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More troubles for CM Jones

There have not been many dull moments this year for CM Jolanda Jones. That seems unlikely to change in the near future.

[O]n Wednesday, revelations surfaced that one of her staffers photographed a citizen picking up public records from her office and that the police union asked the Harris County district attorney to investigate Jones for allegedly practicing law without a license.

Both are likely to provide further ammunition for Jones critics and fodder for her campaign opponents.

Earlier Wednesday, Parker said someone from her office had called the state Attorney General’s office for counsel on how to respond to a Sept. 15 incident in which Jones’ chief of staff, Jack Valinski, allegedly took pictures of a 23-year-old law school graduate who came to pick up emails and calendar information he had requested under the Texas Public Information Act.

“It completely freaked him out,” attorney Billy Skinner said of his client, Andy West. “He felt scared. He felt intimidated.” Skinner said West is not connected to the campaigns of any of Jones’s three opponents on the November ballot for At-Large Position 5 on the Council.

Mr. Skinner has uploaded a video of the incident, presumably taken from City Hall security cameras. He also addressed Council, and specifically CM Jones, about the incident this past Thursday. You can see that video here; go to video 4, and scroll ahead to 15:20 for the nine-minute exchange, including Mayor Parker’s postscript. I will leave both to your interpretation.

[L]ater Wednesday, the friction between Jones and the Houston Police Officers’ Union flared anew when the union delivered a letter to District Attorney Pat Lykos asking her to investigate Jones for practicing law without a license.

The State Bar of Texas suspended the councilwoman’s law license on Sept. 1 because she had failed to pay her annual membership dues and her attorney occupational tax. She was reinstated Sept. 30 when she paid the arrears in full. The police union submitted legal documents signed by Jones with September dates to indicate that she continued to practice law during the suspension.

“It’s starting to look a lot like Groundhog Day at HPOU. If the sun comes up, then there’s a good chance that Ray Hunt will lodge a complaint somewhere,” Jones spokeswoman Kelly Cripe said in an email. Hunt is the union’s vice president.

You can see the HPOU press release here. I’ve not seen any of the referenced documents, and not being an attorney I’m not sure I’d know what to make of them if I had. Far as I know, the grievance the HPOU filed against Jones with the State Bar has not yet been resolved. We’ll see what Lykos does with this hot potato.

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14 Comments

  1. John says:

    Just amazing the arrogance of Jo Jones, anyone who does not think Valinski was trying to intimidate is living on another planet. I watched the Council videos and her excuse that they wanted proof?? When you have to go to city hall you must show ID and sign in when you get there, that is your proof.

    I hope she finally goes down in the legal arena or gets beat this fall. She adds nothing on City Council except to get more business for her law practice

  2. Joshua bullard says:

    In this rare instance,i am compelled to ad a level of defense for jolanda jones,in law,when your law “fees” are unpaid a lawyers bar card becomes “inactive” not suspended,its the same as if you forgot to renew your drivers lisc and got pulled over by the police-you would be cited for an expired drivers lisc-but not a suspended lisc,practicing law with out a lisc does not apply to lawyers whom have practiced for years,in other words what i am saying is -attorney jolanda jones may have practiced law with a lisc under inactive status,but not suspended,and certainly not with out a lisc,at best its an administartive issue with the state bar-the d.a will not touch this complaint with a twenty foot pole-this is fact. now then onto the other complaint about the staffer jack performing intimidation-by council woman jolanda jones own admission that she stands behind her staff on this, there may be some issue with this and the fact that she endorses there actions in front of council and the mayor,she may get cited for the intimidation complaint-maybe.For the record,ive known jolanda jones since 2002,personally,not just officially, and ive gone on record that this fall i will not be voting for her-that hasnt changed,what has changed is the complete over sight that this lady has applyed to the very people that helped her get elected both times,often i wonder if the power of office just some how got to her and she forgot from where it all began/it is extremly emotionally overwhelming to have to go on the record and state that i and countless others are ready for a change in this council seat.for the last few years i have wondered what ever happened to the jolanda jones i used to know,perhaps i will never find out.
    respectfully submitted
    Joshua ben bullard

  3. robert kane says:

    I got 2 things from watching this video:

    1- What does this service cost the city, it was crappy streaming quality.

    2- The dismissive nature that a Mayor or Council members have towards public speakers really annoys me. I have been there a few times to speak about issues that were important to me and a couple of times they were either not paying attention or when your time is up say “thank you for your time”. Kind of like don’t call us, we’ll call you. Arrogance that is beyond explanation unless you have experienced it first hand.

  4. paul kubosh says:

    There was group out of Austin that had been digging around city hall looking for some emails and/or correspondence between the kubosh’s and Jones. It was back when the red light camera campaign was hot and heavy. The powers that be are upset with Jones because they don’t like anyone who will tell them NO we are not going to spend our $ on that. I am just wondering why they havnt come at us yet?

  5. Jules says:

    It’s none of anyone’s business why someone makes a Public Information Request.

    Taking pictures is intimidation. It’s ridiculous that they say it was to have a record of them picking up the papers – the person picking up the papers pays and signs a receipt. That is the record.

    Jones needs to educate herself and her staff and make an apology.

  6. Concerned says:

    After watching the video, my biggest concern was that we are paying an uniformed officer to just slouch around all day. I have nothing but respect for our officers, but the task this man was doing could easily be done by the security company. I dont blame CM Jones for this picture. The Police and Fire Unions are out to get her, the Mayor is out to get her, that female opponent is out to get her, capturing a picture would make sense to try and trace the root of the source. I would want to be prepared for whomever is about to start slinging allegations at me next too.

  7. Jules says:

    If it’s not illegal to trace someone doing PIRs it should be. Citizens have the right to know what the government is up to. The government does not have the right to retaliate by taking pictures or tracing people.

  8. Concerned says:

    If you think the city doesnt do that already before they release information to you in the first place, then you are sadly misinformed. The COH does not release anything, I mean anything, before passing it to Legal first where they do the exception check and background of the requestor to see what else they may need to request an exception on. This is a fact.

  9. Jules says:

    What legal reason would they have for doing a background check of the requestor?

  10. Paul Kubosh says:

    Are you kidding. If there is just the smallest possibility that the City will release information that might be harmful then they will fight that tooth and nail to prevent it. I had to file in District Court to get the information that I requested.

  11. Jules says:

    Paul, does that mean you think the City acts illegally towards PIR requestors? Do you think it’s ok for the City to do background checks of requestors (if they do)?

  12. paul kubosh says:

    I do not think the city acts illegally because there is not anything the statute that requires them to act any other way. Do I think they violate the spirit of the statute? Yes. Do I think they will fight you every step of the way? Yes. Do I wish there actions were illegal? Yes. However, having only been a plaintiff in one open records lawsuit I can tell you I am far from an expert.

  13. Jules says:

    I like Jones but I don’t think taking pictures of PIR requestors is right. They have their proof with the receipt. I also think that anything she does that is the slightest bit wrong she is going to get called on it. Therefore, unfortunately, she is in the position of having to behave better than everyone else.

    I don’t think it is right to do background checks on PIR requestors (if the City actually does this) – there is no reason to do so. At best it’s a waste of resources.

    I do not like or trust Parker or Feldman. I wonder how you would ever know if you got all the records you requested.

  14. Concerned says:

    Jules – you should not trust Parker or Feldman. The only reason OIG was moved from under HPD to City Legal was to make it easier to conceal OIG investigations. Under HPD, there was no protection, but under City Legal, all OIG investigations fall under Attorney-Client privilege and you have to fight tooth and nail to try a \nd get a TPIA request released. Hows that for transparency?