Tale of Two Cities

Kid-Care's former leader says the attorney general is playing favorites

Carol Porter, who garnered national recognition for running the feed-the-children charity Kid-Care, has been laying low since a ton of bad publicity led her to resign in May.

Laying low for Porter, though, includes constantly pushing her defense on reporters and supporters. The latest thing she's steamed about is a Dallas case that she says shows political favoritism by the state attorney general's office.

Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a civil suit in April, saying Kid-Care employees spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on trips, lavish meals and personal expenses. Porter and her husband, Hurt, resigned as part of a deal allowing Kid-Care to resume fund-raising.

Porter blames the problems on nefarious employees and troubles adjusting to the fast growth of the charity. All that will likely be hashed out in court, but what's got her pissed now is that she had to resign while the AG is allowing the Reverend Justin Lucio to keep his job.

Lucio heads the Dallas charity Casita Maria, which has been the subject of a series of stories by The Dallas Morning News. Among the News's findings: Casita Maria charged indigent Dallasites millions of dollars for services while spending large sums on real estate, cars and entertainment. The charity bought a $170,000 house that it rents to Lucio for $10 a month.

Not to mention that Lucio has even more sordid claims against him: The paper reported he'd been transferred in 1989 after allegations of sexual impropriety. (In a deposition, the News reported, Lucio "acknowledged that he sometimes handled Latino parishioners' genitals -- to help them, he said, with health concerns.")

In July the AG's office reached a deal allowing Lucio to remain on the job as long as numerous reforms are made.

Abbott "wants to run for governor and needs the Hispanic vote," Porter says. "He knows Hispanics might vote for a Republican but blacks won't."

Abbott spokesman Tom Kelley says Lucio was allowed to stay because "there was very little sense of egregious wrongdoing and it is definitely a worthwhile charity doing a good job." -- Richard Connelly

Leader of the PAC

There on the cover of the May 3 Texas Full Throttle biker magazine was the color photo of black-leather-jacketed Orlando Sanchez atop his beloved Harley. And the lengthy feature inside gushed more about the born-to-ride mayoral candidate.

No wonder his team was ready to do wheelies as it handed out the mags to reporters. "Sanchez said he didn't go seeking the unique publicity," the Houston Chronicle reported in June. "The editors of Full Throttle contacted him, psyched that the next mayor could be a fellow rider."

Having a hard-core, cruisin'/bruisin' biker crowd crow like that was the kind of publicity too priceless for any candidate to buy. Well, not quite.

What the Chronicle didn't report -- and what the latest mandatory campaign finance reports reveal -- is that Sanchez's campaign paid $2,000 on April 5 to Texas Full Throttle magazine for "advertising."

"It was for the cover," explains the editor, identifying himself only as Wheeler. "They paid it to get the cover." Of course, there's still the glowing feature. Wheeler explains gruffly that the writer was from the Sanchez campaign. "It was their story."

Sanchez spokesman Dave Walden kept a straight face as he said of the magazine, "I think their standards probably exceed those of The New York Times." -- George Flynn

And So It Begins

Newly rearrived Houston school spokesman Terry Abbott is acting fast to tackle the sudden spate of bad news about HISD. He's already fired off one of his patented line-by-line attack memos on an unfavorable story, demanding the Houston Chronicle publish "a full retraction" of a July 24 article about the achievement gaps in HISD test scores.

And to battle the brouhaha over the finagled dropout statistics, Abbott sent out a press release July 29 touting "a new high-tech tool" to deal with the dropout problem.

He's a little rusty, though: "The new computer tool," the release says, "will alert teachers and school administrators to obvious signs that students may be about to drop out. When a student suddenly starts missing school" it will be noticed.

Will the wonders of the computer age never cease? How did we ever become aware of "obvious signs" without PCs? -- R.C.

Final Freedom

James John "Yianni" Manos was in television production when he got a 75-year sentence for masterminding a Houston jewelry store robbery in 1979. Transferred to a New Mexico prison for health reasons, Manos did the unthinkable: He snitched to stop prisoners' plans to kill a guard.

That prompted a severe beating by inmates (see "Codes of Silence," by Steven Long, October 26, 2000) and more threats when he was returned to Texas. Officials of the scandal-plagued correctional system of the early '90s were equally livid at Manos for his Houston Post op-ed articles that exposed prison problems.

He also wrote of the long fight against institutionalism, of a mind-set that made prison "home" and the outside a "Disneyland" where no one really lived, only visited. With the help of state and judicial officials, Manos gained his release in 2001. He jumped into various ventures, using his law degree to help inmates, launching a video production company and helping nonprofits.

Manos also fell in love with video producer Christine James. Last month, jubilant friends gathered for the wedding at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral. And when he was late, they shared jokes about his chronic tardiness even for his own nuptials.

Finally, attorney Gus Pappas drove back to the house to check on him.

Manos, finely attired in his wedding suit, was sprawled on the grass, dead from apparent heart failure as he rushed toward his car. He was 60 years old.

James says she and her fiancé were at least able to exchange "I love you" that morning. "I really think the stress from the reality of being back in the civilized world caught up with him," she says. "He'd been doing everything he could to make up for those earlier years. He was a good man." -- G.F.

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