Static Quo

The City of Dallas could make a fortune from WRR-FM. But powerful friends don't want anything to change at their little radio station.

At the trial, Rodriguez testified that she had frequently managed the station in Lowenthal's absence. Lowenthal testified that he had groomed her to take his place. Both Lowenthal and Rodriguez testified that their boss, Frank Poe, the city's director of Event Services and Cultural Affairs, had assured Rodriguez during a Ruggeri's lunch that she would be appointed permanently to the top spot, after a short "trial period" to prove her management skills.

But during the "trial period," Davis was given the job, bumping Rodriguez back to business manager.

In a memo authorizing Davis' appointment, City Manager John Ware explained that the city was "re-engineering" its agencies. Twenty-four departments would be cut to 18, and Davis was among several middle managers shuffled to other jobs. (Davis started the WRR job at $48,000 a year, and his salary jumped to $64,000 in his first two years.)

Rodriguez, stung by the abrupt change, worked under Davis for three months before filing an EEOC complaint claiming that the city promoted Davis--a man with fewer qualifications--over her on the basis of sex.

In her lawsuit against the city, Rodriguez again claimed sex discrimination. She also alleged that Davis began retaliating against her after she filed the EEOC complaint by chiding her performance in memos and berating her in front of her co-workers at staff meetings. Rodriguez claimed the hostile environment forced her to quit, and sought damages for lost wages, retirement benefits, and emotional stress.

During the five-day trial in Judge Jay Patterson's court, the city's human-resources manager, Dianna Sword, testified that Davis' selection for the post did not follow normal procedures.

Instead, Assistant City Manager Mary Suhm personally steered the job to Davis. Suhm testified that she did not even interview Davis--or Rodriguez--for the job, but worked only from Davis' resume and the knowledge that he was a 10-year veteran of the city.

"I knew about him," Suhm testified. "We don't always interview people who have worked for the city for a long time."

Since Davis "was aware of how a radio station operates," Suhm testified, she was comfortable recommending him to Ware. "A person with no experience can run a radio station as long as he has a capable staff," Suhm testified.

Rodriguez did not win her discrimination claim against the city, but on August 28 a jury did find that Davis had retaliated against her, and it awarded her $160,000.

According to trial testimony, Davis was the person most astonished by his appointment. "I was ecstatic. I was elated, of course," Davis testified. "My father was a self-taught television repairman in a small town in Texas, so I had been around radio and TV all my life, and this was very exciting."

Though he had absolutely no experience in commercial radio, Davis says, he was ready to give it a shot. "I felt that I brought to the table a lot of marketing and advertising experience," he testified.

Davis testified that he intended to focus on WRR's community image. Grooming WRR's image would mean a lot of lunches out, regular attendance at the symphony and opera, and regular reports to the well-heeled directors of the Friends of WRR.

Before he could dive full time into the radio station, though, Davis had to tie up loose ends on some projects at his old job--like selling off darkroom equipment and finding a new chairman to take over the city employees' savings bond program.

"I did double duty for eight months to a year while I was at WRR," Davis testified.

The time Davis spent shuffling between his old and new jobs left him with long hours during which he was apparently accountable to no one. WRR employees--many of whom testified at Rodriguez's trial--grew angry and resentful that their general manager was not to be found when they needed him, or when city officials were trying to locate him.

In July 1994, an anonymous tip to the city's "fraud hotline" prompted the city auditor to launch an investigation into Davis. After four months, the auditor's office concluded that Davis had abused city time by not showing up for work and by lying on his time sheets.

In his first month on the job at WRR, payroll records show, Davis reported 30 hours of comp time. On May 23, 1994--his first week on the WRR job--Davis called the station saying he had a "personal problem." Records show he did not show up for work, but did claim eight hours regular time on his time sheet.

On June 1, Davis reported he had "some plumbing problems" that would keep him away from the office, but his time sheet still registered eight hours. From December 1993 to July 1994, payroll records show, Davis took four separate leave days for deaths in the family, including one day in July 1994 to attend a funeral near Lubbock for a man "who was like a grandfather to me." City policy allows paid leaves only for funerals of immediate family members.

In all, auditors found 29 instances of questionable behavior by Davis, while on city time during his first four months at WRR.

But that was not all. Auditors also found that Davis had engaged in "questionable uses" of a station policy allowing advertisers to pay the station with trades or services instead of money.

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