By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
A bevy of barristers
First we learned about employees padding their overtime. Then came reports that a roofing company was being paid to not fix leaky roofs. How many other ways can the Dallas Independent School District blow taxpayer money? On lawyers, of course.
For a few years now, DISD has been entangled in an ungodly web of lawsuits with Rick Finlan and Don Venable, two private citizens who subscribe to the preposterous notion that a public body--especially one charged with educating the city's children--should actually tell the public how it is conducting its business. Finlan and Venable have sued DISD and various school trustees for numerous alleged sins, including violating the two men's civil rights.
Buzz must point out that neither Finlan nor Venable is a lawyer, and they haven't seen the need to hire one. In fact, the two legal rookies appear to be handling their own cases just fine. DISD, on the other hand, is apparently hoping to prevail in the matter with sheer tonnage of attorneys.
Last week, the board canned one law firm--after paying it nearly $700,000--and brought in the pricey lawyers of Carrington, Coleman & Sloan to work on the case. But DISD already pays Dennis Eichelbaum, whose firm has a lucrative contract to provide DISD with routine legal advice, including how to overcharge pesky reporters trying to obtain public records from the district.
There's even more. The district is also paying attorney James Belt to represent school trustees Hollis Brashear and Yvonne Ewell in the lawsuits. And now, former school board member Dan Peavy wants the district to pay another attorney to represent him. Peavy is awaiting word on whether the district--meaning taxpayers--will foot the bill for lawyer Tom Mills to join the fray.
If Peavy gets his way, DISD will have four lawyers or law firms on the dole, fighting two private citizens with a word processor. Buzz can only paraphrase an old saying: If you took all of DISD's lawyers and laid them end to end...that would be fine.
Remember Debbie Price, the former editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram who mysteriously disappeared from the paper late last year? Price claimed she was fired, the paper's honchos said she wasn't, and the newsroom was just grateful to escape the wrath of Price, whose ego and venom far exceeded her journalistic abilities. Price sued the paper, and eventually left town after the two sides settled their differences for an undisclosed sum of money.
Well, Price resurfaced in the S-T a few weeks ago, in a fashion that had to bring chuckles to her former serfs. It seems Price is now a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. Someone with a delicious sense of irony at the S-T's business section picked up one of her stories from the wire and reprinted it.
What was the former S-T top dog writing about? Gore-Tex. Specifically, an entire feature story on the rain room the Maryland company uses to test waterproof parkas and pants. C'mon, guys, hasn't Debbie been hung out to dry often enough?