By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Former Dallas Independent School District trustee Dan Peavy has filed suit against the Dallas Observer for reprinting a transcript of the profanity-peppered tape recording that led to his resignation.
In its October 5, 1995 issue, the Observer printed a transcript of racist, sexist, and homophobic comments that Peavy admits he made but says were recorded from private phone conversations without his knowledge. The transcript was publicly released at a September DISD board meeting, and the Observer obtained it under the Texas Open Records Act. The uproar over Peavy's comments led to his resignation from the school board.
An editor's note accompanying the Observer article explained the transcript was being published because reports of Peavy's remarks "have scandalized the city, even though few people have had the opportunity to actually read them in unadulterated form." Other news media had reprinted the transcript in part or in a heavily expurgated form.
Peavy claims the article invaded his privacy and violated wiretap statutes.
Observer editor Peter Elkind called the Peavy lawsuit "absolutely frivolous."
"We published a public document that we obtained legally--nothing more, nothing less," Elkind said. "The legal privilege to do that is very clear."
Peavy's suit comes just days after Dallas City Councilwoman Charlotte Mayes filed a wiretap and invasion-of-privacy case against WFAA-Channel 8, KXAS-Channel 5, and The Dallas Morning News, in connection with their coverage of controversial comments from a secretly recorded phone conversation she says she had with her brother. A tape of the conversation--in which Mayes, an African-American, disparaged potential political opponents and used the word "nigger"--was released to the media by Mayes' political nemesis, former City Councilwoman Diane Ragsdale, who claims it was sent to her anonymously.
The FBI is investigating how the telephone conversations involving Peavy and Mayes were intercepted and recorded, but has yet to file any charges.
Meanwhile, a Dallas County district judge has dismissed a libel suit that Dallas writer Jerrold Ladd filed against the Observer in response to a February 23, 1995 cover story profiling him, headlined "Dallas' angry young man.