'I'm not that stupid'

City council hopeful Brenda Reyes shows amazing inventiveness in meeting residency laws

The sprawling new apartment complex called Jefferson at Gaston Yards has become popular in recent months. The trendy, gated complex in Deep Ellum is still under construction, but some up-scale renters will do just about anything to get inside.

One tenant in particular could not wait to call the Yards home. That tenant is Brenda Reyes, who says she lives in Building 5, apartment number 5110. Exactly where Reyes lives--and when she moved there--is important, because the 36-year-old businesswoman is running for the District 2 seat on the Dallas City Council, hoping to replace outgoing councilman Chris Luna.

Since she didn't previously live in District 2, Reyes was required by state law to establish residency within its bounds by November 3, six months before the May 3 election.

Reyes says she did just that and lists apartment 5110 as her home address. But the building Reyes calls home was not even finished until early December. Unless she camped out in the building while it was under construction, Reyes could not have moved into the Yards in time to meet the legal requirement to run for the District 2 seat.

It looks like this year's election is going to be deja vu all over again for voters in Reyes' adopted district. Incumbent councilman Luna also was hounded by questions about his residency when he moved into the district to run for office in 1991. Although Luna has not officially endorsed Reyes, he appears to be quietly transferring his support to her. Most of Luna's big-money supporters have already jumped on the Reyes bandwagon.

District voters seem to have no trouble embracing carpetbaggers, and God knows Reyes isn't the first local candidate who has crafted her living arrangement to conform with her political ambitions. But Reyes must be able to substantiate at least some legitimate claim that she lives in the district she hopes to represent.

So just where was Reyes living on that all-important date of November 3? And where is she living now? The council hopeful is apparently confused about those questions herself.

On a recent Tuesday evening, a Domino's pizza flyer hung undisturbed from the doorknob at apartment 5110. Reyes was not at home.

Across town, meanwhile, a dim light glimmered behind the blinds of a tiny, one-story brick house at 6112 Ravendale Lane. The house, located in City Council District 14, is one of two homes Reyes and her husband, Brooks Gould, have recently claimed as their home address.

At about 9 p.m., Brenda Reyes answered the door of the Ravendale home. The council hopeful was dressed in a pair of green sweatpants and a blue T-shirt with flowers on the breast pocket, and looked to be settled in for the evening.

But Reyes quickly explained that she does not actually live in the Ravendale house.

"I live at 2732 Gaston," she said, giving the address at Gaston Yards. Her words were muffled by a glass door that she would not open. What was she doing at the Ravendale house?

"This is my husband's residence," she said, opening the door a crack. Reyes explained that she and Gould are separated, but that she was staying at his house for a few days because she had strep throat, and Gould was taking care of her.

Reyes walked away from the door for a moment. When she returned, she offered up three bottles of prescription pills and three bottles of cough syrup to prove that she was truly ill.

"See," she said, thrusting the medication out the door and coughing slightly. "I would invite you in, but I'm sick."

Reyes said she did not want to discuss the details of her recent separation from Gould, an understandable position. But the question remained--when did she move into the Yards?

Reyes paused.
"It was probably at the end of October," she said, her voice rough and her eyes groggy with sleep. Asked whether she would be willing to provide a copy of her lease, Reyes declined.

"I try to be cooperative with the press, but there are some privacy issues," she said, adding that the Yards is her home. "That's where I live. That's where I pay rent."

Suddenly, Reyes appeared to wake up, remembering that Luna had problems with the residency requirement after he won the seat that Reyes is now seeking.

"Chris had trouble with residency. Being cognizant of that, I took the appropriate steps to cover myself," she said. "I'm not that stupid."

If not stupid, then adaptable. If Reyes really did move into the Yards in October, as she claimed last week, her first two months in her new apartment must have been terribly uncomfortable, what with the building still going up around her.

Apartment number 5110 is located in Building 5 at the Yards. The city did not issue a temporary certificate of occupancy--meaning that people could not start living in the building--until December 5. A Yards official confirmed that the first tenants began moving into Building 5 on December 9.

Last Friday, three days after Reyes spoke from behind her glass door, she again declined to produce a copy of her lease from the Yards.

"I don't see any reason to do that. I'm an adult and I don't like being treated like a child. I have nothing to hide," she said, speaking from a car phone. "That's not an issue that I even think is an issue."

When asked how she could have moved into her Yards apartment in October when the building wasn't yet licensed for occupancy, Reyes began to demonstrate the intellectual dexterity of a nascent politician.

When she mentioned October, Reyes said, she meant that's when she moved into the district, not the Gaston Yards apartment.

OK. So where in the district?
"I was staying with a friend of mine," Reyes said. "When my husband and I separated, uhh, I stayed with a friend for a few weeks until I found this place wasn't going to be ready until December."

Who is the friend who welcomed Reyes, and where is the home they shared? Reyes said she won't reveal the identity of her friend or the location of her friend's home.

"I'm going to respect the confidentiality of my friend. They do not want to be dragged, their names, into the Dallas Observer," she said, sounding increasingly upset.

The candidate's lack of clarity on this issue compelled a search for other clues as to her residential habits.

Voter registration records show that on November 5, Reyes voted in precinct 1157 in District 14, the precinct corresponding to the house at 6112 Ravendale.

But when Reyes voted in that election, she surrendered her voter's registration card at the poll and filled out a new card listing the Yards address as her new home, according to a copy of the card kept by the Dallas County Elections Department.

The card, which is stamped "11-5-96" is evidence that Reyes transferred her Ravendale address to the Gaston address on that day, says Ida Adams, who works in the elections department.

The card is interesting, though, because it differs from the the department's computer system, which shows that Reyes didn't transfer her registration until December 27, 1996, which is about the same time several sources say Reyes signed her lease.

Adams explains that the elections staff didn't get around to entering the information until December 27 and that's why the transfer dates are not consistent. Still, Adams says, Voter Registrar Bruce Sherbet is planning to ask Reyes to send the county an affidavit explaining when she moved.

"Since she is running for public office, we have to make sure that our records are correct," Adams says.

While it's not clear where Reyes is living now, her past addresses are a mystery as well. When she and her husband moved to Dallas in 1990, Reyes thinks they moved into a house at 554 Parkhurst Drive, which is located at the northeast corner of White Rock Lake in Lake Highlands.

"We lived there for about a year, I think, back in 1990. Maybe 1991," she says, sounding doubtful. "It was one of our first residences when we moved here in 1990."

And then the couple moved into the Ravendale address?
"No, we had one more residence on Hollow Ridge...I don't remember the address now, but then we moved in '90, let me think here. It's '97. '93. I wanna say '92, maybe. What's in the property records? Whatever the property records say when we moved into Ravendale," she says.

City tax records show that the house at 554 Parkhurst has been owned by Lawrence and Lorraine Roberts since 1992. Voter registration records, meanwhile, have no record that Reyes ever lived on Parkhurst or Hollow Ridge. They show that in 1994 Reyes lived at 6102 East Mockingbird Lane, apartment 195. They also show that Reyes moved to the Ravendale address in June 1995.

The only place the Parkhurst address shows up, oddly enough, is on the campaign finance records of outgoing councilman Luna. In March 1995 and August 1996, Reyes and Gould gave Luna $25 and $250, respectively. In both cases, they listed their address at 554 Parkhurst Drive.

Growing weary of such inconsequential questions as where she lives, Reyes said she would rather talk about the issues facing the voters of District 2. She also adds that, as the creator of Innovative Computer Groups, Inc., she is a successful, independent businesswoman who has been bestowed with many honors from the community.

Reyes does indeed own her own business, and she has received many awards from various community organizations in recent years. In fact, just last year Girls, Inc. gave her the "She Knows Where She's Going" award.

Reyes is also an active member of countless boards and commissions, including the city's Cultural Affairs Commission--a position she was appointed to by Luna.

When Luna announced that he would not seek reelection last week, he did not endorse either Reyes or perennial candidate and Dallas attorney John Loza, who is also running for the District 2 seat. Luna declined to speak with the Observer. His aide, Adela Sanchez, says the councilman has a "customary policy" of not speaking with the Observer.

Luna may not be speaking, but there are strong signs that he is throwing his financial clout behind the Reyes campaign. Reyes has named Carmen Garcia, a Luna appointee to the Reinvestment Zone 4 (Cedars Area) board, as her treasurer. Reyes hasn't submitted any campaign reports yet, but Garcia's workload is increasing by the day.

This week, Reyes' supporters were invited to attend two fund-raising events. The first was held February 11 (after the Observer went to press) at A.J. Gonzales near the West End. Of the dozens of supporters signed up for the event, the names of Luna allies Adelfa Callejo and Rudy Longoria appeared at the top of the list.

On Thursday, the big money will roll into The City Club inside NationsBank Plaza for another reception. An R.S.V.P. for the event asks sponsors to contribute $1,000 to be a "host," $500 to be a "sponsor," and $250 to be a "patron."

The 10 donors who make up the event's "Host Committee" include former Enserch chairman David Biegler, Austin Industries chairman and CEO Bill Solomon, NationsBank Texas president Bob Lane, and Texas Utilities CEO Erle Nye. All four men gave to Luna and are throwing their support to Reyes.

The list of supporters seems impressive for Reyes, who is virtually unknown to voters, but she discounts speculation that she has been anointed as Luna's successor.

"Almost all of those people I know personally, myself," Reyes says. "I went to them, set up appointments with them in their offices, asked them for their support because they worked with me."

Reyes certainly knows where she's going, even if she's not sure where she's been, where she is now, or when she got there. She also contends that the people of District 2 won't care about where she's lived.

"What does this have to do--where I've lived--with my election to the city council?" Reyes asks, not waiting for an answer. "I think enough is enough on one subject. Don't you?

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