Naked City

On the Defensive

The last place any politician wants to be is in a courtroom under oath. But Gov. George W. Bush may soon find himself in that very position.

Last Friday, attorneys representing former Texas Funeral Service Commission executive director Eliza May added Bush as a defendant in the lawsuit she filed 13 months ago against the state and the world's largest funeral company, Houston-based Service Corporation International.

The amended lawsuit claims Bush "knowingly permitted his staff to intervene improperly" in the state funeral agency's investigation of SCI. It also claims his actions are an abuse of power and were designed to "subvert the lawful conduct of public officials in the performance of their official duties."

May sued the state under the Texas Whistleblower Act, claiming that she was fired from her job at the TFSC last year because she was investigating SCI, which had allegedly violated a number of state embalming statutes at some of its Dallas-area funeral homes. In August of 1998, after a lengthy investigation of the company, a sub-committee at the agency recommended the funeral giant be fined $445,000. The state has not yet required SCI to pay the fine and the matter was recently referred by the commission to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

By adding Bush to the lawsuit, May's attorneys are hoping to get answers from Bush regarding the actions of his top staffers, including former chief of staff Joe Allbaugh (who is now managing Bush's presidential campaign) and Margaret Wilson, his general counsel. Both Allbaugh and Wilson attended a meeting in Allbaugh's office at which Allbaugh demanded to know the details of May's investigation into SCI's operations. The suit also claims that Wilson called May while the investigation was underway and told her that she was "under a lot of pressure" to end her investigation of SCI and that if she didn't stop her inquiry, "the investigation would be taken away" from the TFSC and handled by the governor's office.

May's attorneys have already tried, and failed, to get Bush to testify in court. Last summer, they subpoenaed Bush, but on August 31, Travis County District Court Judge John Dietz, a Democrat, quashed the subpoena and ruled that May's attorneys had not shown that Bush has "unique and superior knowledge" of the facts in May's lawsuit.

Bush's Capitol office spokesman, Michael Jones, said the "groundless suit involves the same old claims already rejected by the court last year when an earlier unjustified deposition was sought. As it pertains to the governor, this feeble claim has no merit."

For more on this subject, go to: http://www. auschron.com/election/bush/.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Brigid Shea resigns from the Save Our Springs pac over the board's refusal to endorse Kirk Watson for mayor; Millennium March on Washington is April 30.

    Naked City

    A frat house plans a basketball court for its property in the Eastwoods neighborhood, where a single-family house now stands.

    Naked City

    On May 6, voters will choose how AISDwill send tax dollars to property-poor school districts under Chapter 41 of the state education code.
  • Naked City

    Gov. Bush presents a new plan to clean up "brownfields," or abandoned industrial sites, across Texas, but environmental leaders say the plan greenwashes his poor environmental record.

    Naked City

    If elected president, Bush will recommend:

    Naked City

    Al Mindiz-Melton, the Johnston High School principal who got busted for marijuana possession last week, was a capable administrator who brought improvements to every school he oversaw.

    Naked City

    Action Items

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Robert Bryce
If More CO<sub>2</sub> Is Bad ... Then What?
If More CO2 Is Bad ... Then What?
The need to reduce emissions collides head-on with the growing world demand for energy

Dec. 7, 2007

'I Am Sullied – No More'
'I Am Sullied – No More'
Col. Ted Westhusing chose death over dishonor in Iraq

April 27, 2007

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, Texas Funeral Service Commission, Eliza May, Service Corporation International, State Office of Administrative Hearings, John Dietz, Joe Allbaugh, Margaret Wilson, Michael Jones

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle