You know things are going badly at the Department of Public Safety when they can't even dupe a tape without screwing it up:
"I don't know if people are trying to run out the clock so we're not in town any more or if it's just incompetence. Either one is bothersome," said Rep. Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, chairman of the House General Investigating Committee.
Bailey's committee is looking into how the Texas Department of Public Safety coordinated its search for 55 missing legislators on May 12, whether anyone associated with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay helped direct the search and why DPS officials ordered some records on the issue destroyed on May 14.
As part of the probe, Bailey had asked DPS to turn over Capitol security tapes for the hallway outside of House Speaker Tom Craddick's office. A DPS command post was set up May 12 in Craddick's reception room, and Bailey said he wants to know who went in and out of that room.
Bailey said the DPS provided his staff with copies of the security tapes late Friday. As the staff watched them over the weekend, the entire week was available except for the afternoon of May 12. He said the tape stopped at 12:47 p.m. and did not begin again until 6 p.m.
"It's odd that it was the day and time that we wanted," Bailey said. "It's fine all week, except for that one period."
DPS officials scrambled to make a new copy of the May 12 afternoon tape, which was given to the lawmaker Monday evening.
"It's a simple malfunction," said DPS spokesman Tom Vinger. "They're copying hours and hours of tape. They just didn't notice some was missing."
[House Investigations Committee Chairman Kevin Bailey, D-Houston] also indicated that a Travis County grand jury investigating the destruction of records has apparently extended to some House members; [Jim] Ellis, an aide to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; and perhaps DeLay himself.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle was unavailable for comment.
Last week, Earle quietly convened a grand jury and took testimony from DPS law enforcement chief Marshall Caskey. His focus was on the agency's role in destroying files that DPS criminal investigators compiled during the two days that state troopers and Texas Rangers were searching for the runaway legislators.
Bailey's committee and Earle apparently have zeroed in on a six-hour period May 12 as the likeliest time DPS officials called federal Homeland Security officers to seek their help in tracking down the Democrats.
It was that time period that was missing on the tape.