In and Out

Jim Foster is a hard man to find

Why would I ask that? Well, when I call for him at Paramount Alarm, they always tell me he just stepped out. When I ask when he might be back in, the lady on the phone says, "He's in and out of here a lot."

Unlike the county commissioner, she does not add, "In more ways than one."

County Commissioner John Wiley Price pointed out to me that, "There is no prohibition, so he would be within his rights to keep running his company."

Sure. I can see that. There is the small matter of the $147,367 a year that we taxpayers are paying him to serve as the chief elected officer of our county government, not to mention his $9,173 car and cell phone allowance for 2007.

But, hey. It's just tax money. Let's move, if we may, to a much more important point: What should the county judge's schedule look like? I called Keliher, his predecessor, whom I did not ask to comment on Foster's schedule. Keliher is out of there now, working for a big law firm, and I know she doesn't like to say things that sound snarky about the guy who beat her when she ran for re-election.

So I just asked her, "What was a typical day for you, when you were the county's top elected official?"

"Actually it was quite an exciting life," she said. "There would be days when I would go in, and I would have a breakfast meeting where I talked about what was going on at Parkland hospital. And then I would go and talk about what was going on in transportation over lunch. And then I had a meeting with people talking about what we were doing about truancy.

"You had to love it, because it was all in the course of a day. You had all these issues. In my whole day, all I did was go from meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting, all day long. I did so many things also in the nighttime.

"I take kids to school, so I started about 8:30 and went to about 7 at night. It was just the most hectic schedule. And I didn't even know at the beginning of the day what I was going to do. All I did was get my calendar, and if I had a hole in it, my scheduler would fill it, so we just did things all day long."

Yeah. I wanted to ask her, "In the course of your work as county judge, did you ever run into a certain Mr. Block?" But the moment didn't present itself.

So there is that factor. The county judge in a major urban county has major responsibilities. It should be a high-pressure job. And as far as I can tell from Judge Foster's calendar, he does virtually no work at all. Depending on what goes on during "Block." And the question there would be: Is "Block" good work or naughty?

So there's the money we pay him. And there's the work he should be doing but is not. But here is the even stranger thing, the weirder than weird aspect, the hair-standing-up factor: After the district attorney released to me the judge's July calendar, my very able colleague, Matt Pulle, put in a request for the judge's calendar for the entire year for something Pulle is working on.

Pulle reported to me that he subsequently had been called by an assistant district attorney who told him the judge had said he would agree to have his calendar for the entire year released only if the District Attorney's Office would redact the physical addresses of the very few places where the judge actually has engagements, like the Oak Cliff Lions Club luncheon or the grand opening of the Domingo Garcia law firm.

I called Maura Schulke, the assistant district attorney who had spoken to Pulle. She said: "The judge has requested that we assert a security exception, because, um, the calendar would show a pattern of his comings and goings."

Like for terrorists? Well, hey. If there are any terrorists out there listening, you don't need to bother with the calendar. I can tell you what the pattern is. He ain't there. It's all goings. No comings.

I will say this. If there is some kind of gigantic scary bogeyman out there with hair all over his face and big claws and feet like an elephant and slobber who needs to know how to find Judge Foster, the judge does show up every Tuesday at 9 a.m. for the Commissioners Court meeting, after his 15-minute meeting with the Reverend Ted.

If anybody stops you, just tell them, "Me Mr. Block."

Hey, Democrats? You gotta fix this. Really. C'mon. Think about it. C'mon.

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