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Jana Birchum “I stated that I will do my best to get the plants. I told her that I was sorry she was mad, but this was the first I had heard about the compost. I asked her to please clarify for me what she wanted. I asked if she wanted 12 yards of compost [approximately twoand-a-half to three tons] delivered to the Mansion She said oh no no. She wants at least 12 yards delivered somewhere else and then we are to bring it over a truckload at a time. “I got a truck and the credit card….” The relationship between the Governor’s Mansion and the General Services Commission was apparently progressing well enough as early as February 17, when Ms. Reed, the G.S.C.’s chief of grounds, sent Ms. DeBois a memo about the unexpectedly short winter: “It seems that spring will arrive much earlier than normal,” Ms. Reed wrote. “If you have any thoughts regarding your plant preferences for warm season color in the auto court, the front flower beds, and any other place, please let me know. Growers will be taking orders early and may run out or have poor quality if we wait.” A week later there was another G.S.C. memo to Ms. DeBois about the problem presented by weeds and live oak leaves. But on March 8 \(as it happens, the same day that U.S. Senator John McCain withdrew from the running for the Republican nomination for president, leaving a clear sour. “On my routine visit to the Mansion,” Ms. Reed wrote on the next day, for her files, “I was met by Albert Ybarra who expressed some concerns about his ability to get some work done and about a concern regarding whether or not he should be doing some things asked by Ms. Anne DeBois. “Albert told me that yesterday he was blowing prior to [public] tours and then planned to complete mowing and finish the fertilization. He was unable to complete any of these jobs because Ms. Anne stopped him and had him set up a P.A., podium, and 20 chairs for a press conference on the lawn. Next, he was told to put out 20 more chairs as she did not think this was enough. Albert could not complete any of [his] work until after the conference. Then he had to put away all the chairs, the P.A., and podium. The chair legs had sunk into the grass so each leg had to be washed and dried prior to putting away. “Ms. DeBois continues to get Albert to mop the upstairs balcony. He must carry water and other equipment through the private quarters to get this job done. He voiced was moving in and he felt this job was better done by the attendants in the house who are assigned to duties within the private quarters. “I told Albert that I appreciated all the information. I agreed with him on all the points…. [The] jobs within the Mansion and setting up for press conferences without notice was not in our contract.” The day after complaining about the use of a state employee for a political event, Ms. Reed wrote to Anne DeBois, “The Mansion was very beautiful today with the aza leas in bloom!” But in another memoran dum to file on March 29, Ms. Reed wrote: “Hector called to say that the men can’t take it anymore at the mansion. This morn ing Dennis almost `lost it’ with Anne because of the way she was talking to him…. [And] last week Mike Garcia told me they had to mow twice. They mowed once and she had them do it all over again after he finished.” Hector Medrano is the G.S.C.’s on-site supervisor of the Mansion gardeners, who number from two to fourteen on any given day. It was Medrano who communicated most of his crew’s complaints to the G.S.C. hierarchy. “Hector called yesterday and asked my opinion on what to do,” Ms. Reed recorded on April 4, the day before the last weed-throwing. “He stated that both Dennis and Bill no longer want to work at the mansion at all. Dennis is very upset about how he is being treated there and wants a meeting…to see what can be done about Anne’s behavior. “I told Hector to move the two guys. Let all this crew know that people are going to be shifted in and out of there and to do his best with a bad situation…. “Today, Albert and Lloyd called in sick. We are pretty sure they don’t want to go to the mansion so they decided staying home was better. Dennis and Bill are still there today. Maybe tomorrow they can get a break.” There is no indication in the memoranda that Governor Bush or his wife were aware of the treatment of their workmen. This is not, however, the first case in which problems have come up about the Governor’s household and administrative staff. At last count, the renovation of the Mansion itself, originally budgeted at $1.2 million, was $2.65 million and still rising, a cost overrun of more than 120 percent. The extra expense comes at a time when the Governor is preaching austerity to the rest of state governmentand state agencies are reportedly squeezing their budgets to avoid potentially embarrassing cost overruns during the presidential campaign. Furthermore, Texas law requires state agencies to improve contracting with “historically-underutilized businesses” \(i.e., those owned or operated by minority and fehas shown no progress in that area. At the end of the last fiscal periodfor the third year in a rowthe Governor’s Office reported a spectacularly dismal record of minority contracting in the especially profitable area of professional services: zero percent. Contributing writer Lucius Lomax reports regularly for the Observer on the curious and odoriferous habits of state agencies. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19 SEPTEMBER 8, 2000