Year of the weasel

From Al Lipscomb to Paul Fielding, it was hard to find straight talk in '96

If there's one theme that emerged from the cast of characters who graced this page last year, it was cluelessness.

At least that seemed to be the defense of choice for everyone from the mayor to that role model in the floor-length fur coat: ignorance, confusion, denial--and when that didn't work, pure amnesia.

On matters small and large, 1996's modus operandi was "anything but the truth."

The Cowboys' Michael Irvin not only didn't participate in any snorting and smoking that fateful night last March that led to his first nasty controversy, he didn't even necessarily know the drugs were there--one of his lawyers argued with a straight face in his opening comments at the July trial. Moreover, the cops and the district attorney were the guilty ones--the police were morons who made numerous mistakes, the lawyer, Royce West, said, doing a bad Johnnie Cochran imitation, and the DA was simply gunning for a high-profile black man. Rachelle Smith's coke-sniffing, lesbian-sex-partying anecdotes on the witness stand dashed that highfalutin defense pretty quick. (You remember Smith, of course; she's the topless dancer whose story of threats and abuse by Irvin and his friends wasn't a hoax.)

Shopping mall magnate Ray Nasher certainly never intended that there be a link between his half-assed offer to donate his $250 million sculpture collection to the city and his more sincere request for a multi-million-dollar zoning change on 39 choice acres on Northwest Highway. Which, through similarly doe-eyed tactics, he fully received. Funny, Nasher hasn't mentioned the sculpture collection since.

Dallas councilman Paul Fielding denied doing anything as a public official that was "immoral, improper or fattening," as he flippantly explained to me. He made that quip despite evidence that on a controversial 1992 zoning case involving Electronic Data Systems, he thought nothing of phoning EDS officials about the zoning application one day and then turning around the next day and negotiating with EDS on a janitorial contract that Fielding's company stood to benefit from.

An absentminded Dallas mayor Ron Kirk not only abruptly blew off a minor commitment--to him, anyway--to be the keynote speaker at a fundraising dinner for a Jewish day school that, unknown to him, my kid happens to attend. He claimed there was no request to attend the dinner in his mayoral files--which only led to more embarrassment when it turned out to be untrue. Ever-forgetful Kirk also would later deny telling me--as he did when I first asked him why he hadn't shown up for the dinner--that "my black churches are all over me, saying I do too much for the Jews already."

Former Dallas councilman Domingo Garcia--with nary a blush on his clean-shaven, newly conservative face--insisted that he saw no moral, ethical, or basic civility problem with trying to steal the seat of an incumbent state legislator who just happened to be one of his closest friends and staunchest political supporters--never mind the father of his godson.

Former Dallas minister to the intellectual elite, Walker Railey, is still sitting out in L.A.-La Land, trying to figure out how in the world his wife ended up with a scrambled brain in an East Texas nursing home. In February, he'll rise from the media ashes where he belongs to star in a lengthy episode of NBC's Dateline, which despite zero developments in how he got away with attempting to strangle his wife, will let the former pastor do his aching-heart, red-rimmed-eyes victim thing on national TV.

Dallas councilman Chris Luna was outraged when we accused him way back when of leaking a supremely confidential city document to the movie-theater company Cinemark, which at the time was threatening to sue the city for blocking construction of one of its megatheaters. Well, he was still denying it last spring when he was dragged kicking and screaming from his post as deputy mayor pro tem by his fellow councilmembers, who had finally gotten hard evidence of his betrayal from Cinemark's zoning lawyer, who admitted in a sworn deposition that Luna had passed him the document. (For his helping Cinemark sue, thanks to that document--Luna received a $1,000 campaign contribution from Cinemark chairman Lee Roy Mitchell.)

The lawyers at Vial, Hamilton, Koch & Knox, which defended the city in the Cinemark lawsuit, swore it wasn't their fault that the case went down the toilet. Vial, Hamilton's lawyers told me that it had nothing to do with their forgetting to ask a judge to seal the Luna-leaked document when they included a copy of it in a motion to keep the document confidential to prevent Cinemark from using the damaging document against the city.

Thanks to Vial, Hamilton's big blunder--among other mistakes--the judge not only allowed Cinemark to use the document, it forced the city to turn over all the other sensitive attorney-client-privileged communications that had collected on the matter. On Vial, Hamilton's advice, the city finally settled the suit for $5 million. For its bumbling legal work, the city paid Vial $1 million.

But if those guys are clueless, then Dallas city councilman Al Lipscomb would have to be diagnosed as comatose.

There is no public official who is more obviously for sale to the Dallas business community than Lipscomb. No one more willing to satisfy the status quo keepers' need for political favors and insulation from the race problem than Lipscomb. For more than a decade, Lipscomb has been allowed to wallow contentedly at the public trough, privately pimping his elected position to the monied and comfortable while publicly (and superficially) lambasting them in his self-appointed role as the savior of the poor and disenfranchised.

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