The Watchdog depends on your tips for story ideas, but two recent tips didn't pan out. That hasn't stopped these false stories from spreading anyway.
In the Keller school district, tipsters said, Superintendent James Veitenheimer ordered an expensive custom-made desk for his office. One tipster got the information from a co-worker whose spouse works for the district. That tipster said the desk cost taxpayers $8,000. A second tipster placed the cost at $10,000.
Great story -- if it were true. The district is cutting $16 million from its budget. Last week, in an election watched across the state, voters rejected a measure that would have raised their school property taxes.
District spokeswoman Shellie Johnson says the superintendent's desk is the same one he inherited from his predecessor eight years ago.
"We've heard this rumor, too," Johnson says. "His desk is basic at best."
She sent me a photo. She's right. Dr. V, as he likes to be called, has a crummy desk. It looks like someone put a door atop two boxes. The kind of desk a kid uses in college. The man is not ego-tripping on a big desk.
Another victim of a nasty urban legend is DirecTV, subject of previous Watchdog reports about poor customer service. My tipster read on Facebook that DirecTV is telling its Joplin, Mo., customers who lost their homes and wanted to cancel service that they had to send in their equipment or pay a $500 fine. Only problem is the equipment was swept up in the May 22 tornado.
"My friend has a friend that this happened to," my tipster assured me.
DirectTV spokesman Robert Mercer says that in emergencies such as this, the company cancels affected accounts, waives fees associated with the inability to return equipment and ends any remaining time left in the account.
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Gov. Rick Perry has signed House Bill 2761, which places homeowners associations under the rules of the Texas Public Information Act. This means meetings are supposed to be posted and open to the public. HOA records can now be requested in writing.
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Making sure you know about two new state services designed to help vehicle owners -- eReminder and Title Check.
By signing up for eReminder, owners will receive an e-mail three weeks before their vehicle registration expires, in addition to the mailed notice.
The second program, Title Check, lets car buyers do a quick check of a used car's history to learn whether it has a clean title. The program also shows whether the car has been in a flood or has other known problems that affect its value. State officials say Title Check will help prevent consumers from becoming fraud victims.
Learn more about both programs at www.TxDMV.gov or 1-888-368-4689.
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Thanks to a tipster who reported problems with the outdoor mailboxes at the Trinity River post office on Oak Park Lane in Fort Worth. The tipster said two outdoor blue collection boxes were missing June 6. The tipster wondered whether the boxes -- and mail inside -- were stolen.
I called the post office and an employee who answered the phone told me that there were no problems. Nothing had happened.
Then I called Fort Worth police, who say a mailbox theft occurred April 23 but wasn't reported to police until weeks later, in early June.
Next, I called the U.S. Postal Service and was told that the outdoor boxes were defaced on June 3 or 4. "Postal maintenance staff took the boxes and repainted them over the weekend," a spokesman said. "We have nothing to indicate mail was stolen from these collection boxes."
Confused? I am. Everybody has a different story.
No wonder, as I reported previously, that Fort Worth last year had the most outdoor-mailbox thefts in the nation. The details of the incidents are not publicly communicated by the post office or Postal Inspection Service the way similar news is released in other cities.
Readers, help me keep an eye on this.
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I had a problem with Amazon.com. For weeks, I struggled with customer service staffers. Each person promised to help and never did.
My wife suggested that I write to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. But I couldn't find his e-mail address anywhere.
The next day, I got a note from Jason at the Amazon executive team: "Jeff Bezos received your e-mail and requested that I research your concerns and respond on his behalf. I will be sure to include Jeff's office with this correspondence."
And, of course, the problem was solved immediately.
Coming Sunday: The Watchdog battles TXU for an army sergeant.
The Watchdog column appears Fridays and Sundays.
Dave Lieber, 817-390-7043 Twitter @DaveLieber