Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Supporting Other Candidates in a Kim Ogg World

Around 9 a.m. on December 24, 2008, Acting Harris County District Attorney Ken Magidson called me into his office and told me (for the second time in a month) that I was fired.

"I'm firing you for what you wrote on your blog.  It's too much."

He actually uttered those words.

Under the circumstances, I was caught off guard.  I was already planning on that day being my last at the Office and taking comp time for the remainder of 2008.  My contract wasn't going to be renewed so I was done effectively at midnight on December 31st, anyway.

But getting fired cost me some money.  There was no taking comp time if you didn't work there anymore.  I think all in all, Magidson's decision to pull the trigger as an early Christmas present cost me around $4,000.  Given the fact that I was going through a divorce and had child support looming, that was kind of a kick in the financial crotch.

Over the past eleven years since that fateful day, I've revisited the idea of whether or not I should have filed a lawsuit on many occasions.  I thought about it.  In the end I decided it really wasn't worth the effort.  My life was going through a reboot at the time, and adding the pet project of a lawsuit wasn't really all that appealing.

There is still a part of me that wishes I had, because when Magidson uttered those words, he was telling me that he was terminating my employment because of words I had written -- outside of work -- while expressing my opinion.   Sometimes I wish I had made a different decision at the time, just for the principle of defending my 1st Amendment rights. On occasion, I get really angry at 2008 Me for not doing that.

I bring this up now for a couple of reasons.

Campaign season is upon us, and as I have mentioned before, there are already six candidates lined up to challenge incumbent District Attorney Kim Ogg for her job.  Several of those candidates are immensely more popular with prosecutors at the Office than Ogg is.  Given their druthers, most prosecutors that I know (and I know a whole lot of prosecutors) would love nothing more than to support the candidate of their choice.

But unfortunately, they work for Kim Ogg.  And as Ogg demonstrated last month by firing Andrew Smith, she is not afraid to fire an employee for blatantly unethical (and quite possibly illegal) reasons.  Although the job of a prosecutor is to seek justice, in Ogg's paranoid world, the primary job is to be loyal to her.  As she demonstrated with Andrew, she ain't afraid to shank somebody for crossing her.

As a result of Kim's erratic and ruthless behavior, don't expect to see too many current prosecutors exercising their 1st Amendment right to support a candidate other than her Royal Oggness.  Ogg's level of paranoia and retaliatory nature make Pat Lykos seem like Mahatma Gandi.  And keep in mind that Lykos had some of her loyalists staking out fundraising events for Mike Anderson, and she also seriously jacked with Carvana Cloud to retaliate against Carvana's support of Clarence Bradford for D.A.

I would imagine that Kim Ogg will be far more retaliatory towards any employee that she finds supporting any other candidate.  I say this in advance because I hope that nobody thinks that a lack of current prosecutors showing up at fundraisers for other candidates means that they don't support those other candidates.  They just don't want to get fired for that support.

From the outside, looking in, it is easy for critics to say, "Well, if they hate working for Kim Ogg so much, why don't they just quit?"  I heard that line a lot in 2012 when Mike Anderson was running against Lykos.  I'm sure we'll hear it again over the next few months.  It was a stupid criticism then and it would be equally stupid now.  Losing a job is a devastating event -- especially when you have a family to support and need things such as money and insurance.

Not to mention being a prosecutor is a fantastic job.  One can be loyal to the job without being loyal to the paranoid despot who is the current District Attorney.

If you are a current employee of the Harris County District Attorney's Office and you don't want to risk your job by supporting another candidate, there are still many things that you can do to give support. 

First and foremost, tell your family, friends, and neighbors your thoughts in private conversations.  Let them know what you think of your current boss and tell them why you think somebody else would make a better choice.  Encourage those same family, friends, and neighbors to learn more about those candidates and attend those fundraisers and "meet and greets" that you can't safely attend.  Let them know why you can't speak out in public, but find a way to educate them.  Encourage THEM to make a donation since you can't.

Although I don't know if this is still the current law, back in 2012, a candidate only had to list a donor who gave $50.00 or more to a campaign.  There were a lot of folks who donated $49.99 to Mike Anderson's campaign back then.  You don't have to go out in a blaze of glory by starting a blog that bashes Ogg or anything stupid like that, but you can still help other candidates if you so choose.

Sometimes, those little gestures of support are far more sincere and powerful than any donation or attendance at a fundraiser.

23 comments:

David said...

Now the limit is $100. Anything over $100 must be reported by the candidate.

See number 24 in the link below.

https://www.ethics.state.tx.us/resources/FAQs/FAQ_COH_Legal.php/#Q6

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Murray.

Attorney said...

Carvana has now said she doesn't want additional prosecutors, and she thinks Kim's requests for more money are wasteful and the money should instead be spent on the homeless(!!!). Why would anyone at the office support someone who wants to defund the place? Asking for a friend.

I get that you now understand you fornicated with the hound by supporting Kim in '16. She's been a disaster. But that doesn't mean Carvana will be better. Carvana is actually doing her best to tell us she'd be worse for the office.

Murray Newman said...

"Attorney",

I completely disagree.

The reason that Kim has been such a complete disaster for the Office has nothing do with budget or how many prosecutors she has. It is because of her off-kilter paranoia and poor personnel decisions.

Prosecutors aren't sitting around hating their jobs because they don't have a big enough budget. They hate it because of Kim's erratic behavior and Joanne's controlling and Vivian's -- whatever the hell it is that Vivian does.

Carvana may have a different vision than you for what the Office should be like, but she has a plan to make things better. Progressive prosecution isn't a dirty word. Look to what Brian Middleton is doing in Ft. Bend if you are skeptical. He's a progressive prosecutor. All of the prosecutors working there that I know (which includes a great many former HCDA prosecutors) seem to love being there. He's still focusing on violent crime and making the community safe. Where is the downside?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:35. Look in the mirror and say "I am a liar" 10 times. That won't change you, but at least you will recognize that someone is calling you out for your FoxNews style bullshit. For those that are interested in the truth, here's the article.

https://theappeal.org/carvana-cloud-harris-county-district-attorney-kim-ogg/

Understand, Kim and her alcoholic chief of staff Vivian have never been able to justify the need for more prosecutors. Vivian started Day 1 by calling us all a bunch of cheats and saying there were too many of us. David gave this weird molesting uncle styled speech and it was evident Kim didn't have a clue when she was asked about what we were to do about dead body cases. She said we were overpayed and didn't need the extra positions that had been approved. Now she wants 102 more prosecutors. How did that number come about? It was a wishlist that she asked division chiefs without us having to justify a need. So when someone says more prosecutors will lead to more prosecutions, there may be truth to it but it is not absolute. It may allow you to get through the cases faster or it could mean you keep the assembly line of Justice going without asking tough questions about what you are doing and why.

In the end, I will be supporting Carvana because she is the only sensible candidate that has the ability to improve the office. And one last comment for 11:35, what kind of prosecutor is pissed off even in your misleading statement that cases aren't being added to their workload because the would be defendants are triaged to a more appropriate place? How dare you go to a homeless shelter, I'm putting your ass in the county for 30 days credit for 2.

Anonymous said...

11:35 Source? The reality is she is the best in the field. A Democrat will win, so the choices are Ogg, Jones, or Cloud. Ogg has been a mess and Audia is inexperienced, was a poor prosecutor, and would likely be worse than Ogg! Carvana is a capable attorney who has been on both sides. She is well liked and respected in the HCDAO and the HCCJC. The sad reality is the Commissioners Court has never been interested in spending more on any aspect of Harris County Criminal justice unless it is a pet project. Given the current political climate, whoever the DA is needs to be prepared for that.

Tom said...

Kim has handled a lot of things badly. For starters, she let Tom Berg as first assistant and her flack speak for the office. Johnny Holmes was always available to the press and he had a great relationship with reporters. That's why he was lionized in the local media and never had a serious opponent after his first election.
Second, she has handled getting new prosecutors really badly. She should have met personally with the commissioners one at a time and given a truly acceptable reason for more ADAs. The threes are badly overworked and others are overworked too but not to that extent. A felony three in the DA's office probably works 60-70 hours per week -- in early every day and working weekends. A three may have to prepare to try three or four cases on Monday. That's too much.
There should be two threes in each court. I don't know who she was listening to but she has handled it badly.
That is just one example of how she misplayed the bureaucratic game.
Third, her speech to the DA's staff right after she was sworn in was terrible. It started her off on a bad foot. She basically said "it's my way or the highway." What she should have done was lay out a vision and said "let's work together on this. Some of the ideas we try might not work but we'll come up with better ideas."
Third although she is a Johnny Holmes alum, she has been out of the DA's office since the early 1990s. I doubt there were 30 people in the office who were there with her. She should have just walked the office afternoons right after being sworn in and dropped into offices to chat and ask questions like "How can I make your job and your life better?" And she should have taken notes.
Assistant DAs all are professionals. If one isn't, can him. And treat them like professionals. Assign them only cases they have the experience and competence to handle and let them handle them, including recommendations. If they need help, they can ask for it. If they screw up, it can be a teaching point and their chiefs can educate them. Let them make mistakes as long as they don't make them repeatedly. Teach them how to use their discretion.
Ogg is only the third DA to have a hostile takeover of the DA's office since Frank Briscoe beat incumbent Dan Walton in the 1964 primary. The first was Pat Lycos and she was a one-termer for lots of reasons. The second was Mike Anderson who came in to restore what it had been before Lycos. Kim is the third and she is acting like she wants to be a one-term DA.

Anonymous said...

At David, Dec 3. The cash limit is $100. You cannot donate an aggregate total in cash of more than $100 in a reporting period. Also there cannot be any anonymous donations of any amount. The candidate is required to know who gave what, even if $2. The limit is still $50 per Texas Ethics Commission. See below from approved October 2019 guide:

CONTRIBUTIONS
A report must disclose the amount of each contribution or the value and nature of any in-kind contribution, as well as the name and address of the individual or political committee making the contribution, and the date of the contribution. (Detailed information about a contributor is not
required to be reported if the contributor contributed $50 or less during the reporting period.)

Anonymous said...

just remember that “not required” does not mean a candidate still won’t list it in their C&E reports. candidates can report $1 contributions even if it isn’t required. granular reporting detail really depends on the treasurer or lowly campaign staff member who has been tasked with recording information. so still be careful.

Attorney said...

I'm not used to getting such defensive replies. You'd think I'd posted in defense of Kim, when all I did was point out that Carvana is telling us she will be awful in different ways than Kim.

Murray, you bring up Brian Middleton. He's been in office for less than a year. He may or may not be awesome, but even if he is there's no reason to believe Carvana will be as well, even if she uses the same jargon to describe herself. If you could get Brian to run in Harris County, I might be down for that. But Carvana's no Brian.

Here's an excerpt from that article that is worth noting:

“Prosecutors must acknowledge the role that they’ve played in this very oppressive system for generations. We’ve never just come out and said, ‘You know what, we’ve done this—we’ve relied on cash bail or unfair sentence enhancements or draconian plea bargains, and we have contributed to this problem. So we must atone, we must say that, we must take responsibility for our part in it,” Cloud said. “Then, we have to change.”

WTF is that about? I haven't played a role in "this very oppressive system for generations." I can't "atone" for whatever she's griping about if I didn't do it. The best I can do - if every other participant miraculously goes along with me - is justice in the cases I have. Carvana's talking like that isn't enough, that prosecutors have to be responsible for correcting perceived large scale societal injustices. That's not something we can do, something we should try to do, or something the constitution charges us with doing. And if we try to do it, all we will achieve is disorder and injustice.

Kim is a terrible manager whose inability to work with her staff in a professional manner has been a disaster. I don't disagree with any critiques of Kim here. But Carvana thinks people currently in the office have to "atone" for stuff other people did. Kim has flaws, but she still wants to prosecute crime and she's not using her campaign to paint my profession as evil.

I understand prosecutors not liking Kim. But the idea that Carvana will be great for the office has no basis in Carvana's campaign, which is just left-wing anti law enforcement demagoguery. Prosecutors who want to throw their money behind leftwingers should give their money to Carvana. Prosecutors who aren't left wingers and who just want a DA to fairly manage the office and enforce the laws should not.

Anonymous said...

I think it’s silly to say the office doesn’t need more prosecutors. Of course they do. Can’t keep heads above water. It’s a matter of WHERE you put them. Don’t want more prosecution? Don’t add any spots to intake. Put people where they are needed. Some chiefs in special divisions and some court chiefs have entirely too many dead body cases. And threes have so many cases they don’t have time to sort the wheat from the chaff. There should be thoughtful requests for prosecutors in particular placements where the caseloads are crushing. Don’t devote the resources to taking more cases. People who claim more prosecutors means more prosecution don’t understand the intake system. More prosecutors can mean BETTER prosecution and BETTER evaluation of cases. But be prepared to plan where they should go and explain why.

Tom said...

Everybody's favorite DA candidate -- Lloyd Oliver -- has filed again, this time as a Republican. In 2012, he got 47 percent of the vote as a Democrat against Mike Anderson.
It would be fun, lie bull and bear baiting, to see Oliver elected. Just think of the fun, an FBI sub office in the CJC, regular FBI polygraphs for everyone in the building. And, remember what he said about a first assistant in 2012. He was going to pick the female ADA with the biggest breasts.
What killed him in 2012 is he gave an interview where he came off like a fool and crazy. I think he might have won if after winning the primary he had taken an extended vacation to Europe or some such place.

Anonymous said...

“she's not using her campaign to paint my profession as evil”


You obviously weren’t around during the 2016 election or Kim’s first day in office with that statement. Nobody is asking you to stone for anything, she is saying the DAs office as a whole have traditionally been part of the oppression. She can say that because she’s been at the office longer than you. You are being so attacked because judging by your comments, it’s clear you don’t know Carvana or her track record. Be careful, your entitlement is showing.

Anonymous said...

"Attorney"

The reason you are getting "defensive" responses is because 1) You started with a completely false narrative and 2) you just don't get it. Carvana isn't saying "we" as in line prosecutors in the office must atone. She is saying elected DAs must look at what policies the office has historically put in place and the blind eye they turn to police hunting low hanging fruit for numbers. Not long ago, the office policy was 10 days for prostitution 1st, 30 for a second. What sense did that make? No DADJ for employee theft, regardless of amount or if a first time offender. I understand what she is saying is stop ignoring and running from the past and confront it head on. Don't speak on Brian or Carvana because it's clear you don't know either.

She left a cush job to stand on principles. What do you stand for? What are you willing to fight for? What are you willing to sacrifice to have a fair system.

"That's not something we can do, something we should try to do, or something the constitution charges us with doing. And if we try to do it, all we will achieve is disorder and injustice."

That answers it all. You are willing to do nothing and your mentality is how we got to this point in the criminal justice system

Anonymous said...

Or perhaps “Attorney” is aware that Carvana was actually at the office for a hot second before she left. She was a very junior attorney who left immediately after being promoted to felony 2. And let’s be honest, her recent Ogg appointed stint at the office is not in the role of a prosecutor, it was as an administrator. Carvana does NOT have some storied career as a prosecutor folks - she left essentially as a misdemeanor chief. And I also can’t ever recall anyone talking about her tearing it up as a defense attorney either, nor did I see it with my own eyes. And I was around for all of those times.

Not saying she won’t be better than Kim. Just saying that I believe her qualifications are being bolstered here by everyone’s focus to unseat Kim.

Maybe she will be better. I’d bet that she will be simply because Ogg has gone completely off the rails. But keep in mind that Carvana rode in on this Ogg train. She can’t just distance herself for her role in creating that shit show just because she wants to, or because you want her to. She wanted all of what Kim set in motion, just like every other sycophant Kim brought in.

Some of us predicted this would end badly and some of us did not. Let’s just keep a little bit of objectivity here folks.

Anonymous said...

Tom: Lloyd coming across as crazy is truth in advertising. Of course now the Republicans seem comfortable with unqualified groping nut jobs, so it’s fine! Plus he’s a former Dem just like Trump and Perry.

Anonymous said...

Can I confess something? I always want to comment but I don’t because even though it says anonymous I know Murry can find out who I am and then I’d have to deal with all the accountability for my thoughts on things that no one cares about and would never change anyone’s mind. Like best case scenario I NAIL my comment and everyone in the hallways is like “damn did you see Murry’s post with that comment” and it gets screenshot and sent to all the clique group texts attached with the open mouth shocked emoji right under the last text that says “wtf is up with this star wars stuff on Murrys blog when is he going to post something everyone can gossip about?” Sigh, I guess I’ll keep just drafting clever responses in notes so I don’t accidentally publish them and then deleting them thinking that could of been the best comment ever.

Attorney said...

"she is saying the DAs office as a whole have traditionally been part of the oppression"

I know that's what she's saying. The question is what does that mean. If it means, "We should change how we do things so we don't oppress people in the future," that's a message I can get behind. If it means, "We have to unoppress people today to atone for having oppressed other people in the past," that's just meaningless flapdoodle that will be used to provide cover for any pet project she has.

"Hey Carvana, why are you decriminalizing trespass so that now I can't make these hoodlums leave my store?"

"This office prosecuted innocent people in the 1980s so we're going to atone for that by letting these criminals have the run of your store."

When we don't prosecute crime, it's not our office that's atoning for anything. It costs me nothing to dismiss or decline a case. When we choose not to prosecute people as "atonement," it's victims and the community who are paying the price for our feels. I'm willing to be mean to criminals so ordinary citizens can live in a peaceful, orderly community. Carvana's message is that she's ambivalent on that proposition.

Perhaps it's for the best I don't "know Carvana or her track record." People who know her are willing to overlook an awful lot of nonsense she's spouting. I'm just a nobody who's forced to judge people by what they tell me.

Tom, I personally am looking forward to an Oliver administration. I've had enough ideological nonsense. A four year run of non-ideological nonsense won't be worse and might be funnier.

Murray Newman said...

Anon 5:47 a.m.,
Your assertion that Carvana left as "essentially a misdemeanor chief" is a blatant misrepresentation. She was a felony two who had been around long enough to be known and respected by her peers. She was placed in a chief position slot by Lykos who then demoted the rank as a way of giving Carvana the middle finger for supporting Bradford.

Maybe she doesn't meet your definition of a prosecutor or defense attorney who "tore it up," but she did have a reputation for being reasonable, fair and honest. None of these things apply to our current D.A. So she came in with Kim. So what? A lot of good people did and several of them still work there. That doesn't mean that they are bad for being there. Don't get me wrong -- several of them are also horrific. But they got their reputations on their own merits -- not just because they came in with Kim.
\

Anonymous said...

“I'm willing to be mean to criminals so ordinary citizens can live in a peaceful, orderly community.”


This statement alone let’s me know you shouldn’t be a prosecutor. Your job is to seek justice, not “be mean to criminals.” Your backwards thinking of what your job entails is one reason community members no longer think highly of the HCDAs office. Don’t worry, I’m sure none of the candidates will require you to give 40 acres and a mule. I just really think it’s amusing that you’re so pro Brian Middleton, who ran on a platform of progressive reform, but so anti-Carvana who seems to be running on the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone confirm who the actual declared candidates are? I couldn’t manage to find the DA candidate list on the SOS site.

Kate said...

The candidates in the primary, in alphabetical order sorted by party, are:

Democrats:
AUDIA JONES
CARVANA CLOUD
KIM OGG
TODD OVERSTREET

Republicans:
LLOYD WAYNE OLIVER
LORI DEANGELO
MARY HUFFMAN

Anonymous said...

I worked with Todd Overstreet, Carvana Cloud, and Lori DeAngelo. All were capable and experienced prosecutors. I'm no longer at the DA's Office. But I can tell you that based upon what I keep hearing about the current state of things, any of them would be better than Ogg if they gave a damn about their prosecutors, treated them like humans, spent money wisely, secured more attorneys, and got rid of administrators like Vivian King (what the HELL does she do and why is she paid so much for treating people like crap?) and Joanne Musick (who was a great criminal defense attorney, but has always had poor management skills as an ADA because her standards are impossible and she needs to control everyone and everything. Employees are loyal to employers who look out for them, train them well, respect them, cut them some slack when they mess up and show them the better way. If you show your employees a modicum of respect, they will return it in spades. Unfortunately, this has not happened with this administration.