By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Eichelbaum would apparently be pleased if Thomas went away, especially since state law requires him to respond to Thomas' requests, but Eichelbaum says he's had it with Thomas' personality.
"We have no duty to respond to the abuse we receive from him constantly, including foul language and name-calling," says Eichelbaum, who on August 21 sent Thomas a letter relaying just that point.
Convinced that DISD officials are conspiring to conceal sensitive information, information Thomas is sure will land a few folks in the slammer, Thomas says he took the unusual step of filing a criminal complaint with the Dallas County District Attorney's Office in mid-July. In it, he accused the district of violating the state open-records laws. Assistant District Attorney John Dahill confirms that he received a complaint from Thomas, but declined to elaborate on who it involves, or on its merits.
Eichelbaum says the constant shower of faxes sickens him.
"It frustrates me to no end to see that my taxes have to go not toward the education of children, but rather toward researching and retrieving documents for someone who is abusing the system," Eichelbaum says.
Like Eichelbaum, DISD Board Secretary Robert Johnston often is on the receiving end of Thomas' fax-machine stink bombs. When the Dallas Observer reached Johnston by phone last week, he had received seven faxes from Thomas that morning, five of which were information requests. In recent months, Johnston says, Thomas has also become a regular at DISD board meetings.
"If he doesn't get what he wants when he wants it, then he increases the level of his requests," Johnston says.
Thomas apparently cares little for Johnston's boss, DISD Board President Bill Keever.
On August 14, Thomas faxed Keever a two-page letter, recapping six written and verbal information requests Thomas had made to Keever and other DISD employees since April. In the fax, Thomas couldn't help but express his displeasure at how the requests were handled. Printed on Great American Dream Machine letterhead, the fax is classic Thomas.
"I have not heard a peep from you (or them). Dumb, Bill, Dumb, Dumb!" Thomas wrote. "Bill baby, believe me--it is against my religion to go away. Please take my word for it; you and the trustees don't want to go through what you are going to go through if my Ghetto kids don't get their Scholarships. As I told Chad [Woolery] during the shouting match, 'HELL will freeze over first--before I fail to get my Ghetto Kids their scholarships.' And you can take that to the bank, sir."
While some would consider Thomas' letters to be threatening, Johnston says he figures that's just the way Thomas operates. Besides, he can't do anything to stop the faxes from coming.
"The guy, when you talk to him, he's scary. He's one of these kind of people who, just to talk to him, he looks kind of deranged so you don't tend to pay attention to what he's trying to say," Johnston says.
Thomas has not limited his efforts to DISD.
As the legal assistant for the Dallas County Community College District, David Hay is the bureaucrat stuck with the task of dealing with Thomas. Like his DISD counterparts, Hay says Thomas' faxes began appearing in early 1995.
"This June was a heavy month for him," says Hay. "I don't think I'd be too far off base if I said he's made eight or 10 requests within a few weeks." Hay describes some of Thomas' requests for information as silly.
"Sometimes he'll ask for information for which no documentation exists," Hay says. "One time he wanted to know how many trees we had at one location. I had to call the architect, and he said, 'Hell, I don't know.' Another time [Thomas] wanted to know the square footage of a particular department."
Hay's weirdest Thomas anecdote, however, is of an incident that occurred in February 1995. That month, Thomas filed a civil lawsuit against the district because he suspected that employees at Eastfield College's Bill J. Priest Institute were printing campaign material for the Democratic Party at taxpayer expense.
Thomas, who litigated the case himself, alleged that some students told him they saw employees printing literature for the Democrats, according to court records. At the time, Thomas was interested in starting his own "United Nations" print shop. He had gone to the institute to learn about the printing process.
The case had a few fundamental flaws. Namely, Thomas didn't name the witnesses or the culprits involved. Although he claimed that the illegal printing took place daily from June to September of 1994, few other details were available. In fact, when DCCCD attorneys were set to take Thomas' deposition on June 30, 1995, he was a no-show.
"I'm not sure how it came about that Mr. Thomas found out about this, but a student made a photocopy of a donkey," says Hay, who chuckles at the recollection of the case. "Somehow, Mr. Thomas made a quantum leap--from that one picture--that Eastfield College or DCCCD was reproducing literature for the Democratic Party, which it was not."
As part of his complaint, Thomas asked the court to make the school reimburse the printing costs and use the money for minority scholarships, minus the cut Thomas should get for "acting as a good citizen in this matter." He also asked the court to hold a new election, though he didn't specify for what office.