March 01, 2008
More Michael Wolfe

Remember Michael Wolfe, the Harris County Department of Education trustee who was publicly taken to the woodshed by the County School Supervisor last year? Yesterday wasn't such a good day for him, with two articles in the Chron about his shenanigans. First, there was this story about how all of his (fellow Republican) colleagues on the HCDE Board want to see him gone.

Two trustees reserved a spot on the April meeting agenda to discuss whether to ask for Wolfe's resignation. The board has no real authority to remove him, but it's clear that many fellow trustees are fed up with what they see as disregard for the department and its procedures and disrespect for the board. They are also put out by his support for --and they claim recruitment of -- two candidates running against current board members in next week's GOP primary.


Board president Ray T. Garcia, like most if not all of his colleagues, would love to see Wolfe gone.

"He contributes nothing and detracts quite a bit," said Garcia, who has been a trustee for 14 years. "The guy exhibits no commitment, no concern. I think he sees this as the stepping stone to something else."

Garcia said Wolfe has not attended the last three board meetings and has shown little interest in becoming fluent with the department's programs or budget. His only accomplishment of note was pushing the board to name its administration building after Ronald Reagan, odd given Reagan's antipathy toward education bureaucracies.

"We don't even know how to reach the guy," Garcia said. "He doesn't return calls. His mail is returned. He's totally inaccessible."

He was also until recently a member of the Harris County GOP leadership team (more on that in a bit). You can supply your own joke.

Wolfe, who has worked as a substitute teacher and a clerk in a law office, began his first term in January 2007. He recruited Roy Morales to run for the board with him with an expressed concern that the department served a dubious purpose and wasted money.

Once elected, Morales came to a different conclusion -- about the department and the motives of Wolfe.

"I think we provide a great service and we are a great bargain for the taxpayers," Morales said. "He saw this as a way to get the Republican base fired up about him."

Boy howdy, when Roy Morales thinks you've gone off the deep end...

The other piece is a Rick Casey column that references the infamous candidate questionnaires that Paul Bettencourt threw himself on in order to prevent anyone else from knowing what they say.

Many candidates and incumbents gave the questionnaire the respect it deserved: They ignored it.

The [candidate screening] committee, however, treated it like a sacred text. They prepared a list of "recommended" candidates based on the answers.

And those that didn't answer it -- including the incumbent county judge, county clerk (*) and two trustees of the Harris County Department of Education -- were shut out.

When Bettencourt got wind that the recommendation list would be made public, he asked to speak to the executive committee. After his speech, in which he argued passionately that party endorsements in the primary were unprecedented and would be divisive, the body voted to bar the action. It was a voice vote, and no opposition was heard.

(Party Chairman Jared Woodfill says party endorsements are rare, but not unprecedented. Two years ago the party in the primary endorsed U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, which may be a lesson.)

But as it turned out, candidates committee Chairman Russell Rush had mailed out the list earlier in the day to hundreds of precinct chairmen, marked "Official Recommendations," according to Woodfill.

Such recommendations, said Woodfill, are "specifically precluded in our bylaws unless the executive committee approves."

Woodfill assembled the party's advisory committee, about 10 officials authorized to act for the party between the quarterly meetings of the much larger executive committee.

They called in Rush. He took responsibility, but it became clear he was a rookie chairman taking direction from his predecessor, Michael Wolfe.

The committee called in Wolfe, [who] had been hired to direct the party's primary election.

His performance in front of the committee was not stellar. The committee was not amused that one person on the recommended list was his father, a candidate for district clerk, or that two others were candidates he had recruited to run against incumbent colleagues on the county school district board.

With the backing of the advisory committee, Woodfill fired Wolfe and had the lock changed on his office. It had become obvious that the party couldn't have a man in charge of running a fair primary who pushed a scheme which endorsed his father and friends.

Sweet. Nice to see such a well-oiled machine over there on Richmond Avenue. And since this is likely to be more coverage of the HCDE than you'll see in six months at the Chron, it's as good a time as any to mention that there are two excellent and well-qualified Democrats running for Trustee positions this fall, Debby Kerner and Jim Henley. I'll be sure to do interviews with them later on as the fall elections gear up.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 01, 2008 to Local politics
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)