines against e-mail use "for purposes not directly related to the duties or responsibilities of the County department before, after, or during normal business hours." The ban on "use for any personal profit" might also apply since Rosenthal's election would provide a considerable promotion and increase in salary.

"I may have slipped up and done that once," Rosenthal admitted to The Insider last week. He denied reports that he routinely uses the office fax to send campaign material under the tag "Get on the Chuckwagon!" He said most of his campaign e-mailing is done from the home computer of supporter John Ray Harrison.

"I haven't used the office equipment to do that," Rosenthal insisted. "Johnny [Holmes] frowns on that." D.A. Holmes was out of town and unavailable for comment. Readers with samples of Chuckie's e-mail output are invited to shower The Insider with samples.

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