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Because Technical Risks still had some clients' payments and returned that money, Salazar says those clients were not as badly burned as some others in the multi-state scam.
Dugan also points out that the candidate had sold the company several weeks before.
"If these allegations were true," commented Dugan, "Brown and Brown, a $2 billion company on the New York Stock Exchange, would never have bought Technical Risks." Asked for details on the sale -- the date and amount of cash paid for the firm -- Dugan responded, "You'd have to ask Tom."
At a later campaign forum for the congressional district covering south and east Houston, Reiser did mention for the first time that he had "hung up his hat and boots in the insurance business," and retired. As of press time, Reiser had not returned repeated Insider requests for an interview about the sale.
Candidate Bell says he has tried to stick to valid issues rather personal attacks, a position no doubt made easier by his continued lead over Reiser in polls. Because Reiser has campaigned on his standing as a businessman, Bell claims the insurance investigation is fair game as an issue.
"Businesses, especially nursing homes in this day and age, trust their insurance agents to find reliable coverage," comments Bell. "It sounds as if Mr. Reiser and their company clearly had that responsibility... Due diligence is the least of what people expect when they enter into a relationship with an insurance broker."
Reiser spokeswoman Dugan claims to be "perplexed that Mr. Bell has gone on the attack with such an ugly vengeance in light of the fact that he believes he is up so far in the polls." She then listed a bill of particulars on Bell's alleged ethical lapses, including the flatware gift, an IRS lien on his house in 1997 and two rent disputes with landlords of his home and business.
"Chris Bell, as a personal injury lawyer, could probably shed a lot of light on the barrage of frivolous lawsuits that small businesses face. That would be interesting, and he will know, because he has sued a lot of people in his personal life."
For good measure, she cited two instances where Bell's law license had temporarily expired for nonpayment of his Texas bar fees.
Most of the items Dugan listed had been publicized during Bell's race for mayor last year. Bell explained that the tax lien was a routine part of a payment plan worked out with the IRS for taxes he was unable to pay in 1997, and the account has been paid off. He dismisses the litigation with landlords as disputes over a rental deposit on a residence that the owner refused to return, and the settlement of an unexpired office lease when he closed his law firm in 1999. The brief license suspensions resulted from tardy payments by his law firm.
Dugan isn't buying the explanations. "As a personal injury lawyer himself," she snipes, "Bell exemplifies the reason why every landlord knows you never rent to a lawyer."
We don't know about his landlord constituency, but it's apparent Reiser has kissed off the attorney vote in the upcoming election.