Nice Guy, Wrong Color

How Ken Bentsen got run over by a rainbow

At least one county source found it unbelievable that Whitmire would resurrect the controversy by hiring Coleman, who will handle county funding requests from the folks who booted him out the door. The senator was unapologetic.

"He's sitting and working with the criminal justice committee as we talk," explained Whitmire. He lauded Coleman as "a very qualified employee who has been recognized a long time as one of the best and most competent persons dealing with those matters."

While Whitmire praised Coleman's previous work in the private sector, he could not recall the name of his new hire's former employer or recent work history. "I don't know that we got a résumé," Whitmire said. "I've worked with Larance for years, and he was probably the best probation director in the state, and maybe the nation."

Primary colors: Bentsen was not what the party doctors ordered.
Deron Neblett
Primary colors: Bentsen was not what the party doctors ordered.

As for the perjury charges, Whitmire waves them off as the result of a feud between the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the county.

"Larance just got caught up in that crossfire," says Whitmire. "I challenge you to find anybody else in Harris County who's ever been indicted on perjury in a civil lawsuit." He says his own consulting contract with the probation department was legal, and his hiring of Coleman is equally justified.

"I cannot handle the workload of the criminal justice matters without his assistance, and I've been looking for the right person, and I'm very fortunate he's available." No doubt Coleman feels the same way.

We Don't Know Nothing 'Bout Birthin' No Enron

Houston legal giant Vinson & Elkins recently dispatched a three-page letter addressed "To Our Clients and Friends," offering some soothing thoughts on the law firm's controversial relationship with Enron. According to author Harry Reasoner, the firm's former managing partner, media reports and congressional hearings have "created a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation" regarding V&E's role in the largest business collapse in American history. Reasoner just wanted to set a few things straight. He later took the same pitch to the media in interviews.

First, noted Harry, V&E had no role in advising Enron on waiving conflict-of-interest rules -- the ones involving Chief Financial Officer Andy Fastow and those nasty little outside partnerships with the Star Wars names. As for any illegalities involved in the deals, Reasoner explains that V&E does not do accounting, so don't hold it responsible for funny figures.

There also was that troublesome info that whistle-blower Sherron Watkins asked CEO Ken Lay to investigate. Reasoner would like you all to know that since Fastow had already resigned his partnership positions and the deals had been terminated, there was nothing for the firm to pursue further.

"Thus," declared Reasoner, "the concerns on which Ms. Watkins had focused had been addressed by the time our report was delivered."

For those inclined to ask more sticky questions, Reasoner points out that any advice V&E actually gave Enron cannot be discussed because the firm is bound "by professional obligations of confidentiality."

"Please call me or your contacts at the firm if you have any concerns we may address," he concluded. "We value our relationship with you greatly."

How much? Oh, about $250 per hour, minimum.

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