August 23rd, 2009
09:29 PM ET
August 23rd, 2009
04:25 PM ET

Giving new meaning to Texas Hold 'em

Editor's Note: This is Gary Tuchamn's story from May 2009. See an important update to this story tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/05/06/texas.police.seizures/art.tenaha.cityhall.cnn.jpg caption="This isn't the first example of the discretionary use by Texas officials of public 'valuables.' Earlier this month, Gary Tuchman found another abuse of forfeiture laws in this town of Tenaha."]

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Big salary bonuses are not only for Wall Street bankers. You too can get a big bonus if you work for your government! Well, put it this way, we now know there is precedent for it.

A former District Attorney in Texas has acknowledged to us that he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of eight years to three of his secretaries. He calls it a "stipend," but for secretaries who made between $40,000 – $50,000 in base salary each year, the former DA acknowledges it might have amounted to a doubling or even more of their salaries.

Joe Frank Garza told me they deserved the money because "they were loyal...my eyes and ears in the community..(and they) watched my back." And he is very comfortable with what he did.

But lots of other people, including the District Attorney who beat Garza in his re-election battle, are stunned by the admission. You see, the money comes from criminals and accused criminals. Texas, like many other states, has forfeiture laws.


August 23rd, 2009
07:23 AM ET

Dear President Obama #216: Welcome to vacationland!

Reporter's Note: President Obama is on vacation. I am not. He will find my letters do not flag simply because he is not around to read them.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/21/art.golf.gi.jpg]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Considering that you are on vacation, you’ll forgive me if I spin off into some personal notes today. I suspect you don’t want to hear me prattling on about business or affairs of state anyway. So here goes.

First, I need a haircut. Usually I get in to see my stylist every four weeks or so, but this time I’ve allowed the days to get away from me, and I can’t even recall precisely when I last had a trim. My hair is beginning to descend down the back of my neck as if a full moon is due, flipping up slightly in a sort of mini-mullet, and I’m entertaining myself by periodically reaching back and fiddling with it.

It does not look terribly professional and my wife offered to make an appointment for me the other day, which is her polite way of saying, “Hey, Howard Hughes, how about a trip to the barber?” Of course there are advantages to sporting even a mild case of hockey hair. I can almost certainly cross into Canada with no documentation; just a slight turn of the head and a nod. “Can I see your passport…oh, sorry. Welcome home, eh?”

Second, we’ve been having storms here and that makes me sleepy. It’s not that I have any trouble sleeping in bad weather. To the contrary, I love the crash of lightning and the hiss of rain on the rooftop. But our dog Nola does not. She is quite young to be so troubled by the sound of thunder, but it is, as you know, an affliction common to many dogs. So when it storms at night, we hear her start whimpering in her crate downstairs, and invariably either my wife or I go stumbling down into the darkness to let her out, to hug and pet her until she calms down. Then we lay upon the downstairs sofa; she takes up her spot alongside, and we trail a sleepy hand down into her fur. She feels better that way, although she still moves around a lot and each time it wakes me up. Or my wife, depending on which of us has drawn the duty.