Best Mystery Houston 2000 - Why Lee Brown hired Jerry King as public works director
Freshly elected in 1998, Mayor Lee Brown had a chance to add substance to his well-padded résumé by doing what predecessor Bob Lanier had only pretended to do: shore up the city's sagging infrastructure with an aggressive public works program. Lanier's program had been aggressive, at least in terms of spending billions, but rampant corruption and no accountability in the Public Works Department meant that the benefits of his programs accrued more to contractors and consultants than to the public. All Brown needed to do was hire a top gun from outside who had the skill to run the department and the guts to clean out the stacks of deadwood still occupying management offices. Instead, he picked nice-guy Jerry King, an honest but naive bureaucrat who believed he could change the cronyist culture without eliminating the bad apples. Now, King is gone, stabbed in the back by those who would return to the Boss Hog days, and Lee P. has nothing to show for it but a vacancy.