Journal Observer Investigation Produces Indictment in Kitchen Ware Scam Take a federal budget appropriation aimed at bettering the lives of South Texas schoolchildren and combine it with a lackadaisical state agency charged with overseeing distribution of those funds and a greedy entrepreneur who may not believe in following government rules, and what do you get? A run-ofthe-mill scandal in the Rio Grande Valley. Nearly two years ago, the Observer reported that Abilene businessman J. W. Hooker, a kitchen equipment supplier, had been sued by then-Attorney General John Hill for violations of the state’s anti-trust laws [Obs., Aug. 25, ‘781 A second suit had also been brought by one of Hooker’s competitors. Both suits alleged that Hooker had submitted false bids to various South Texas school districts looking for new kitchen equipment. The fake bids allegedly submitted by Hooker had been made on letterhead stationery from other companies and were always higher than the real bids Hooker submitted for his West Texas Coffee and Equipment Company. According to the suits, Hooker’s phony bids allowed him to submit the lowest bid on each federally funded purchase while appearing to satisfy the Texas Education Agency’s requirement of three independent bids per project. The suit filed by competitor John Beals of San Antonio also accused Hooker’s friend, Kitty McLaughlin, a TEA area supervisor, of aiding Hooker in his alleged wrongdoing. Within a month of the Observer report, Hooker had settled with the State of Texas and McLaughlin had retired from TEA. While admitting no wrongdoing, Hooker did agree to refrain from any anti-competitive behavior and paid a $40,000 settlement. In effect he promised not to do again what he said he hadn’t done in the first place. Now the federal government has charged both Hooker and McLaughlin with 12 counts of mail fraud, alleging that the pair used the mail to facilitate their fraud on the government by posting those phony bids. The indictment, returned by a Brownsville federal grand jury, covers bids submitted between December 1975 and February 1977. The bids in that period account for nearly half the $1.25 million worth of stoves, freezers and other equipment sold and installed by Hooker in South Texas schools between 1973 and 1977. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or a $1,000 fine. School districts allegedly receiving fraudulent bids were Benavides, Hidalgo, Mercedes, McAllen and eight others. Jo Clifton Getting Nasty The on-again off-again Travis County grand jury investigation of State Comptroller Bob Bullock and his office is on again, complete with attending nastiness between Bullock and Travis County District Attorney Ronald Earle \(Obs., Earle of “telling a bald face lie” regarding the investigation, and Earle has responded that Bullock hampered the investigation by creating a “circus-like atmosphere.” When Earle closed out six months of grand jury investigations with no indictments issued in March 1979, he noted that Bullock’s then-deputy comptroller Ralph Wayne faced further investigation after the FBI completed an examination of tapes taken from the typewriter of Wayne’s secretary. The secretary was accused of doing personal business for Wayne on state time at his instruction. Transcripts of tapes from the memory-style typewriter are complete, and First Assistant District Attorney Phil Nelson says they will be presented to the July term of the grand jury which serves through September. Nelson also expects that the jury will subpoena supporting documents and witnesses. Wayne isn’t expected to be called. Bullock called the resumption of the investigation “Earle’s continued harassment of former Deputy Comptroller Ralph Wayne,” and “a ridiculous and dishonest abuse of office.” Bullock also said that Earle got the tapes back “months ago,” which Earle acknowledged. The comptroller also noted that Earle “shaves his beard, bathes and puts on a suit and tie only in election years.” Earle replied, “Regardless of the ravings of Bullock and his propensity for personally insulting those whose duty it is to sometimes look over his shoulder, I will proceed with this case as justice requires.” A few weeks later, Bullock intensified his objections, calling Earle a “first class committee.” Bullock said Earle’s “abuse of public office is obvious. His abuse of his law license is unforgivable.” Earle then criticized Bullock for taking “an almost frantic interest in the case.” Janie Paleschic Brown for governor? To that perennial question, could anybody be a worse governor than Bill Clements, comes the answer, duly coated in horse hockey, why yes, indeed: our man at the Agriculture Commission, Reagan V. Brown. It may come as a surprise to you that Commissioner Brown, a Dolph Briscoe era Democrat, has aspirations toward the mansion, but it’s no surprise to Austin lawyer Jack McCreary, who called for Reagan’s candidacy at a June meeting of the North and East Texas Judges and Commissioners Association in Denison. According to McCreary, Texas needs Brown’s “chai .acter dedication and knowledge” to run the state. McCreary further predicted that Brown is the only Democrat who could beat Clements in 1982. Gee. Perhaps to demonstrate his readiness to accept the demands of higher office, Brown regaled the Denison meeting with his extensive knowledge and political acumen. Here’s a little summary. Brown on: Foreign Affairs “I have recently been to Russia and they killed their own by the millions. I’ve seen the graves.” 12 JULY 25, 1980
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.