February 18, 2006
Alvarado says her signature was forged

I don't have much to say about this story, in which Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado says "that's not my handwriting!" on forms authorizing those unauthorized bonuses. It's still too early to say whether anyone other than those currently accused may be dirty, or if anyone should have been more proactive to prevent this. A handwriting analyst quoted by the Chron says we don't even have enough of a sample to compare to Alvarado's real sig - the forms just had initials on them.

Let's just investigate the hell out of this and get it over with. The city has bigger issues to deal with.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 18, 2006 to Local politics | TrackBack

The city has bigger issues to deal with.

The questionable and almost certainly illegal transfer of $130k of public money to a handful of city staffers is a big deal and a big issue.

It's really surprising that you suggest otherwise, especially given the amount of time and text you've spent trumpeting as a big issue the possibly illegal transfer of $190,000 of political money from TRMPAC to the RNC (Scandalized!). The amounts are similar.

It's still too early to say ... or if anyone should have been more proactive to prevent this.

It's not too early to suggest that Alvarado might have headed off the scandal had she engaged in closer oversight of the monthly budget figures. Two former Mayors Pro Tem have said as much.

I do think it's too early to point fingers on the criminal side, though, and that extends to the four staffers (some of them may have been recipients of the funds without being involved in any mischief themselves, or any conspiracy). We'll have to wait until the investigation is complete to know for sure -- if we ever get to the bottom of it -- but it's undeniable that oversight wasn't as diligent as it should have been, and that's on Alvarado.

Posted by: kevin whited on February 18, 2006 2:17 PM

Sorry, I didn't mean for that to sounds dismissive. It is important, and I did say that it should be thoroughly investigated. I'm just saying it's not the biggest issue out there now - staffing levels for HPD, something which you've expressed an opinion or two about, is something I'd rank as being of more importance.

And please, comparing this to the TRMPAC scandal, in which elections were affected, is plain silly.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 18, 2006 3:51 PM

How about the $1.1 million contract Gov. Perry paid for his own political cronies to "lobby Washington." Because Texas needs more of a voice in Washington . . .

I really can't get over how local conservatives fall over themselves at a $68,000 bill for TML and the way our "Special Session" Governor uses state money. When you look at the political contributions that came because of this contract, $75,000 went into Repubican coffers. Some of which went into trying to defeat a sitting member of Congress (Chet Edwards)! Talk about lobbying for Texas! That's more than the TML membership fee!

I agree, this is a horrible situation and betrayal of the public trust and I trust the Mayor to get to the bottom of this.

But I will be damned if I'm going to listen to a Republican tell me that "possible illegal" actions of Tom DeLay and his cronies is on the same scale. Knowingly violating election laws, calling those investigating you partisan attacks, and then having your "close friend" plead guilty for whoring out the lobbying industry in Congress for cash is worse.

And by the way, if I had a City Hall paycheck and it was more than I anticipated, I would consider it my duty to report it, period. It is NOT my money, it is the public's money, and you must hold yourself to a higher standard.

Posted by: Red Dog on February 18, 2006 4:53 PM

I mean, what a bunch of dumbasses. Did they think they wouldnt get caught? I dont think Alvarado is involved. I would be surprised. She is a rising star. She is good, except for calling Shellie Sekula Rodriquez Gibbs Rylander Strayhorn Cougar Melencamp a bitch. (which she probably is)

Other than that she seems to be a pretty up and up politician.

But again, what idiot thought they would get away with this?

Chalk this up with a free golf trip in Ireland.

Posted by: John Cobarruvias on February 18, 2006 11:24 PM

I find it very interesting and informative to see how reactions to things like this depend not on the act itself, but whether or not they like the politician or the politician's party.

It shows what's so wrong with hard-core partisan politics and straight party-line voting, IMO.

I suspect many of you who are defending Alvarado would not be willing to cut the same slack to, say Rick Perry or any number of Republican legislators over the exact same incident. And that is disturbing to me, and is a perfect illustration how rabid partisanism is damaging the process.

Posted by: Tim on February 19, 2006 9:07 AM

There's nothing to defend her for yet, because she hasn't been accused of anything yet. It's probably the case that she should have exercised better control over the office, and she'll need to face whatever music there is for that. If it turns out she was grossly negligent, then Mayor White will have his judgment called into question for putting her in the Pro Tem job. But there's no evidence to that as yet.

What I've harped on Governor Perry for has been putting people in positions of power when they have clear conflicts of interest. That's a very different situation from what we have here. None of the people involved had any political power.

Now, if it turns out that Alvarado facilitated any of this, or that she had put some of these people in their positions as a payback for earlier political support, then we've got a whole different ballgame. But again, as things stand now there's no evidence of that. So yes, at this time I see it differently.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 19, 2006 10:52 AM

You sound like Kay Bailey Hutchison - "The country has bigger issues to deal with."

What's a little theft?

What's a little perjury?

Just a little betrayal of the public trust. That should be the charge. And it should be a felony. And throw away the key!

Posted by: Baby Snooks on February 19, 2006 12:29 PM

I am heartened to read today's editorial in the Komicle finally stating that the ultimate responsibility must be placed at the feet of Ms. Alvarado for failure to mind the people's business. No one has yet scrutinized her, so it is a little early to say either way.

I am curious to know just where she has been, and the number of taxpayer funded organizations she joined, likely distracting her from her fiduciary duty to Houstonians.

Is it not time for her to step down from the Mayor Pro Tem position, if nothing else?

Had this been an "evil" conservative, don't even try to suggest all Hell would not have already broken out over it.

Posted by: Tom Bazan on February 19, 2006 12:51 PM

What would you like me to do, Snooks? Call for an immediate firing squad?

This is a case of theft. Discover the facts, turn them over to the DA's office, and let nature take its course. The Council and the Mayor's office should then study to see what if anything they should have done differently, and pass whatever laws are needed to close that gap. How much time do you think is needed for that? Should everything else be put on hold until that happens?

If it turns out there's evidence of systemic corruption, especially in return for political favors, then this becomes a much bigger deal, and I'd agree that everything else should stop until it's fixed. I don't see that being the case here. Do you?

As for whether or not Alvarado should resign as Mayor Pro Tem, I've no objection to that. I'd still like to know if she's been any less vigilant than previous MPTs. Wouldn't you?

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on February 19, 2006 1:30 PM

Firing squad? How about a non-stop flight to Australia with just Baby Snooks and no one else. After that flight, well, she will behave. And probably never fly again.

Seriously, my point is don't dismiss anything as "less than" when it comes to the public trust. Too many people do, too many people have, and too many people have made a total mess of everything in this country as a result.

This could expand into something else. Which I agree is more serious than it already is. But it is serious just the same. And like everyone else, everyone involved is innocent until proven guilty. That said, someone still wasn't doing her job. The Ken Lay "I hired others to do my job for me" defense just doesn't work anymore. Not with me anyway. Nor with others I suspect. And she betrayed the public trust just by that alone.

She should have known. She didn't. That's at best. As mayor pro tem or as city council member, she still should have known of the discrepancies in the payroll.

Interesting that you say she should resign as mayor pr tem. But still remain as city councilmember? I don't think so.

At least Annise Parker and Bill White acted quickly and acted honorably instead of just covering it up. Which they probably could have.

Makes you wonder how much of this stuff has been merely covered up through the years.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on February 19, 2006 5:12 PM

My understanding of past workings at Houston City Hall is that former mayor pro tems have sat down, on a regular basis, with staff to reconcile accounts.

As Mayor Pro Tem, you are responsible for Council expenditures. Past leaders have wanted to have a handle on this and met weekly with staff to discuss expenditures.

The fraud of Alvarado's staff points to her failure to do her job.

The ledgers, if reviewed, would have clearly shown unexplained expenditures under a column for overtime/bonuses and pointed to what was going on...

At best, Alvarado turned the work over to her staff members and trusted their judgment. At worst, Alvarado has failed to offer proper oversight of her office, or what is expected of a mayor pro tem who is given a dedicated staff to address specific issues.

Posted by: Kimmy on February 19, 2006 8:46 PM

Alvarado may have once been a rising star, but now she is a sinking ship. She condemned herself with her own words: "You can't expect me to know everything that goes on in my office" (close paraphrase).

Oh yes we can! And we do. She wants to be mayor, but she can't even keep track of a teeny little office with four employees? How would she have handled Katrina -- assign it to a police sergeant to handle the extra traffic, then blame him when he makes a bad call?

Carol, you're fired.

Posted by: Dalicious on February 22, 2006 9:55 AM