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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Feds Behaving Badly

For nearly two weeks the nightly news and 24 hour cable news channels like MSNBC and CNN have been running continual updates on the Secret Service Scandal that started out over the refusal to pay for services rendered by one pick-up artist in Columbia.  The US military got scrutinized and then Congress got into the act. Never saw a politician pass up a chance to get his ugly old puss in the media, especially if he could cause pain for the sitting President. Had the President's security really been endangered, I think all of us would be outraged. It was not. While some high thinkers professed moral superiority over the episode, I laughed. I was reminded of my own stint working for Uncle Sam and other government officials behaving badly.

I worked at the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) in the Denver office which managed the liquidation of savings and loan assets seized during the S&L crisis in the 1990s. Very little really happened to the crooks who profited from their looting of the S&Ls. Very little. Any time we saw evidence of the hands of a state or federal politician with his hands in the cookie jar, we had to refer what we found to RTC legal in Washington. That was normally the end of the inquiry.

I worked as a senior subsidiary asset specialist. The S&Ls used subsidiary corporations, many of which were single purpose subsidiaries, to conduct business operations to develop real estate and to participate in partnerships or joint ventures with subsidiaries from other S&Ls across the country. High ranking execs from one S&L would sit on the board of other each others boards and share risks in each others ventures. One really big S&L in New Mexico owned and developed properties in Tennessee and Florida. One owned a nursing home in New Orleans. Another had a Burger King in southern New Mexico. Three S&Ls owned massive developments just north and west of Los Angeles.

You may remember the name Lincoln Savings. That S&L had 22 subsidiaries with assets over $2 Billion. My office worked on liquidating those assets among the assets of many other failed thrifts. I traveled to Arizona or locations where the assets were located on a weekly basis.  On one trip my boss and I had flown into the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. We usually arrived around 8:00 AM so we could get a full day of business accomplished. We were making our way into the terminal and I asked my boss if he would like to stop and get a Hertz Donut. He asked "What is a Hertz Donut?". You already know the punchline, so to speak. I clinched my fist and gave him a good tap on the shoulder. But I didn't hit him hard enough to actually inflict any pain. Just to surprise him and shock him.

My boss played football at the University of Michigan. I played politics at Colorado State University. As an adult, he ought weighed me by maybe thirty or forty pounds. He was about my same height, but he was built like a school bus.

He did not take the indignity of being tapped well. He clinched his fist and turned and slugged me on my shoulder so hard that I thought I might die.  Remember, he used to hit big guys for a living. (That's what college football players do you know.) I guess I could have called CNN and reported him. I did not. I never pulled that gag on anyone larger or smaller than me.

Back in the Denver office the head of a large department in the RTC had just returned from deployment to Iraq. He flew helicopters during the invasion.  He left his desk job and was gone for several months. After Sadam Hussein gave in, the department head returned and resumed his job. He was about my age and height but a little bigger around the waist. Not fat, however.  He was a nice guy who never ruffled my feathers or anyone else that I know. That is, except, for one taller fellow in his department who he supervised. The tall guy did not take orders from a shorter man very well. One day he threw a punch (and not a Hertz Donut!) at his boss, the ace war helicopter pilot. Oh, he sould have never done that. Who knew a small guy could be so tough. They fought it out. The cops were called. The tall guy got canned instantly. No Congressional inquiry needed. No CNN coverage for days on end.

None of the above has anything to do with real estate in Key West. I learned not to hit a boss. And I try not to hit anyone else. It is better to get along than it is to get fired or beat up.

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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell

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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.