May 14, 2006
Alvarado's records subpoenaed
Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal's office is subpoenaing documents from two companies that hired former Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado as a political consultant.
DA investigators have spent the past couple of days in San Antonio and the Austin area subpoenaing documents from a couple of political consulting firms for which she’s done contract work.
Alvarado's personal financial statement on file at City Hall shows that she's worked for something called the Horizon Consulting Group and a Rudy Rodriguez in San Antonio, as well as a Capital Development firm and Harold Oliver, whose address is listed in McQueeny, Texas.
District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal confirmed that subpoenas were served to those firms, and he said his office is investigating potential conflicts of interest. He declined to elaborate.
Alvarado's spokesman said she works as a consultant for businesses seeking government contracts in other cities.
The documents don't reveal how much money she collected for this work.
In a written statement, Alvarado's spokesman said, in part, "Like almost every other member of City Council, Council Member Alvarado has earned income in the private sector during her time in office. ... All of the private sector work she has done has been appropriately reported on her financial disclosure forms in compliance with City ordinances. Council member Alvarado urges anyone contacted by the District Attorney to cooperate fully."
Hard to say if this is anything substantive. According to an earlier Chron story
, which also reported on the city's efforts to force the four employees who were paid improper bonuses to pay the money back:
Rosenthal said his office also asked Alvarado's attorney, Rusty Hardin, for copies of her tax returns. His investigators haven't determined whether a criminal investigation is warranted. They're simply "trying to be thorough," he said.
Either this is nothing, in which case this will be the last we hear of this, or it's not nothing, in which case a grand jury will be empanelled and indictments will be sought. While I imagine this ranks next to an IRS audit on the Pleasantness Scale for Alvarado, it's still not particularly indicative of how and where this investigation ends. As before
, if criminal charges are ever brought against any of the Fired Four, Rosenthal needs to know as much as he can about Alvarado's activities so he can deal with any counteraccusations the defense makes at trial. There may someday be a shift in focus for this investigation, but as yet, this isn't it.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 14, 2006 to Local politics
As before, if criminal charges are ever brought against any of the Fired Four, Rosenthal needs to know as much as he can about Alvarado's activities so he can deal with any counteraccusations the defense makes at trial. There may someday be a shift in focus for this investigation, but as yet, this isn't it.
The investigation was initially about four members of the pro-tem's office and whether Alvarado knew of the bonuses they received improperly.
Now, Rosenthal says he is investigating Alvarado herself for potential conflict-of-interest wrongdoing.
I don't regard it as a "shift in focus" because I think Rosenthal's office is STILL investigating misbehavior in the pro-tem's office. But it's a significant expansion of the scope of the investigation. I can't really see how you'd characterize it any other way.
Here's a question for you, Kevin: Would nationally renowned defense attorney Rusty Hardin be giving "tell everyone to cooperate fully" advice if he thought there was information out there that might be damaging to his client? Or do you think he might do something defense-attorney-like and try to limit the scope of Rosenthal's inquiry?
Until I see a change in defense strategy, I'm going to take Rosenthal at his word when he says he's "just being thorough". Rusty Hardin didn't get to be Rusty Hardin by letting the prosecution get a step ahead of him.
Am I the only Chron reader wondering exactly what expertise Ms Alvarado might even have to peddle regarding contracts in places other than Houston? And why would someone actually pay for that advice?
It's hardly worth reporting.
It reminds me of reporting that bomb-making materials were found in someone's house (yea, right: everybody's house has materials in it that can be used to make a bomb), or like reporting that someone's home computer was seized (implying that having a home computer - working or not -automatically makes you a criminal).
Some of these reporters and their editor bosses find so many "stunned" folks out there that I'm inclined to suspect they are using stun guns to get their story. The DA needs to look into that.
Dennis - It did say political consulting. Alvarado has won some elections in her time, and was involved with the Gene Green campaign when he was elected to Congress in 1996. It could be this is the sort of thing she was hired for.
Kuff - I was referring to this quote, which was also noted in the Chron piece: "Alvarado’s spokesman said she works as a consultant for businesses seeking government contracts in other cities." Political consulting I can understand, but helping contractors get projects in other communities is a reach.