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Return from Porn Exile

TALES FROM TRANSIT

Return from Porn Exile
Metro CEO Greanias speaks

By Richard Connelly

Metro CEO George Greanias returned to work August 8 after a one-week suspension for viewing adult Web sites on his laptop in the office, which uses the agency's wi-fi system.

We were allowed a brief interview, so here's ten questions with Greanias:

Hair Balls: How has the reaction from employees been?

George Greanias: I think the employees were clearly not happy with what I did and they have every right to not be happy with what I did. That said, I've apologized for it, I'm going to be talking to employees the rest of this week including our bus operators, and what I've heard overall is, 'You shouldn't have done it, it was a mistake, but you owned up to it and apologized for it. Now get back to work.' That's what I'm doing.

HB: In terms of others' reaction, did you think that Mayor Parker's support was somewhat weak, as some people have claimed?

GG: No, I don't actually. The mayor's not my boss, it's the [Metro] board including the chairman and the other eight members who are my boss. They're the folks who need to make a decision on my employment here. That has always been the case and always will be the case. I think the mayor said she appointed five members in whom she has confidence and trust and she looked to them to do their job as board members, which I think they've done.

HB: The support of the board has been unanimous?

GG: Yes. It's better than unanimous; I would take it a step further and say it's been surprisingly strong. And one reason I feel confident in my ability to perform as we have in the past year and three months is the support of the board. One of the strengths we have at Metro right now is a collaborative relationship between board and management and I think their confidence and trust in me — I think they weren't pleased at what happened, as evidenced by the discipline they put in place, but I think they also wanted to say we've made a lot of progress over the last year and three months, we need to keep that going.

HB: Were any employees actually angry when you met them?

GG: I'm sure there are employees who are very upset with me, I don't see how there couldn't be. But I have gotten a lot of e-mails of support...I was telling somebody, you really don't want to die to have people say good things about you, and you really don't want to go through this to have people say nice things about you, but I've been surprised and really a little bit humbled by what I've heard both from people inside the agency and outside. I think that was one of the unexpected things to me.

HB: One of the commenters on our item pulled out a quote from you criticizing Metro employees for playing pool during work hours. You said, "The fact that some employees...seem to feel that on duty time is to be spent recreating, when in fact that's not the case, is extremely troubling." Given what happened, do you think you will have a more difficult time making that argument?

GG: No I don't, because we will continue to handle discipline the way that my case was handled, the way that all their cases were handled, which is in accordance with Metro policies and processes. And as long as you do that, I feel comfortable that if discipline is called for, we will do it. I also know that we bend over backwards to give our employees every opportunity to perform and mend their ways and we will continue to do that as well. If my case had been handled any differently then I'd say yes, there's a problem.

HB: Some of the sites you visited seemed to be escort services...Can you say you've never broken the law in that regard?

GG: Clearly what I did was a violation — by visiting adult sites, it was clearly a violation of Metro policy and again the board took appropriate action, and I apologize for what I did and it was wrong. But I violated no law, broke no law, did nothing illegal.

HB: Right, in terms of visiting those sites. But if you had done something as a result of visiting those sites, in non-office hours, you'd still be breaking the law.

GG: That's right. And again, I did nothing illegal.

HB: Okay —

GG: I was thinking about going back to when I was a kid, but I don't want to go into that.

HB: No, I'd like to hear —

GG: No, no, it's not interesting at all.

HB: How about your family's reaction: Has dealing with that been very hard?

GG: Being honest with my family is one of the reasons we have such a strong family. And I could not have asked for stronger support or love from my step-kids, and I must say both my mother and my mother-in-law were incredible in their support. [Note: Greanias is a widower.] I must imagine it was very difficult for them, but the way they responded was very touching.
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WEATHER

Drought Is Killing Memorial Park's Beloved Trees

By Richard Connelly

The never-ending drought hitting Houston and the rest of Texas is having a devastating effect on one of the city's favorite things: the trees in Memorial Park.

Barry Ward, executive director of Trees for Houston, took a tour last week to assess the damage and was dismayed at what he saw.

"In parts of the north side of the park, for instance, you can see I-10 through the forest band," he tells Hair Balls. "A month ago you couldn't...We're going to see the loss of thousands of trees, many of them significant," he says.

The extent of the damage might not become apparent for a while. Dried-out root systems will leave trees extremely vulnerable to high winds (think tropical storms) or beetle infestations.

Of course, it's not just limited to Memorial Park. "Houston will look very different in five years, in terms of the tree canopy," Ward says.

There's not much the city can do about it — "You can't water Houston," Ward says — and Rick Perry's plan to end the drought by praying to someone called "God" appears to have failed.

What Trees for Houston and other groups are doing is picking out particularly significant trees and concentrating on saving them by watering.

"You can do that in your neighborhood," he adds.

Or you can keep praying to that God. And when Memorial Park looks denuded compared to now in years to come, you'll know who to blame.
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DOING IT DAILY

There’s tons of stuff each day on the Houston Press blogs; you’re only getting a taste of it here in the print edition. Head to blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs (or “/rocks” or “/eating” or “/artattack”).

Crime

A 16-year-old male patient of a substance abuse counselor didn't stint with cops when it came to disclosing the details of their sexual relationship, which resulted in her getting hit with a felony charge. A Ponzi schemer got Ponzi-schemed out of $10 million by a Sugar Land man, the feds say; the suicidal mom who is charged with killing her two young kids and then trying to shoot herself had some Facebook posts that were disturbing in hindsight; and a woman told a man she was going to tell cops he raped her, and then was surprised when they showed up and he was able to play them the video he secretly recorded of her making the threat.

Sports

We looked at the pros and cons of Texas A&M going to the SEC, we covered the UH and Rice football media days where optimism reigned, we ranked the five best local sports tweeters and pondered why Deion Sanders' bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame looks like Troy Aikman.

Art Attack

Last week at Art Attack, we introduced you to the Knock Out Co., a new clothing line based here in Houston and inspired by the bright, flashy colors of '80s urban wear. We went gaga over the city's architecture, and posted some incredible pictures of the coolest small houses in Houston as well as some cool art deco buildings. We pitted Ellen Ripley against Sarah Connor in our latest Cinema Slapfight, and we gave you some of our favorite '90s guilty-pleasure movies. Speaking of the '90s, we sent you back in time with our list of things we'll never miss from that decade, including Zima, Crystal Pepsi and pretty much every other clear drink on the planet.


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