Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Joys of Being a County Employee

As noted in my last post, the Harris County Criminal Justice Center was shut closed on both Tuesday and today (Wednesday) of this week in the wake of heavy rains that hit late Monday night.  As per usual, our beloved CJC building failed to withstand the devastating power of nature.  The garage flooded.  The elevators stopped running.  The tunnels flooded.  They were on reserve power.

Harris County employees were told not to come into work. They were then told that they had to take either Comp or Vacation time, instead.

For the lawyers in the building (whether they be prosecutors or public defenders), this wasn't really that big of an inconvenience.  Most of them have plenty of comp time from the hours they work before eight, after five, or on the weekends.   They could also probably get away with doing some trial prep at home or doing some field investigations, if they were feeling ambitious.

For support personnel, however, this wasn't really an option.  Although investigators may earn some amount of comp time in the course of their job, more often than not, it isn't a large amount that accumulates.  Administrative Assistants, however, are the ones who really get screwed.  They work straight eight hour shifts and never earn comp time.

So, basically, Administrative Assistants have no choice but to take their vacation hours, or just go unpaid.  This isn't a new thing.  It happened when we were all ordered out of the building in the wake of Hurricane Ike.  During that particular natural disaster, there was raw sewage backing up into the CJC and we were forbidden to be there.

But we still had to take vacation or comp time.

So, basically, Harris County builds a building that can't withstand a rainstorm and the employees are having to pay the price.  In an ideal world, the geniuses that built that piece of crap building would have to reimburse the county for the cost of an employee's salary on the day said employee couldn't go into the building.  Unfortunately, under county rules, shit runs downhill.  The Powers that Be have the authority to ban employees from working, but they don't get held accountable for failing to provide a safe work environment for them.  The employees have to give away their carefully accumulated (and usually already-planned-for) vacation time.

I can't imagine that ever working in the private sector.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shades of Allison

I hope everyone weathered last night's crazy storm okay.  I don't know about y'all, but I was having some serious flashbacks to June 2001 and Tropical Storm Allison -- only this time I have flood insurance!

Judge Kristin Guiney is reporting that the CJC is closed today, per the Administrative Judge.  The building is running on reserve power and apparently the basement garage is flooded.

It doesn't sound quite as bad as Tropical Storm Allison, which forced the entire D.A.'s Office and all of the courts to relocate from the CJC for the better part of a year, but it doesn't sound good, either.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our New Sheriff

Unless you pay absolutely no attention to Harris County politics, you are probably well aware that (now) former-Harris County Sheriff, Adrian Garcia resigned his position to run for Mayor of the City of Houston.  The move had been rumored for months, but since Garcia was required to resign before he could officially announce, he held off on making it official for some time.

What had also been rumored for months was that Harris County Commissioners were planning on appointing Harris County Constable for Precinct Four, Ron Hickman, to fulfill Sheriff Garcia's unexpired term.  That was a smart move -- Hickman is very politically active in the Republican Party and has a good reputation.  He's also a great campaigner.

Sheriff Hickman wasted no time in getting to work on cleaning up some of the messes created under the Garcia Administration -- focusing largely on problems that consistently plague the Harris County Jail.  Sheriff Hickman also set a goal for getting rid of some of his unnecessary administrative positions in favor of more deputies out on the streets.  One of those unnecessary administrative positions has apparently been the job of former-Harris County First Assistant Jim Leitner.

I've heard from several reliable sources this morning that Leitner was terminated from HCSO by the incoming administration.  Although Leitner and I aren't big fans of each other, I can empathize.  It really sucks to lose your job because of politics, doesn't it?  As of this writing, it does appear that Sheriff Hickman will be keeping Clint Greenwood, for some reason.

The path that Leitner takes from here will be interesting.  After leaving the Lykos Administration in 2008, he tried going back to the Defense Bar for a little bit before going to the Sheriff's Office.  He got started on a lot of appointed cases that he didn't finish.

The mayoral election is on November 3rd of this year.  Given that everybody and their dog are running for mayor, it will almost certainly go to a runoff (scheduled for December 12, if necessary).  If Adrian Garcia loses the election, it is rumored that he fully intends to try to reclaim the Sheriff's Office in 2016.  If that is ultimately what happens, Jim wouldn't be able to land himself another political hire with the Sheriff's Office until January 1, 2017 at the earliest.

So, does Jim return to the Land of Burned Bridges within the CJC as a defense attorney where he can deal with prosecutors (who detest him) on a daily basis?  Does he hope and pray that Garcia wins mayor and appoints him to be the King's Hand?  Will he go to work as a guest blogger over at Big Jolly's website?  Will he get to work early on Kim Ogg's inevitable 2016 campaign for District Attorney?  Does he get a job as in-house counsel at Don Hooper's energy trading firm, Kramerica Industries?

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Uncle Pete

My great-uncle, Pete Newman, passed away last week at the age of 86.  He was the youngest brother of my paternal grandfather, Louis Newman.  I didn't know Uncle Pete all that well, but I always enjoyed talking to him whenever I got the chance, because he was wildly entertaining.  The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago, at his brother, Jim's, funeral.  He was sitting on his walker, smoking a cigarette and talking about grabbing a beer.

The reason I'm writing this post is because I thought his obituary in the local paper was pretty entertaining, as well.  So I thought I would just pass it along.

He was a damn good man.

Episode Seven: The Voters Awaken - A One Act -Sci-Fi Play

SCENE:  The Death Star orbits over Downtown Houston. [INTERIOR] The Imperial Council Chambers. EMPRESS OGG sits at the head of a long table ...