August 25, 2003
Joe Nixon, man of the insurance companies

Tim Fleck does a great job showcasing Rep. Joe Nixon's utter hypocrisy about his mold claim. Not only has he received preferential treatment, he's actually helping to represent Farmers Insurance in a lawsuit filed by a church that didn't get nearly as cordial a deal.

At first glance, Houston State Representative Joe Michael Nixon and Spring's Oak Ridge Baptist Church would seem to have a lot in common.

In the past few years both have been forced to leave their homes because of health-threatening mold contamination. Both filed claims to cover the costs of remediating the damage and both claims were initially denied by their insurance companies.

The 46-year-old Nixon moved his wife and three teenage sons to a cramped two-bedroom apartment for a year while the mold demons were exorcised from his Briargrove Park home in West Houston. The church had to move out of its contaminated building on I-45 and hold its services at four different temporary locations, losing half its membership in the process.

There the similarities between the mold cases of the District 133 legislator and the church end, even though their paths have now converged.

Nixon received a $300,000 settlement of his claim by Farmers Insurance Group. It has spawned a Travis County grand jury investigation after a former Farmers official claimed the payout was unjustified favoritism designed to influence a state legislator.

The church is still seeking its day in court. A trial had been set for last February in Montgomery County, but in November 2002 the defendants -- a group of insurance companies headed by Utica Lloyd's of Texas -- added a new attorney to their team.

He was none other than Joe M. Nixon.

As noted, the advantage that Farmers gets in having Nixon on its team is that they get automatic continuances for as long as the Legislature is in session, meaning that until the redistricting fiasco is finally resolved (or Governor Goodhair gives up), the church's case will not be heard. Pretty tidy, no?

While Nixon wouldn't address the issue of hypocrisy, he did tell constituents in a newsletter sent out last February that "the homeowners insurance crisis has been primarily driven by a barrage of increasingly expensive mold claims."

He went on to blast "a cottage industry of mold remediators and experts who are unregulated and unlicensed." Additionally, noted Nixon, "the science behind much of the alleged danger of various molds is coming into question."

Of course, that stance didn't stop the legislator from using his own remediators and experts and their own questionable science as the basis for his mold claim.

As for his own settlement, Nixon hints that he asked for even more than Farmer's gave him. "There's a lot of assumptions," he says. "How do you know the claim wasn't really $600,000 and I settled it for less?"

Well, if you stopped playing coy and gave us all some full disclosure about what happened, that might be a start. After all, how do we know that the damage wasn't really $100,000 worth and Farmers decided to sweeten the pot in anticipation of your tort reform bill? Would you have questioned such a generous payout from them, or would you unquestioningly accept it and then huffily insist that there was no quid pro quo?

Will all of this make Joe Nixon vulnerable in the next election? Greg Wythe, who makes the same point about Nixon's lack of forthrightness, speculates about the possibilities. We can only hope.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 25, 2003 to Scandalized! | TrackBack