Page 14


privy to the planas least, in a general sense. “After the tape recorder was found and I found out how they did it,’ said Huff, “it certainly didn’t meet my expectations. I had visions of a little round button that you stick under the table rather than a tape recorder. But that’s probably a TV scenario?’ In the end, it was a scenario right out of Comedy Central’s Reno 911! But the investigators weren’t laughing. Under certain circumstances, recording other people’s conversation without their consent is a felony in Texas. Throughout his videotaped interview, Poston maintained that the Chuckwagon espionage didn’t meet those conditions. Specifically, Poston argued that the professors couldn’t claim an “expectation of privacy” since they were meeting in a public restaurant. Rutledge was unconvinced. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me how anybody could think that they could legally put a bug under the table in a restaurant,” Rutledge told Poston at one point. “I’ve been a police officer for 32 years and I’ve never seen a police officer place a recorder under a table. That’s just unheard of. It boggles my mind.” Back at the Chuckwagon on Thursday afternoon, Max Ratheal strolls in from out of the rain. He says hello to Jeanie the waitress, hangs a left at the salad bar, and rumbles toward the usual table in the back. “I tell you what,” says Ratheal. “It is thoroughly miserable out.” Ratheal takes off his rain jacket and sits down at the table. Since retiring from the college, Ratheal has gone back to work in the propane business. “Max is our resident propane delivery man,” Bull tells me, gesturing across the table. “He used to be a chemistry teacher.” “He moved up in life,” says Reeves. “He passes a lot of gas everyday,” adds Miller. Thus the weekly meeting of the Weatherford Business and Professional Men’s Club commences with an old standby, some good-natured ribbing. This past fall, a grand jury decided not to indict either Stone or Poston for their roles in bugging the Chuckwagon. But more recently, the professors celebrated a victory of sorts in another venue. In December the college’s board of trustees voted to put Huff on paid administrative leave. “I think the good that has come out of this, is that it has exposed Don Huff and his administration,” says Miller. “Hopefully he’s embarrassed enough people up there, that they will never try this again.” In October, the four remaining members of the club \(Nancy McVean has suit in state court against the various members of the college who took part in the Chuckwagon espionage. Attorneys David Broiles and Karin Cagle of Fort Worth are representing the professors along with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union. Broiles believes that the case will raise some serious issues concerning academic freedom, university responsibility, and campus security. In the meantime, if you want to record the lighthearted banter of the Tablegate Four, you’re welcome. Just keep your recorder, like mine, on top of the green tablecloth. “People ask me, `Do you still eat at that table?” say Reeves. “I say, ‘Of course I do. It’s the safest table in town.’ Felix Gillette is a writer in Austin. Bad Bills, continued from page 12 er.” Hughes conveniently edited that for a press release, which ominously read, “[Roche] admitted the camps ‘could be a magnet for pedophiles.” Armed with his good intentions, Hughes crafted his bill, which doesn’t set parameters on what exactly a nudist camp is. Can the children be naked half the time? Can they sleep naked? When asked why nudity wasn’t defined in the bill, Hughes said he wanted to leave it up to the Department of Health and Human Services to define it. “We decided the best route was for the agency to promulgate specific rules,” he said. Hughes would only define nudity thus: “By nudity I mean no clothes.” It remains to be seen how far HHS will go \(no the bill passes. Until then, fetch the volleyball. Let’s get nekkid. Bush Country House Bill 137 There go those Big Government Republicans again. Rep. Ken Paxton’s HB 137 requires all state boundary signs erected by the Department of Transportation come to TexasProud to be the Home of President George W. Bush.” “Welcome to Texas” signs already designate the state boundary across highways and interstates around Texas. HB 137 will add plaques with the new phrase to 66 existing signs erected along interstates and U.S. and state highways. TXDOT estimates that the project will cost $28,560. While that’s loose change in the agency’s billion-dollar budget, surely the president would prefer that his adopted home state provide for its neediest citizens before spending money to sing his praises. Consider this: On average, it costs the state $2,412 a year to provide a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ily of three, and $1,534 dollars annually for every Medicaid-eligible child. The cost of the signs could provide TANF grants to as many as 12 more Texas families and enroll 19 more children in the Medicaid program. Of course, Dubya is not particularly known for his modesty. \(Remember: “It’s not a swagger. It’s jus’ what we call conservatism: There are still three and half more years to go for this president. Anything could happen. How much more might it cost if the state is forced to take the signs down? 1111 Bad Bills are compiled by the Observer’s Bad Bills Girl, who rises vampire-like from hibernation every two years to suck the blood from vile or absurd state legislation. If you have a likely candidate or e-mail [email protected] . 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 18, 2005