Deja Vu All Over Again
When it comes to delinquent tax collections, Heard Goggan Blair Williams is used to getting a little help from its friends. One of the Harris County commissioners who recently voted to give the law firm the county's delinquent collection business, Republican Steve Radack, is close to Heard Goggan partner Jim Blair, and the firm's principals generously contributed to Radack's initial run for commissioner in 1988. Radack was the chief cheerleader for Heard Goggan in the recent contract contest at Commissioners Court, which was decided by 3-2 vote along party lines.
Was it really less than five years ago that Heard Goggan, which has dozens of collection contracts with cities and school districts across Texas, was penalized a million dollars by the city of Houston for not meeting its collection goals and was eventually replaced? And then there was that juicy spate of stories about the company paying for a Mexican resort junket for its officials and then-House speaker Gib Lewis and several comely lasses. And how about the charges of a since-departed partner, Bill Harrison, that the firm routinely paid off local officials to win contracts? Oh, never mind!
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... And Again
For anyone expecting County Judge Robert Eckels to do business differently than predecessor Jon Lindsay, the latest portents are not encouraging. Lindsay relied on the law firm of Vinson & Elkins for almost everything except his defense against County Attorney Mike Driscoll's lawsuit to remove him from office. Now, Driscoll is threatening to sue Commissioners Court to reverse the tax collection contract with Heard Goggan. Late last week firm partner Jim Blair met with Driscoll, and guess who came along for the ride? None other than V&E's Joe B. Allen, the powerbroker par excellence who shepherded Eckels' campaign fundraising last year. Driscoll rejected the pair's proposed compromise that included Heard Goggan using some of the county attorney's staff on the collections, and is expected to file suit soon. Since Allen had earlier turned down an offer by Heard Goggan to represent the firm, just why was he there? He wasn't commenting, but Eckels had an explanation of sorts: "At this point he's just a concerned citizen helping us all out." Isn't selfless civic volunteerism inspiring?
School's Out Forever
1995 may be remembered as the year that higher public education in Houston blew its collective stack. With the heads of the University of Houston and Texas Southern University already rolled, it seems only natural that Houston Community College couldn't be far behind. As we went to press, HCC's faculty was mulling a vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Charles Green, who's been under the gun from the HCC board to restructure the five-campus system. Green didn't help himself recently when he called in the presidents of the HCC campuses, including the Southwest College's highly regarded Sue Cox, and advised them to consider looking for other jobs. Green later clarified that he was not singling anyone out for criticism, but the damage was done.
Meanwhile, TSU may be taking a cue from UH's naming of former lieutenant governor Bill Hobby as its system chancellor. After voting not to renew President Joann Horton's contract, TSU's regents reportedly are shopping for a big-name replacement. They've gotten a "no thanks" from HISD Superintendent Rod Paige, but other names being bandied about for the job are Barbara Jordan and former Houston police chief and current federal drug czar Lee Brown. Of course, if Brown is serious about running for mayor one day and looking for an image-enhancing job in the meantime, he may be wary of stepping into the TSU Tiger Pit.
The Insider is compiled to fit this space by Tim Fleck.