ROSENTHAL SAYS LLOYD KELLEY IS PLAYING POLITICAL GAMES!
By: Brian Rogers (left) Houston Chronicle
Attorneys for Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal today are expected to ask a federal judge to seal dozens of e-mails released as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit and which reveal a close personal relationship with his secretary.
The e-mails, sent from Rosenthal’s county e-mail address, highlight some of the inner workings of the DA’s office, exposing details about past criminal cases and civil lawsuits.
And they include personal, affectionate notes to Kerry Stevens, Rosenthal’s executive secretary with whom he said he had an affair in the 1980s.
“The very next time I see you, I want to kiss you behind your right ear,” Rosenthal writes to Stevens in a note dated Aug. 10, 2007.
The e-mails are exhibits in a civil rights lawsuit against the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, alleging misconduct by sheriff’s deputies in 2001. Rosenthal was deposed in the case, which alleges sheriff’s deputies violated the civil rights of two brothers who filmed police executing a search warrant on a neighbor’s house.
In court documents, Sheriff Tommy Thomas called the suit frivolous and said the deputies acted within the scope of their job.
Rosenthal, who is married, on Wednesday called the disclosure of the personal e-mails “bare knuckle politics” engineered by Lloyd Kelley, the lawyer for the brothers.
Kelley is a friend of former HPD Chief C.O. Bradford, who is Rosenthal’s opponent in his bid next year for re-election.
Bradford and Kelley were law partners in the 1990s, Kelley said.
Bradford could not be reached for comment.
Kelley is a former Houston city controller and lost a previous bid for district attorney against Rosenthal in 2000.
Kelley denied that subpoenaing the e-mails — which were sent and received on county computers and e-mail accounts — was politically motivated.
Among the things he is alleging in the civil rights lawsuit is that Rosenthal refused to investigate the conduct of the sheriff’s deputies in 2001.
The e-mails, he argues, show that Rosenthal’s reluctance to investigate the sheriff’s office stemmed from a concern that if he did, his own behavior may be more closely scrutinized.
“It’s five years later; why weren’t they investigated?” Kelley asked. “The e-mails establish the reason why Rosenthal did nothing — you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
When deposing Rosenthal on Nov. 29 for the case, Kelley asked if he was having an affair, a question Rosenthal’s attorney wouldn’t let him answer.
He also wasn’t allowed to answer Kelley’s question about whether his friends, Sheriff Thomas and Harris County commissioners Jerry Eversole and Steve Radack, were aware of his relationship with Stevens.
Kelley then asked, “Mr. Rosenthal, is it because you are engaged in activities that you want to keep quiet, is that why you won’t rock the boat and investigate the sheriff and his activities?”
“No,” Rosenthal responded.
During discovery for the case, Kelley asked for all of the e-mails sent or received by Rosenthal, his first assistant Bert Graham and his general counsel, Scott Durfee from July to Oct. 15.
In court documents protesting the release of the e-mails, attorneys for Rosenthal argue they “relate to private expressions of affection between Rosenthal and Stevens.”
While the 51 e-mails between the two contain the phrase “I love you” more than a dozen times, and Rosenthal asks Stevens to let him hold her, the messages are not explicit.
Rosenthal said Wednesday he is not having an affair with Stevens, but that he had an affair with her in the 1980s when he was married to his first wife. He said the affair did not end that marriage, but he did later divorce.
Rosenthal later remarried and said he told his current wife about the affair before hiring Stevens as his executive assistant when he took office in 2000.
Several attempts to reach Stevens on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
A position of trust
Kelley took issue with Stevens’ salary and the fact that she drives a county pool car, which is an extra car that belongs to the department pool. County records show that she makes $75,000 a year.
Rosenthal justified the expense by saying Stevens occupies a high position of trust in his administration.
He also said Stevens took responsibility for the car — a suggestion from one of his administrators — so it would receive regular maintenance.
Kelley also took Rosenthal to task for preferential treatment for Stevens.
Included in the e-mails is an exchange in which Stevens asks for a day off.
Rosenthal responds, “You do not have to ask. Just tell me what you plan to do. You have to know by now that I’m not going to tell you ‘no’ about anything you want.”
“It is still proper for me to ask,” she wrote back. “There may be a day that something could be going on that you would want me here.”
Rosenthal writes, “I always want to see you. You own my heart whether you want or not.”
Answering Kelley’s charge of preferential treatment, Rosenthal said he didn’t think he has ever denied an employee’s earned time off.
Although Rosenthal said the release of the e-mails was politically motivated, the Republican said he would not change his campaign or strategy.
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