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Pryderi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 09:26 PM
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Whittington-Bush Texas Funeral Scandal

The other guests were Ms. Willeford, the ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and her husband, George, a physician in Austin; Ben Love, a West Texas rancher whom Ms. Armstrong called her "beau"; her sister, Sarita Hixon, a Houston museum chairwoman, and her husband, Bob, an insurance executive; Nancy Negley, an art philanthropist whose family once controlled Brown & Root, now a part of Halliburton; and Mr. Whittington, a 78-year-old Austin lawyer, Republican stalwart and presiding officer of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, and his wife, Mercedes.

At first Ms. Armstrong declined to say who besides Mr. Cheney and her sister had been her guests, but she provided the names after The Austin American-Statesman learned of Ms. Willeford's presence. Ms. Willeford spoke Monday by phone but declined to be interviewed again Wednesday. Mrs. Hixon and Ms. Negley did not respond to several messages.<


The funeral scandal time line

A chronology of the battle between the Texas Funeral Service Commission and Service Corporation International.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Compiled by Robert Bryce

August 1996: Austin, Texas, resident Eliza May is hired as executive director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

January 1998: The TFSC receives a complaint from a citizen regarding the use of unlicensed embalming facilities by Service Corporation International. The agency begins examining records and finds that provisional licensees were doing embalmings at an SCI funeral home in Dallas without proper licenses.

March 6, 1998: The TFSC denies a license to Dallas/Fort Worth Mortuary Service, a company that planned to set up a commercial embalming service in the embalming rooms of two SCI funeral homes: Lucas Funeral Home in Hurst and Sparkman-Crane Funeral Home in Dallas.

March 25, 1998: Tommy Metcalf, an SCI employee and member of the TFSC board, calls TFSC staffers to complain about the denial of the licenses. Metcalf also talks to May regarding the denials.

March 26, 1998: SCI attorney Johnnie B. Rogers calls May to complain about the denial of the licenses.

March 31, 1998: The TFSC issues subpoenas seeking 15 months' worth of documents related to improper embalmings.

April 7, 1998: SCI attorney Rogers notifies the TFSC that SCI will not comply with the subpoenas.

April 8, 1998: Joshua Kimball, a provisional licensee who was working on his embalming license at SCI's Sparkman-Crane Funeral Home in Dallas, calls May at the TFSC office. According to May, Kimball tells her, "I am going to kill all of you." May files a report with the Austin Police Department.

April 10, 1998: Armed with subpoenas, TFSC employees arrive unannounced at Sparkman-Crane Funeral Home in Dallas and Lucas Funeral Home in Hurst to inspect embalming records. SCI personnel at the facilities initially refuse, then decide to cooperate with the TFSC employees.

April 13, 1998: SCI CEO Robert Waltrip calls TFSC chairman Richard McNeil to complain about the investigation, the subpoenas and the surprise inspections. According to May's lawsuit, Waltrip threatens to "sue TFSC and threatened to have the TFSC abolished by the Texas Legislature."

April 15, 1998: Waltrip writes a letter denouncing the TFSC and what he calls the "storm trooper" tactics used by TFSC employees during inspections of Lucas and Sparkman-Crane. He says the TFSC should "consider disciplinary action, including termination" of the staffers involved. The same day, Waltrip and his attorney, Rogers, visit the TFSC offices in Austin and talk to May. After leaving the TFSC, Waltrip and Rogers go to the governor's office in the Capitol and meet with Joe Allbaugh, Gov. George W. Bush's chief of staff. According to May's lawsuit, she received a call from Allbaugh "approximately forty-five minutes after Waltrip and Rogers left" her office. Waltrip and Rogers both say afterward that they spoke to Bush while in Allbaugh's office about the investigation. Waltrip later changes his story.

April 16, 1998: State Rep. Kyle Janek, a Republican from Houston and an SCI stockholder, calls May to inquire about the TFSC investigation into SCI.

April 23, 1998: Janek writes a letter to TFSC chairman Richard McNeil, inquiring about the TFSC investigation.

May 11, 1998: State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who has received $5,000 in campaign contributions from SCI -- more than any other member of the Texas Senate -- calls May at the TFSC, and tells her he wants to meet with her to discuss the SCI investigation. According to May's lawsuit, Whitmire tells her that "SCI intended to sue TFSC." Whitmire demands to meet with May the following day.

May 12, 1998: May goes to Whitmire's office for a meeting. She later describes his tone during the encounter as "prosecutorial, brow-beating, harassing and pressuring." Her lawsuit also alleges that when she told Whitmire about SCI's alleged illegal activities, he indicated "that he was uninterested in any such violations and did not want to hear about them." Sen. Whitmire also allegedly said that he intended to have another meeting, the following week, this time with Waltrip present, to try to "put an end to the matter." The same day, Janek gets $1,000 in political contribution from SCI's political action committee.

May 18, 1998: At Whitmire's insistence, May attends a meeting in Allbaugh's office, where, May claims, Whitmire demands to know all details of the TFSC investigation even though Waltrip, the CEO of SCI, is sitting in the same room. May says the meeting was "clearly designed to intimidate me."

May 19, 1998: Janek gets an additional $1,855 from SCI's PAC.

June 15, 1998: Whitmire sends a list of 11 questions to Attorney General John Cornyn, a Republican, asking for an opinion on the TFSC's interpretation of the state's funeral regulations.

July 25, 1998: A man impersonating an employee of the TSFC tries to get a janitor to let him into the TFSC office. The janitor denies him entry when he cannot show identification.

Aug. 3, 1998: The TFSC's complaint review committee recommends that SCI be fined $445,000. The same day, a private investigator working for SCI begins calling May's friends looking for unflattering information on her.

Aug. 4, 1998: May writes Whitmire and Allbaugh telling them that SCI's investigator is calling her friends and that she is concerned for her personal safety.

Aug. 10, 1998: May meets with Allbaugh in his office. According to May's lawsuit, Allbaugh again questions her about the TFSC investigation and then tells her, "This isn't going anywhere."

Aug. 17, 1998: Whitmire calls May again. He says he wants the TFSC to agree to mediation to resolve the dispute with SCI.

Dec. 17-18, 1998: The TFSC and SCI meet to mediate the dispute. The matter is not resolved.

Jan. 14, 1999: McNeil calls May. According to May, he tells her that TFSC commissioner Tommy Metcalf, an SCI employee, wants May "put on administrative leave or otherwise disciplined."

Jan. 19, 1999: SCI attorneys meet with Clark Ervin, general counsel in the attorney general's office, to talk about their problems with the TFSC.

Jan. 25, 1999: The TFSC puts May on administrative leave.

Feb. 8, 1999: May is fired as executive director of the TFSC.

March 4, 1999: The attorney general's office issues a letter saying it will not issue an opinion on the TFSC dispute because "the controversy is set for mediation" and "it would not be appropriate" to get involved.

March 23, 1999: May files a whistle-blower lawsuit against the TFSC. SCI and Waltrip are also named as defendants.

April 8, 1999: Attorney General Cornyn sends memos to staffers saying he wants to be aware of all cases in which his office refuses to issue an opinion.

May 7, 1999: Officials from the attorney general's office, including Cornyn, meet with attorneys from SCI to discuss the TFSC case.

June 2, 1999: Cornyn issues an opinion that appears to favor SCI's position regarding the legality of embalming within existing funeral homes.

June 11, 1999: Waltrip's attorneys issue interrogatories in May's lawsuit, saying that on April 15, 1998, Waltrip talked to Bush about the SCI executive's letter complaining about the TFSC.

June 16, 1999: Waltrip's attorneys issue a "supplemental" interrogatory saying that Waltrip didn't talk to Bush, that they "exchanged pleasantries" and that their discussion was "not substantive; they did not discuss the content" of Waltrip's letter about the TFSC.

July 9, 1999: May's attorneys send a subpoena to Bush regarding the TFSC matter. Bush's office says the governor will fight the subpoena.

Aug. 5, 1999: Cornyn issues a motion to quash the subpoena. The motion is accompanied by an affidavit from Bush saying he "had no conversations with SCI officials, agents or representatives" about the state's investigation.

Aug. 9, 1999: A Newsweek article appears in which Rogers says that while he and Waltrip were in Allbaugh's office on April 15, 1998, Bush stuck his head into the office and asked Waltrip, "Hey Bobby, are those people still messing with you?" Rogers' quote appears to contradict Bush's statement that he has "had no conversations with SCI officials" about the investigation.

Aug. 30, 1999: May's attorneys and attorneys from the Texas attorney general's office are due in court to argue about whether or not Bush should be deposed in the lawsuit.

Sept. 1, 1999: A new law sponsored by Rep. Kenny Marchant, a Republican from Carrollton who got $5,000 in campaign contributions from SCI -- more than any other member of the Texas House -- is scheduled to go into effect. The measure overhauls the TFSC, strips the agency of its general counsel and forces McNeil out as chairman of the TFSC. | Aug. 20, 1999
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Pryderi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 09:38 PM
Response to Original message
1. Disinterring Bush

Funeral Scandal Is a Real Scene Stealer
The Plot Thickens

May 5, 2000:

TFSC Executive Director O.C. "Chet" Robbins
photo by John Anderson

Over the past 18 months, the Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC) has seen more bizarre plot changes than Melrose Place. And don't look for the tiny agency to leave prime time any time soon. Upcoming episodes this summer include exciting courtroom scenes starring several titans of Texas politics. The action-packed courthouse coverage includes lots of shots of Attorney General John Cornyn actively defending his client, Gov. George W. Bush, who is now a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Eliza May, the former executive director of the TFSC. There's also a high-stakes hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings pitting funeral giant Service Corporation International (SCI) against state lawyers over the agency's pending $445,000 fine against the company.

Files Lost, Then Found
If only Hillary Clinton worked for the state, the case of the missing SCI files would make some sense. The First Lady has been at the center of an investigation into numerous files on the Whitewater affair that suddenly reappeared inside the White House during the height of the investigation. A similar tale is now being told by Robbins and the TFSC's chief investigator, Ed Kubicek. Over the past few months, Robbins and Whittington have repeatedly said their efforts to reopen the investigation into SCI were stymied because they could not find all of the documents compiled by May and her investigators. But during an interview last week, Robbins and Kubicek said two file boxes full of SCI-related materials suddenly reappeared in the TFSC's file room in their rented office space at 510 S. Congress. "Two boxes just appeared," says Kubicek. "Either I'm the most inept investigator ever to put on a pair of cowboy boots or information just arrived."

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mom cat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 09:42 PM
Response to Original message
2. Maybe he will get the same kind of burial given the victims of the
ghouls he defended.
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Pryderi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 09:43 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Maybe Whittington was going to spill the beans, and Bush hired Cheney as a
hit man.
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mom cat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-18-06 06:51 PM
Response to Reply #3
9. If Cheney had not dodged the military, he would have known enough
to take the intended victim deer hunting instead! Althoug, perhaps Cheney just wanted to scare him. After all, Whittington knows a lot about Bushco and the evil deeds.
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TomInTib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 09:46 PM
Response to Original message
4. Well, look who's here- Mercedes Baker Whittington.....
Don't bother, you won't find anything on her.

That's because her brother is the one and only "janitor", James A Baker III.

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Pryderi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 09:47 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. It really is a Mafia.
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TomInTib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 09:58 PM
Response to Original message
6. This didn't have anything about the "mystery VHS tape"
My memory is a little fuzzy, but it was classic Rove.

Someone handed May (or her assistant) a tape at a dry cleaner in Austin.
Spin, spin, and then she was charged with theft of the tape from an office and had to surrender it.
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Pryderi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Feb-16-06 10:59 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. TX Gov. Bush appointed Whittington to Texas Funeral Commission
Am I making too many dots?

Meanwhile, new board chair Whittingon, 72, said he has followed the SCI controversy in the newspaper. And he admits that he did not jump at the chance when he was first contacted by Bush's office two or three weeks ago. Before he accepted the board chairmanship, Whittington said, he studied the recent changes in the law made by the Legislature. He said the new law passed by the Texas Legislature to overhaul the agency indicates to him that "there's an effort to make it more consumer-oriented."
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Nothing Without Hope Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-17-06 12:23 AM
Response to Original message
8. K & R Nice to know the players - Whittington's wife is James Baker III's
thread title (2-16-06 GD): My, oh my. It never stops. Know who Whittington's wife is?
Comment/excerpt: Mercedes Baker Whittington, the sister of James A. Baker III.

Texas dirty politics is very incestuous. Note that corrupt Bush senatorial backer Cornyn is in the middle of all this too. What these people are has always been obvious.

More on Funeralgate in this threads:
thread title (2-13-06 GD): The guy Cheney shot was involved in Funeralgate (gravedumping by Bush pal)
Comment/excerpt: In 1999, Bush named Austin lawyer Harry Whittington (shot this weekend by Dick Cheney) to be the new director of Texas State Funeral Commission after a major shakeup in which the former director, Eliza May, was fired while investigating accusations of grave-dumping by SCI, the largest funeral-home operator in the world, headed by Robert Waltrip, a longtime Bush friend and major campaign contributor.
thread title (2-16-06 GD): Funeralgate Company hid Katrina dead in 10 weeks! Now closing 17M morgue
Comment/excerpt: Goodboys comment: Following a no-bid contract, wholly-owned subsidiary of SCI, (funeralgate)Kenyon Co. have done such a great job hiding (i.e. desecrating) the dead in NOLA from Hurricane Katrina, that they're closing down a 17million dollar taxpayer funded morgue in just 10 weeks! Post includes info and links on Funeralgate. Excerpt: Funeralgate is the name given to a scandal involving George W. Bush and family campaign contributor Robert Waltrip, owner of Service Corporation International, the largest funeral home company in the world. In 1999, Bush was subpoenaed but refused to testify in a lawsuit filed against the state of Texas and SCI by Eliza May, former director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission, who claimed that she was fired when she refused to quit investigating SCI despite pressure from Bush and his then Chief of Staff Joe Allbaugh. The lawsuit was quietly settled in November, 2001, weeks before the revelation in the media that two Florida cemeteries owned by SCI were recycling graves, removing remains from their places of rest and placing other people in the graves. 9,000 people have staked a claim to a $100,000,000 settlement in a lawsuit stemming from the desecration of graves at these cemeteries. In one instance at Menorah Gardens, a Jewish cemetery, SCI desecrated graves and left corpses in the woods where they were devoured by wild hogs.
Harry Whittington was also involved in Funeralgate.

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