The funeral home regulator's suit "has no
merit," Bush's spokesman says.
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By Robert Bryce
April 18, 2000 | AUSTIN, Texas -- Last summer, a judge here ruled that
Gov Smirk did not have to testify in a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by a
woman who regulated the state's funeral homes. But now that Smirk is a
defendant in that same lawsuit, he may have difficulty staying out of the courthouse.
On Friday, attorneys representing former
Texas Funeral Service Commission
executive director Eliza May added Smirk as a defendant in the lawsuit she filed
13 months ago. The lawsuit alleges that May was fired by the state in February
1999 because she "repeatedly and in good faith reported violations of the law"
allegedly committed by funeral homes owned by Houston's Service Corp
International, the world's largest funeral company. The suit, which originally
named the funeral agency, SCI and SCI CEO Robert Waltrip as defendants,
was changed to include Bush because May's attorneys allege the governor
has not been forthcoming about his knowledge of the matter.
The amended lawsuit claims Bush "knowingly
permitted his staff to intervene
improperly" in the investigation of SCI by the state funeral agency. The suit also
claims his actions are an abuse of power and were designed to "subvert the
lawful conduct of public officials in the performance of their official duties."
Some background: Although May's lawsuit
deals with a number of legal
issues, it is, at root, about alleged influence buying. The suit claims Bush
and a handful of state legislators sprang to SCI's defense because the funeral
company gave tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the
politicians. The suit makes much of the connections between Bush and Waltrip,
who has known the Bushes for three decades. SCI's political action committee
gave Bush $35,000 for his 1998 campaign and Waltrip gave Bush $10,000
for his 1994 race. Waltrip also serves as a trustee for former President
Bush's presidential library and SCI gave more than $100,000 toward the
construction of the library. Given those connections, the lawsuit claims
that any suggestion that Bush would not have intervened on Waltrip's
behalf is "highly unlikely on its face."
While Waltrip's connections to Bush are
many, May's attorneys will also
face charges that the suit is politically driven. One of May's lawyers,
Charles Herring Jr., is the former chairman of the Travis County Democratic
Party. May has been active in Democratic politics on the city and state level
for more than a decade. From 1994 to 1996 she served on the state Democratic
Executive Committee and from 1996 to 1998 she was treasurer for the Texas
Last August, Texas Attorney General John
Cornyn, a Republican and a close
Bush ally, argued that May's deposition was being "sought purely for
purposes of harassment." Bush has repeatedly called May's lawsuit
"frivolous." During a press conference last summer, he said,
"This is a frivolous lawsuit; this is politics."
(Ediotr's note: The point is to get Smirk under oath and ask
Unless he's possesses Clinton's legal skills, he will probably commit perjury.
That's why he's being dragged into this, as will every presidential contender
until the end of time OR until those idiot-clowns on the Supreme Court
pulls their heads out of their asses.)
May's lawyers have already failed once in
their efforts to force Bush to
testify. Last July, the lawyers subpoenaed Bush. In early August, Bush issued
an affidavit that said he had no "personal knowledge" of the issues
surrounding the investigation into SCI and that he had no "conversations
with SCI officials, agents or representatives" about the state's investigation.
Shortly after the affidavit was issued,
May's attorneys filed a motion in
Travis County District Court claiming Bush was in contempt of court because
his claim that he had "no conversations" was contradicted by SCI's
own lobbyist, Johnnie B. Rogers. The longtime Austin lobbyist told reporters
that he was in the office of Joe Allbaugh, Bush's chief of staff (and current
campaign manager) on April 15, 1998, when Bush stopped by for a brief chat
with Rogers and Waltrip, who had gone to Allbaugh's office to complain about
May's investigation. Bush's claim of "no conversation" was also
later contradicted by Bush himself in a press conference, and by Bush's press
secretary, Linda Edwards, who acknowledged that the governor had an
"exchange" with Waltrip during his April 15 visit to the governor's office.
I guess it all depends on the definition of the word "conversation.")
On Aug. 31, Travis County District Court
Judge John Dietz, a Democrat,
ruled that May's attorneys had not presented enough evidence to compel
Bush to testify in the case. He did not rule on the motion to have Bush held in
contempt. In his ruling, Dietz said May's attorneys did not show Bush has
"unique and superior knowledge" of the facts in May's lawsuit. Texas
case law requires that before plaintiffs are allowed to depose heads of
corporations and other entities -- including, presumably, governors -- they
must show that person has information not available from others.
But now that Bush is an actual defendant,
he may not be able to fend off
efforts to get his testimony. A likely scenario: Cornyn will try to delay any
testimony by Bush for as long as possible. Even if a district court judge
rules against Bush, Cornyn could appeal the ruling all the way to the Texas
Supreme Court, where all nine justices are Republicans. But by the time it
gets there, Nov. 7 will probably have come and gone.
The Bush campaign press office refused to
comment on the lawsuit and
referred calls to Michael Jones, Bush's press spokesman in the Texas capital.
Jones said his office had not received a copy of the lawsuit, but said the
"groundless suit involves the same old claims already rejected by the
court last year when an earlier unjustified deposition was sought.
As it pertains to the governor, this feeble claim has no merit."
(Ediotr's Note: Paula Jones's claim was also dismissed for
"lack of merit."
All they want is to get Smirk under oath.
There's a word that perfectly describes this situation,
I can't quite recall what it is...
Oh, that's right, it's called payback!
salon.com | April 18, 2000