Hair Balls: $10K Down The Drain

Plus: HISD May Say Good-bye to CEP

POLITICAL ANIMALS

$10K Down The Drain
State rep takes donation, then quits race

By Richard Connelly

Terri Hodge was a state rep from Dallas for 14 years; earlier this year she faced a tough re-election fight. Hodge sent out a desperate plea for help, and among those answering was Houston state Representative Senfronia Thompson, who wrote a $10,000 check from her own campaign fund.

And nine days later, Hodge pleaded guilty to tax fraud, which is generally not thought to be the best strategy to winning a tough re-election.

Thompson's was by far the largest donation from a House colleague in Hodge's latest campaign finance report.

Any buyer's remorse, Representative Thompson?

"It was such a plea that I felt just really obligated to do something to help her, Thompson tells Hair Balls. "I was just totally unaware that her case was that close to being resolved."

She says she doesn't think Hodge knew she'd soon be accepting a plea bargain when she accepted the donation.

"It was just one of those things...And I believe that had she been aware it was going to be resolved quickly, she probably would not have even asked for that money, because she's not that kind of a person," Thompson says. "She would not have put persons in those kinds of positions to give her something when she knew she was going to be pleading out the following week. I just think it was something that just came up, and in the federal system it was probably that her lawyer probably had the opportunity to go ahead on it and resolve that matter as quickly as he could and that it came up and he just took advantage of it."

Pretty gracious, we guess, which of course it's somewhat easy to be when you're spending donors' money and not your own. Thompson's donors are largely big-bucks outfits like PACs and law firms, who won't miss the money (and probably don't have huge qualms about how Thompson spends it).

But does she have any worries that her contributors will be annoyed that their cash went to a criminal?

"I don't think so," Thompson says, "and if they do I will be happy to explain it to them. I think they'll understand that I give big donations all the time and I believe that they would understand."

And if they didn't?

"Well, I would just continue to try and get them to understand and I would hope that they would be broad-minded enough to understand my position at that particular time based on what I knew at that moment," she says.

The word "refund" wasn't mentioned, but we guess that might be a difficult concept to embrace when you've just seen your own $10,000 campaign donation be set on fire by the person to whom you donated.
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CRIME

They Call Me Master Batum!!

By Chris Vogel

It's a fact that most men like to play with themselves. Some even enjoy doing it in public. One man in particular, however, apparently likes to do it in front of unsuspecting women, over and over again, regardless of the consequences.

His name, according to court records, is Marcus Master Batum.

Seriously, we're not making this up.

On February 28, Mr. Batum was charged with indecent exposure. Harris County court records state that he bared all and began masturbating in front of a female corrections officer while incarcerated at the county jail on an unrelated charge.

This was not the first time Batum has taken his little buddy out to play in public. Court records show he has been charged with misdemeanor indecent exposure seven other times since 2005 and has been convicted for at least three of them. It appears as though Batum's favorite targets are female corrections officers. Six of the charges are listed as happening at the jail in front of women.

Batum, 28, also goes by a couple of other names, according to court records, including Marcus Nathan Batum.

We're not sure which stage name is real, or whether he — or possibly a mischievous sheriff's deputy — is playing a joke, but there it is in black and white, filed officially with the court.

Regardless, to whoever came up with the name, we offer our thanks.
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EDUMACATION

HISD May Say Good-bye to CEP

By Margaret Downing

Two-thirds of the Houston ISD students sent to Community Education Partners, the private facility that operates two alternative campuses here, aren't required to be there by state law. It's local district policy and the discretion of the individual principal that decide if a student is removed from his home campus and placed at CEP.

That's what an initial review of HISD's placement of kids at CEP revealed, Superintendent Terry Grier told the school board. And to his way of thinking, some of the reasons students are ousted for discipline problems are things that the schools should have handled with a lighter touch.

Grier recommended that the district sever its ties with CEP and instead pay for a smaller alternative school that would handle only the most severe of the disciplinary problems. He estimated that they would need to plan for 1,000 slots just to be safe, and said he believes several companies would want to compete for the business. One possible solution, he said, would be to send the mandatory placement students to the Harris County Office of Education's program, with two facilities. He said CEP could join in the bidding on the new school.

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