Texas House of Representatives member Talmadge Heflin is one of the most powerful politicians in my native state. As chair of the Texas House Appropriations Committee his budget-cutting ways are the main reason Texas is racing Mississippi to the bottom of the barrel in terms of social expenditures.
Unfortunatley wealth and power do not always come with a sense of decency.
Although thrilled to have their son back, the parents who fought off state Rep. Talmadge Heflin’s effort to take custody of the boy want to know why two judges allowed the lawmaker to take him in the first place.
“Right now, we are just so happy that they are back together,” lawyer Jolanda Jones said Tuesday, one day after 20-month-old Fidel Odimara Jr. was reunited with his parents. “But at the same time, there were a bunch of sneaky things that happened.”
Heflin, a Houston Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, and his wife, Janice, sought permanent custody of Fidel from Mariam Katamba, his mother, who had lived with them for more than a year.
Katamba said she had been the Heflins’ maid before they attempted to take her son. The Heflins said she was a house guest who, along with the boy’s father, was an unfit parent.
The Heflins, who said they were worried about the child, sought an emergency order July 27 granting them temporary custody. Family District Judge Linda Motheral, who was presiding over the custody case, was out of town. Her associate judge, David D. Farr, reviewed the Heflins’ filings, including allegations of abuse.
Harris County deputy constables took Fidel Jr. from Katamba the next day and gave him to the Heflins, who had custody of him until Motheral dismissed their case Monday.
So, besides leveling vague and unsubstantiated charges of child abuse, how did the white, sixty-ish Talmedge and Janice Heflin try to convince Judge Motheral that they should be granted custody of the 20-month old child of their Ugandan maid?
The Heflins, meanwhile, testified that they could provide better opportunities for the boy.
“We all know the terrible problem that black male children have growing up into manhood without being in prison,” Talmadge Heflin said.
It looks like Rep. Heflin overestimated the influence that his power, wealth and race might have in the case. Not only did he lose the custody battle, but now the chariman of the state Democratic Party is calling for an investigation of Heflin’s apparent perjury during the proceddings:
In a letter to Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal on Wednesday, [Texas Democratic Party chairman] Charles Soechting cited discrepancies in state Rep. Talmadge Heflin’s account of the mother’s role while she and the child lived in his Houston home for more than a year.
During a court hearing last week, Heflin called Mariam Katamba a house guest, but she maintained she was employed as a maid by Heflin and his wife, Janice. Soechting alleges that Heflin also has referred to Katamba as an employee.