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Clayton’s reorganization scheme Housecleaning or coup? Austin “I’ve spent quite a bit of my life here,” says Adele Jacobs, looking out over the vast empty expanse of the House gallery. For about as long as anyone can remember, Ms. Jacobs has manned right of the speaker’s podium. It has been her job to keep track of the 2,000-odd bills introduced each session. Staff members assure the Observer that she could locate a bill for a House member in thirty minutes tops. Adele Jacobs first went to work for the Texas House of Representatives part-time in 1931, while she was attending the University of Texas. She stayed on and was promoted to calendar clerk in 1947. The first speaker she worked for was Fred Minor. Then Coke Stevenson. “Manford, Turman, Senterfitt, Carr, Daniel Sr., Daniel Jr., Tunnell, Price, Mutscher, Barnes . . . ,” she counts off the still-living speakers under whom she has served. “I want you to call them and ask them what sort of a job I’ve done. You can ask any of those men if I failed to cooperate in any way. I tried to merit the respect of the men I’ve worked for. “Both Price Daniels. Why, they were lovely to us. Rayford Price was lovely to us. All the trouble is coming from back there,” she says, angrily tossing her head in the direction of Speaker Bill Clayton’s office behind the House. “They’ve never given us any guidelines, never treated us as part of the staff. They treated us with utter contempt,” she says with outrage in her gentle voice. Jacobs is one of the 131 permanent House employees who have retired or been fired by the speaker in the past year. A year ago, Clayton, his top staff members, and the House Administration Committee \(all cut the number of House employees by halfif they could do so without impairing the workings of the House. They have exceeded their goal. The House staff \(not counting committee employees and people down to 46 percent of the 244 employees who were on the payroll last November. And, according to Jack Gullahorn, Clayton’s executive assistant, “We’re operating as efficientlyor more efficientlythan we were a year ago.” 6 The Texas Observer The first spate of firings was last December. Twenty-two janitors were “terminated” because the speaker’s office found a janitorial service to do the job quicker and cheaper. Jim Reynolds, the House budget officer, said that cleaning costs have been reduced from $198,000 to $35,000 yearly because of the changes. While Clayton’s economy moves are commendable, his team, to say the very least, lacks finesse in its “termination” procedure. The janitors were axed with only four days’ noticeright before Christmas. This caused a minor flap, but it was nothing compared to the commotion after the most recent round of firings. In addition to Jacobs, Clayton dismissed chief clerk Dorothy Hallman, assistant chief clerk Ruth Rainey, and assistant calendar clerk Cynthia Lewis. Hallman had worked for the House for 41 years, Jacobs for 45 years, Rainey for 18 years, and Lewis for three years. As if to add insult to injury, the locks were changed on the chief clerk’s door the day after she was fired, and Reynolds was stationed in the office until Hallman and Rainey departed. They left as soon as they could box up their personal belongings. The speaker and his staff say that the four women would not or could not adapt to the new computer system, first introduced by Price Daniel Jr. but brought to new prominence under the Clayton regime. “Speaker Clayton told Dorothy and Adele and Ruth that there would be places for them under the new system if they were willing to work with us,” Gullahorn said. “But several people’s attitude was, ‘This system is. not going to work.” Reynolds added, “The age of the computer just wasn’t welcomed by some people who managed fine for 30 years without it.” Clayton told a UPI reporter that he heard reports from lobbyists and other House members that “certain employees” told them the reorganization plan wouldn’t work. Clayton’s position is backed up by John Cones, who served last session as legal counsel for enrolling and engrossing. “I think those ladies have made their contribution, and they should have retired some time ago,” he said. “There were a number of problems in working between departmentsa lack of cooperation between departments. On numerous occasions I received documents from the calendar clerk improperly. There were technical mixups, aggravating and frustrating inefficiency. It was happening all the time. “The State of Texas ought to congratulate Speaker Clayton on having the guts to do what he did,” Cones said. “Any politician who is responsible for hiring and firing knows that he’s vulnerable to criticism, but there was a big mess in the House. Empire building. Everybody jealously guarding staffs. It’s just a big war and has been in the past. Fifty percent of the time you’re guarding your back. It’s the worst office politics I’ve ever been involved in,” Cones said. He has since moved over to the State Bar, where he is project director of the Comprehensive Offender Manpower Program. The four women adamantly deny that they ever complained about the computer system to lobbyists or House members or that they were unwilling to work under the new system. And their many supporters point out that they are professionals who have survived speaker after speaker because they had the ability to adapt to the needs of each new administration. “I never said at any time the speaker’s program would not work,” said Hallman. “They want you to keep your head down, and I’ve played it that way,” Jacobs said. But now her head is up, and she’s angry. “It’s a purge,” she insists. Some House members also fear a Clayton purge. “What really bothers me is that this comes on the heels of a number of other things done during the interim which create a steady erosion in the prerogatives of the members,” said Dallas Rep. John Bryant. “I think highly of the individuals involved in the firings, but the overriding question here is authority. The question is whether the reorganization of a 100-year-old operation can be undertaken without the consent of the members . . . . I think we’re turning the clock back to the Gus Mutscher days. I think [Clayton’s] trying to set himself up as an absolute power so that we can’t do a dadgum thing about it.” Of course, there is always a lot of paranoia in politics. Many observers feared that the conservative Clayton would try to run the House like a dictatorship during his first term. But Clayton, for the most part, was a fair and evenhanded speaker. Then there was a second string of observers who predicted that Clayton would quietly consolidate his strength during his first term and then really roll like a big wheel Over the opposition during subsequent terms. On that, we’ll have to wait and see. The House Administration Committee’s gutting of the House Study Group certainly does not bode well for the session. The Study Group was set up by Rep. Jim Mattox to supply House liberals and fellow travelers with issue-oriented information about legislation. Its small staff was funded by contributions from approximately forty House members. In April, the Administration Committee passed a rule providing that “no employees may be paid from more than two sources of income.” The reasoning was that paying staff members from several