New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 18, 2003, New Braunfels, Texas
Page 4A — HeraLD-Zeitung — Saturday, January 18, 2003Local/State
Contact Features Editor Brian Grant, 625-9144 ext. 222
Few details emerge in case of vanished bacteria
LUBBOCK, Tbxas (AP) — Texas Tech University officials are trying to figure out why a renowned researcher would lie to authorities about plague bacteria that was believed to be missing, an incident that sparked a bioterrorism scare.
• “That remains a mystery -to most of us, what his motive might have been,” Glen Provost, vice president of health safety at Texas Tech •University’s Health Sciences •Center, said Friday. “I just •can’t figure it out.”
Dr. Thomas C. Butler, 61,
who remained jailed without ;bond Friday, was arrested late Wednesday after admitting he had accidentally destroyed the 30 vials, according to court documents.
Earlier, Butler told supervisors and authorities that he had noticed the vials missing from his lab.
A woman who answered the phone at Butler’s residence said the family declined to comment.
Federal agents searched Butler’s home late Friday. They removing computers and computer disks belonging to Butler, his wife and two children, said Floyd Holder, Butler’s attorney.
According to the search warrant, they also were looking for financial records, records concerning Butler’s travel inside and outside the United States since 2001 and documents “or other evidence of importation, transportation, shipment and/or pos
Perry’s budget plan limits state spending to zero
I AUSTIN (AP) —Gov. Rick [Perry’s state budget proposal "is a sea of zeros. In every budget category, Perry recommended Friday that the state spend nothing.
Public school education? Zero.
• Public safety? Zero.
It’s part of what Perry’s office called a historic move by the governor, Lt. Gov.-elect David Dewhurst and House .Speaker Ibm Craddick — all [Republicans — to oversee “a [complete re-examination of Astate spending” amid tough [budget times.
“The current fiscal situation demands that we reexamine the core responsibilities of government and the state spending practices of the past dozen years,” Perry said in a prepared statement.
He said has budget starts at zero so that every dollar eventually spent can be scrutinized and justified.
Earlier, appearing at a Texas Medical Association
• event at a fashionable Austin hotel, Perry refused to answer specific questions about his budget proposal before rushing away to a private gathering.
“We’re going to craft a budget, working along with the Legislature of course, that will allow for the priorities of the state of Texas to be met — with available revenue,” Perry said.
lawmakers must write the 2004-05 spending plan during the session that ends June 2. The past several Legislatures have used previous budgets’ spending levels as a starting point for the new budget.
^ That would have been a tough job this time because Texas is expected to have ; $10.4 billion less this biennium than it did for the current budget, creating a shortfall. That means deep cuts or new taxes would be needed to maintain programs and services because state law prohibits deficit spending.
F. Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates tor low-income Texans, said Perry is shirking
COMAL COUNTY COMMISSIONERS’ COURT —
regular meeting, 8 a.m. Monday, New Braunfels Little League fields, Loop 337.
COMAL COUNTY COMMISSIONERS’ COURT — regular meeting, 8:15 a.m. Thursday, commissioners’ courtroom, Commissioners’
Court Building, 199 Main Plaza.
CITY OF NEW BRAUNFELS ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT — regular meeting, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Council Chambers, New Braunfels Municipal Building, 424 S. Casten Ave
session of biological and chemical” agents.
“I think we would probably call it a fishing expedition,” Holder said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dick Baker declined to comment.
According to a Texas Tech Police report made Tuesday, Butler initially believed the plague samples had been stolen.
Butler told police that on Jan. I he had 30 test tubes in a rack on a table in his laboratory. On the morning of Jan. ll, “(Butler) discovered that person(s) had taken the test tubes from the rack,” and that Butler had no suspects, the report states.
The lab is locked at all times but Butler is not the
only one with access, the report states.
Earlier in the day Holder said he doesn’t know if there is a motive. Butler will plead innocent to a charge of mak-ing.a false statement to a federal agent, Holder said. The charge carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he is convicted.
‘‘Basically, everybody assumes that this is all a hoax,” Holder said. “I don’t think so.”
In a statement to FBI agents after signing a written waiver of his Miranda rights, Butler wrote: “I made a misjudgment by not telling (the supervisor) that the plague bacteria had been accidentally destroyed earlier
rather than erroneously first found missing.”
He said he didn’t realize his story would result in “such an extensive investigation,” according to court documents.
Butler, who was chief of the infectious diseases division of the department of internal medicine at Tech’s medical school, has been involved in plague research for more than 25 years and is internationally recognized in the field.
Butler was the only person with authorized access to the bacteria, which must be registered with the International Biohazards Committee and the government.
The university has placed Butler on paid leave, changed the locks on his laboratory, blocked him from computer
access and barred him from campus.
Provost said he wonders why Butler would risk his career and reputation by his actions.
“A lot of people are obviously wondering that as well,” he said.
A detention and a preliminary hearing for Butler was scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday in the courtroom of federal Magistrate Nancy Koenig.
The report of missing vials triggered a terrorism-alert plan and showed how jittery Americans are over the threat of a biological attack, as dozens of federal agents converged on Lubbock and reports of the missing bacteria became instant national news.
I VAMO \ tleg set
out by state law.
“The constitution requires a budget, and the governor didn’t present a budget and the reason he didn’t present a budget is very important. The spending cuts that would be required to write a budget within available revenue are so devastating to Texas that the governor was unwilling to choose what he would cut,” McCown said.
The current biennial budget is approximately $114 billion. But overruns in that budget along with the cost of keeping existing services in place would make for a shortfall of at least $9.9 billion.
“We are committed to starting our budget at zero and ending within available revenue — providing Texans with more detailed information on how we spend their tax dollars,” Craddick said.
Perry’s summary lists amounts spent in previous budget years, and then zero recommended for the coming two years.
For example, the Txas Education Agency got $29.3 billion in this current biennium. A total of $31.3 billion was requested for the next two years. Perry recommended that nothing be spent.
Perry said his proposal will allow legislators to judge every dollar spent by an agency against every funding request. Under the previous budget framework, he said, scrutiny could not be given to which costs were administrative and which went to programs.
McCown said so-called zero-based budgeting in this case is being used as a smoke screen.
McCown said zero-based budgeting should mean “the governor starts at zero and the governor determines what should be in each blank and the governor advises the Legislature.”
The Texas Association of Business, which is against new taxes, applauded the start-from-scratch idea.
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