By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
It's 7:30 p.m., time for the candidates' forum to begin. Nearly 100 parents, students, and community activists have gathered inside the Greater Mount Pleasant Baptist Church to attend an "accountability" forum sponsored by members of the Dallas Area Interfaith. The DAI is a coalition of Dallas-area churches that attempts to influence school-district policy.
Three candidates--Se-Gwen Tyler, Yul Lynch, and Jerry Parks--have been here for 30 minutes, arriving early so DAI leaders can brief them on the ground rules of the forum. But Richard Evans--who claims he resides at his childhood home just six blocks away--is still missing.
The two fans swirling overhead do little to move the muggy church air; people grab newspapers, brochures, anything to wave in front of their faces in futile attempts to cool themselves. The Rev. Earnest Rudd can wait no longer, and he begins the opening prayer. The evening's event is billed as a candidates' forum, but it soon becomes clear that it was designed to force the candidates to publicly declare their allegiance to DAI's agenda, which includes a million-dollar DISDbudget increase in after-school programs.
The declaration carries with it an implied threat: If you pledge to support the DAI agenda, then get elected and don't, you will be held accountable. Candidates can easily conjure up visions of angry DAI members, toting placards and shouting words of betrayal at future DISD school board meetings.
With the election just three weeks away, none of these candidates can afford to lose a single vote. The three wannabe board members, dressed in nearly identical dark business suits, take turns pledging allegiance to DAI. One by one they rise, answer, sit--none standing out above the others.
Just as the questioning period ends and the candidates begin to file into the crowd, a tall man dressed in a sharp blue suit slips into the back of the room. The man is Henry Shelton, one of Richard Evans' campaign workers. With a smirk planted squarely on his clean-shaven face, Shelton sizes up the action and quickly departs.
The room begins to buzz. Was that Richard Evans? Where the hell is Richard Evans? Why isn't he here like he's supposed to be?
DAI organizer Ruby Scott steps up to the podium. "We did meet with Mr. Evans yesterday. He told us he would be at this meeting tonight, but he is not here." And if Evans does arrive, Scott adds, he will be given an opportunity to speak.
At 7:55, just as the forum is about to end, Richard Evans makes his grand entrance. His pinstriped suit is crisp, his forehead still dry. Coolly, he takes a position next to Scott.
"Mr. Evans," Scott says, addressing him as if he's a student who is tardy for class, "you were committed to be at this meeting. We at DAI conduct our meetings in a timely matter."
Evans dismisses her with a smile, his bespectacled face not revealing the slightest hint of embarrassment or humility. With his hands clasped casually behind his back, he, like the others, pledges to support the DAI.
Yes, he would be most honored to work with DAI. Of course he would carry out their agenda. Certainly he would meet with them. As often as possible, he adds.
Later in the evening, Evans puts on a very troubled face and explains why he was so late.
"I am very discouraged," he says with a scowl, as his worker Shelton stands beside him distributing four-color, glossy fliers depicting a smiling Evans standing beside a who's who of Dallas leaders. "They told me the meeting was to begin at 7:30!"
Evans' excuse for being late rang about as hollow as his attempts to pass himself off as a "doctor" and his claims of being an "experienced leader in Dallas public schools."
Ordinarily, Evans is a vocal man who doesn't hesitate to express his opinions. He attracted lots of attention--much of it negative--when, in 1995, he helped disrupt school board meetings over an issue regarding the Talented and Gifted program at Townview--a problem he claimed was caused by Jews who refused to take orders from African-Americans.
But nowadays Evans doesn't like to talk as much, especially when the discussion involves his professional and educational background. Asked to explain his mysterious past during a recent telephone interview, Evans says that information is private and irrelevant to his campaign.
His outright refusal to answer the most fundamental resume information not only has raised suspicions with the press, but has given his opponents ample ammunition to wage their campaign against him. Not surprisingly, they are circulating various rumors about Evans' background in an attempt to discredit him, although what can be substantiated is not as heinous as his opponents would like to believe.
Chief among the allegations is that Evans has lied about his education.
As recently as June, Evans referred to himself as "Dr. Richard Evans," though he told a ministers' forum in July that he did not graduate from an accredited college or university. He has said publicly that he graduated from Roosevelt High School, but DISD records do not support his claims. Allegations also persist that Evans has a criminal record and a spotty work history, and that he is not currently residing in District 5, which he is required to do under state election laws.
That's not to say that the other candidates are innocent of bringing thinly scripted resumes to the table. Of them, only one, Yul Lynch, has a full-time job. Another, Jerry Parks, is the only one with a college degree. Lately, Parks has been touting his educational background, but it turns out that he, too, has been embellishing his achievements.
The Dallas school board inspires few qualified candidates to put up with the abuse heaped on trustees. "We expect them to take all this crap," says political consultant Lorlee Bartos. "I think the expectations are unreasonable; no one wants to do it because it is a truly thankless job." Business leaders may lend their names to campaigns, but are more reluctant to offer their money. "If you've raised $10,000-$20,000 it's huge," Bartos says. "It just gives you an idea of how important the city thinks the school board is."
Evans' closest competitor, at least with regard to money, is Se-Gwen Tyler, a "public servant" who, at the moment, is leading the pack in campaign contributions, having raised just $3,417. Although Tyler has strong advisors--namely B.C. Foreman, who helped Ron Price unseat longtime trustee Kathlyn Gilliam--it is unclear whether she will be able to overcome the powerful forces that seem to be propelling Evans' campaign.
If you can believe the list of endorsements on the campaign material that Evans is now distributing, there's little doubt that he is the chosen one, anointed by Dallas leaders to be their next school board trustee.
Evans' endorsees include everyone from Ron Steinhart, the CEO of Bank One of Texas and member of the powerful Dallas Citizens Council, to Harry Tanner, the head of the Dallas Breakfast Group. Evans' closest allies include Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and the Rev. Zan Holmes.
Some people listed in his campaign literature, notably Dallas NAACP President Lee Alcorn, say they did not give Evans permission to use their names. But the glossy flier that Evans distributed at the DAI forum--an expensive item that school board candidates can rarely afford--leaves little doubt that his campaign is getting big money from somewhere.
With Evans' enigmatic past, marginal credentials, and personality so provocative that one school trustee is thinking about resigning if Evans gets elected, the most salient question in this race remains: Why Richard Evans?
In this election, there is one thing that Yul Lynch, Se-Gwen Tyler, and Jerry Parks all believe: Shortly before midnight on July 12, it became crystal-clear to them that the old guard, the pastors who carry substantial political clout in the black community, were backing Evans, and that they weren't going to play fair.
At that late hour, the candidates say, they each received a call from the Rev. S.C. Nash, the co-chair of the Unified Black Clergy of Greater Dallas, who was phoning to invite them to a ministers' forum that would be held the next day at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.
By that time, the ministers had already met with Evans and, evidently, decided to back him. This fact, the three candidates say, became clear when the ministers' forum was over.
Immediately following the event, some 20 ministers and community activists gathered outside the church to pose for a picture with Evans. In the photo, which now appears inside his fancy campaign flier, a smiling Evans is sandwiched between Nash and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
Other people in the photo are former school board member Kathlyn Gilliam; former Dallas City Councilwoman Diane Ragsdale; and Patricia Hawkins, former chair of Yvonne Ewell's District 5 advisory council.
The flier also includes written compliments from Commissioner Price; the Rev. Frederick Haynes, who is Evans' treasurer and the influential Rev. Zan Holmes. (Holmes, who was on vacation until the end of July, did not return the Dallas Observer's phone calls.)
"Richard is a brilliant and energetic leader; his ability to articulate the concerns of our community and his commitment to children and education make him the best choice for the school board," Holmes is quoted as saying.
The flier also states that Evans has been endorsed by the Classroom Teachers of Dallas, the Alliance of Dallas Educators, the Political Congress of African-American Women, and, surprisingly, the Unified Black Clergy of Greater Dallas.
"It was just a set-up meeting," says B.C. Foreman, Tyler's campaign advisor who attended the forum in his candidate's absence. "They went right out and took a picture. How do you have a camera ready before you know who you're going to endorse?"
Tyler says the first thing she did when she entered the race was to call the ministers, Price, and other black leaders. She says they left her with the clear impression that they were going to give each candidate a fair hearing before making their endorsements.
"I take it that I went through the proper channels," Tyler says. "Had they told me that they had a candidate, I would not have sought this office. But I'm going forward, even more so now."
"I'm not crying," says first-time candidate Lynch, who also claims that the meeting was set up. "But I'm learning every day. I have learned that politics is a wolf...Everybody lies for politics."
Although Nash couldn't be reached for comment, Pastor M. E. Sargent, of the True Love Missionary Baptist Church, says he doesn't think his fellow ministers intentionally rigged the forum to benefit Evans. "I am familiar with Mr. Nash, and I don't see that happening."
He does confirm, however, that the other ministers wanted him to support Evans. "I was asked about my feelings for Mr. Evans. I let the committee know that my support is for Ms. Tyler. My head is on my shoulders."
The NAACP's Alcorn, who attended the forum, says he also doubts that the ministers' forum was intentionally staged on Evans' behalf. During the meeting, however, Evans was asked about his educational background, Alcorn says.
"He acknowledged that he did not have any educational degree; that he had some kind of honorary degree from a facility that is no longer in existence," says Alcorn, who adds that the subject of Evans' high school diploma didn't come up. "I guess it was assumed that he had it."
DISD officials confirm that Evans attended the ninth and 11th grades at Roosevelt High School, but they could find no record that he graduated from that school or any other in DISD. It's possible that the records were lost, says the official, who then adds, "If a person graduated from here, we should have a record of it."
Evans refused to provide any information to the Observer about his educational background, and his campaign literature carefully omits mention of it. It's a subject that Evans has been evading since 1993, when he was profiled in a lengthy, front-page article in The Dallas Morning News.
At the time, Evans told the newspaper that he had received a business administration degree from Penn State University in 1983. The News checked with school officials, who could find no record that Evans had ever attended the institution, much less graduated from it.
If Evans is, in fact, a high school drop-out, certainly the irony found in a July 17, 1998, fund-raising letter must have escaped the four Evans supporters who signed it--including Bank One's Steinhart and former Dallas Cowboy Pettis Norman. "We believe the choice is clear, and invite you to unite with us in endorsing Richard C. Evans for the Dallas School Board. Richard is a native Dallas resident and a product of its public schools."
During the ministers' forum, Alcorn says, he specifically told Evans that he did not yet have his permission to use his or the Dallas NAACP's name in his campaign material. It was a request that Evans ignored.
"I told him at that time I was still evaluating the people in the race," says Alcorn, who first met Evans during the tumultuous debate over the Townview magnet school.
Alcorn was impressed with Evans during the Townview debate, but says Evans has been in the "background" ever since. Although he doesn't know much about Evans personally, Alcorn says the debate over Evans' educational background is relevant.
"It is important that he be truthful and forthright in whatever credentials he has," Alcorn says. "We have to know who it is we're trying to support and what credentials they have. We need to have people who understand educational issues and who are honest."
Small wonder Alcorn has been reluctant to endorse Richard Evans.
In June, Evans helped organize a symposium titled "Color, Culture, Consensus: Overcoming the Racial Divide in the Dallas Public Schools," which was sponsored by the Greater Dallas Community Relations Commission and Channel 13 (KERA-TV). Its organizers invited people to attend the symposium via a letter dated June 2, 1998. Evans' signature appears on the letter above his name, which reads: "Dr. Richard Evans."
But that's not the only time Evans has suggested that he holds a Ph.D. In fact, Evans has been calling himself a doctor for years.
Back in 1993, Evans told the News that he received an honorary doctorate in religion from Rialto Community Bible College in California. The paper reported that the school had a post office box but no campus, and that it was not an accredited college.
"The first day I met him, he introduced himself as Dr. Richard Evans," recalls one DISD official who wishes to remain anonymous. "He said, 'You can call me Dr. Evans.' I thought, Who is this guy? Later on that night, he called [then-school board president] Sandy Kress the 'King of the Jews' and got thrown out of the [board] meeting."
The inflammatory incident occurred in December 1995, when Evans led a group of minority parents who were upset by an effort to move the Talented And Gifted High School out of the Townview magnet school.
According to a story in the News, Evans was ejected from a school board meeting after he said the dispute over the TAG program arose because a "Jewish administrator refuses to subordinate herself to an African-American administrator."
Today, Evans likes to think of himself as a protege of the late Yvonne Ewell, but he is more like a grainy copy of John Wiley Price. Throughout the Townview debate, Evans was seen standing at Price's side, a loyal sidekick who seemed only too willing to use the students at Townview as pawns in Price's game of race politics.
Price did not respond to the Observer's request for an interview, so it is unclear why he is supporting Evans. But Tyler's campaign manager Foreman contends that the old black political guard has selected Evans because they can control him and, therefore, maintain their clout in the black community.
"They don't ever want anyone new that they can't control," says Foreman, who helped trustee Ron Price defeat then-incumbent Kathlyn Gilliam by overcoming the support of the same people who are endorsing Evans. "The same endorsements went against Ron Price, and we barely won. It's very important for them to keep control in the neighborhoods," Foreman says. "If you get a new face, all these people come against you. It's like you have to get [the ministers'] permission to run."
The biggest task that board members will have to tackle this year is the hiring of a new superintendent. Evans now says he thinks good superintendents come in all colors. "I personally would not make race an issue, but if race is made an issue by other individuals, then we have to deal with it. I am an adamant believer in working with all communities and educational stakeholders."
Perhaps the 35-year-old Evans has matured since the days of Townview, but current board member Don Venable doesn't believe it. "I don't think there could be more of a destabilizing force on the board than Richard Evans," Venable says. "The last thing the board needs right now is irrational rhetoric predicated on racial differences."
Although Venable says he will try to work with whoever gets elected, he warns that his patience for playing race politics is running thin. "If this board goes back to the political instability that we saw a year ago," Venable says flatly, "I'll resign."
Like Foreman, Venable is disturbed by the ministers' decision to support Evans.
"It appears as though they want to punish the board for beginning to work together. I think destabilizing politics is the agenda of the ministers' association," says Venable. He adds that he's in favor of whichever candidate proves the quietest: "At least he or she may be able to learn, but you can't learn if you're running your mouth the entire time. That's the problem with Evans--you can't ever shut the guy up."
Board member Roxan Staff, who has given $1,000 to Se-Gwen Tyler's campaign, says she, too, has been unimpressed by Evans' penchant for playing the race card during board meetings. "I think he refers to me as 'that white woman,'" Staff says. "He wasn't interested in talking to me. He was interested in yelling at me."
But not everyone shares those concerns. Harley Hiscox is an Evans supporter and president of the Alliance of Dallas Educators, which recently endorsed Evans after interviewing all of the candidates. Although Tyler claims that the alliance was predisposed to endorse Evans, Hiscox says the opposite is the case.
"I had been given to believe that a lot of the people who are muckety-mucks wanted the other one--Se-Gwen something. So we invited them all in. [Tyler] performed so badly that the committee voted 14-zip for Mr. Evans," Hiscox says. "Richard Evans, he knew his facts. He knew all about us."
When asked whether he was bothered by the possibility that Evans never made it out of the DISD system, Hiscox says absolutely not. "They don't have any record of me graduating either. Besides that, I don't care."
Hiscox may not care to judge Evans by his background, but the voters in District 5 may want to consider what little is actually known about him before they go to the polls.
According to police and court records, just after Evans turned 18, he was still prone to juvenile behavior. In May 1981, Evans was caught trying to switch the price tag on merchandise at a southern Dallas grocery story. In September of that year, Evans pleaded guilty before the court on the misdemeanor charge, and he received one day in jail plus court costs.
By 1991 Evans had landed a job as a low-level supervisor at Ameriscribe, a company that provided copy services for large law firms. It was at Ameriscribe that Evans met a temporary worker, Johnny Johnson, who told police that in October 1991, Evans tried to "grab his crotch" as part of a pattern of behavior by Evans to force himself on Johnson.
Dallas police spokesman Sgt. Jim Chandler says Johnson lodged a complaint against Evans in 1993. At the time, Chandler says, Johnson claimed he saw Evans' picture in the newspaper as part of a citywide youth summit that Evans was organizing in the wake of the violence that had broken out after the 1993 Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl victory parade. (Evans lists the youth summit as one of his greatest accomplishments in education, but DISD trustee Ron Price claims Evans stole the idea from him.)
At the time, Johnson told police he was filing his complaint because he believed that Evans was "sick" and shouldn't be around children, Chandler says. Dallas police tried to investigate the case, but ran into several walls with Ameriscribe managers, who refused to discuss Johnson because he and several other employees were suing the company for race discrimination.
Nonetheless, police believed Johnson enough to issue Evans a misdemeanor citation for "offensive contact," a low-grade assault. Evans fought the ticket in municipal court and was found not guilty after a trial before a judge.
"That's a totally and completely false allegation. That's all it was, an allegation," says Evans, who contends that Johnson filed the complaint because he was upset with him. "I was his manager. He worked for a temporary service and wanted to be hired by the company," Evans says. "I did not hire him."
When reached last week, Johnson declined to discuss the incident.
Apart from his stint at Ameriscribe, Evans refused to provide the Observer with any information about other jobs that he might have held. "I am a private citizen and still will be unless I'm elected. Past employers have nothing to do with the qualifications of a school board member. There is such a thing as privacy in this country."
Evans also balked at giving the Observer detailed information because he claimed the newspaper had "never written a positive thing about an African-American" and was just going to do a "hatchet job" on him. Evans also called the News' 1993 profile, which was titled "Mystery Man," a hatchet job.
"To some, Mr. Evans, 31, is a rising star in the local African-American community," the story stated. "But others say that his past is a mystery and that he craves the limelight and won't work with African-American leaders in existing organizations--allegations Mr. Evans denies."
Even regarding his present employment, Evans will only provide the sketchiest of detail. On his application to run for the school board, he states that he is currently employed as a "management consultant." He owns a consulting company, he says, which he calls The Evans Group, and he is its only full-time employee. He says he provides consulting services to nonprofit and religious organizations, though he refuses to provide a list of references or customers, past or present. He does, however, concede that he isn't making much money.
"I don't have an office, as it were," Evans says. "I'm between locations. I have not found a space that's economically feasible."
So Evans says he is working out of the home, but which home? On his school board application, Evans says he lives at his childhood home, which is in DISD's District 5. But the phone number that Evans lists on the application belongs to a Sean Franklin, and traces back to an apartment complex in Irving.
When the Observer first reached Evans, he answered the phone at that apartment complex.
"The number that you are talking with me on is not my number. That's a number that I use," said Evans, who was reluctant to discuss who Sean Franklin is. "If you must know, Mr. Franklin is a business associate."
Wherever Evans puts his head down to sleep at night, and whatever his credentials, Dallas County voter registration records show that he has lived and voted in District 5 consistently since 1992.
Unlike Evans, the other three candidates had no problem making their resumes public--no matter how flimsy they appear.
Jerry Parks fidgets at a long conference table inside the Observer's downtown office. The slender Mississippi native wears a tan suit coat and dark slacks, his brown eyes dancing with enthusiasm behind silver-rimmed glasses as he explains why he is the only qualified candidate for the job.
"I am the technology candidate in this race. No doubt about it," he offers. "You can't do any better than this."
Parks has come to the interview prepared. His large backpack is stuffed with recent issues of such magazines as Current Technology and Business Week. It also contains a stack of campaign fliers, which are hot off the presses of his home computer and emphasize his educational background.
"Jerry Parks, B.S. Experienced & Educated," states the two-sided brochure, which Parks has recently updated in light of the questions surrounding Evans' educational background.
The first fact Parks includes on the flier is that he holds a bachelor's degree with a major in biology from the State University of New York--or SUNY, as it is known to students at the institution's Albany campus Parks says he attended.
Parks does indeed hold a bachelor's degree, but not from SUNY. Officials with SUNY in Albany searched for Parks' records using his social security number, but could find no record that he graduated. They suggested Parks might have attended the University of the State of New York, which is located a few blocks up the street.
In truth, few people physically attend the University of the State of New York, which is now known as Regents College and billed as "America's First Virtual University."
Regents College is an accredited school, but the virtual college (85 percent of its students live outside the state of New York) is in no way affiliated with SUNY. An official at Regents confirmed that on January 14, 1994, Parks graduated with a bachelor's degree in "liberal studies" after completing two years of "virtual" or correspondence courses.
On his resume, Parks also says he is currently taking graduate-level courses in counseling and religion at Liberty University, a private, church-affiliated school in Lynchburg, Virginia. Officials at Liberty confirm that Parks enrolled there during the winter 1994 semester, and he last took classes during the spring 1997 semester. "He skipped a couple of semesters. He was in our external degree program where they take classes by video," says a woman in the registrar's office. She adds that Parks is not currently enrolled as a student.
Unlike the other candidates, Parks has actually run for public office. In 1990, before he relocated to Dallas, he lived in Mississippi and ran for Congress. Parks was the Republican nominee for the 4th Congressional District largely because no one else wanted to run.
"Republicans weren't ready to challenge [the Democrats], so nobody got into the race," says a Republican Party spokesman. "This Jerry Parks filed at the last minute to get in. He ran unopposed in the primary and received the nomination," says the spokesman, adding that Parks was a conservative Democrat who became a Republican. "He was sort of a gadfly."
In the general election, Parks was humiliated, garnering about 20 percent of the vote. But he says the experience taught him a thing or two about politics and changed his approach to this campaign. "I'm not driving from the backseat," he says. "I have a plan. I know it'll work. I have a vision."
If he were elected trustee, Parks says, his priority would be to bring more computers into DISD classrooms. And he means that he personally will bring the computers. "I have a source that sends me computers for free. All I have to pay is the shipping fee."
On his application for school board candidacy, Parks lists his profession as "minister," but he claims his real job is running his own computer consulting company--a company located in his home.
Jessie Pitre, the director of the Crescent Academy day-care center in South Dallas, can vouch for Parks' computer skills and his ability to work with children. Pitre met Parks in 1994 at the West Cliff mall, where Parks was asking shoppers to hire him as a part-time consultant.
Immediately, the two hit it off, says Pitre, who brought Parks to work at the academy to teach the students computer skills. Pitre says Crescent Academy is a day-care center that has an academic component. Students can take Spanish, improve their reading skills, or learn how to use a computer.
"We had a great rapport with each other," Pitre says. "I needed some help, and it was summertime. He accepted the position first as a volunteer. As my enrollment increased, I hired him on as a full-time instructor."
Besides teaching at Crescent Academy, Parks also works as a teacher's assistant at the Martin Weiss Elementary School, where, according to DISD officials, he has a good record for teaching students how to design computer programs.
In addition to being a part-time teacher at two schools and a computer consultant, the 35-year-old Parks also works part-time as a driver for United Parcel Service. So how will he find time to serve on the school board, assuming he wins the election? "I'm prepared to do this for a long time," Parks says of the trustee position. "I'm telling you, they need me on that board."
Se-Gwen Tyler would disagree, but not too loudly. She readily admits that she doesn't know all there is to know about the Dallas school board, and instead points to her extensive record of volunteerism as the reason she should be elected.
Since 1992, Tyler has served on the Dallas City Council's Community Development Commission, where she has gained a reputation as a consensus-builder on issues involving federal housing funds.
The 39-year-old high school graduate has volunteered as an election judge and served on numerous neighborhood committees, ranging from crime watches to after-school programs. Tyler says her goals as school trustee will be to secure additional funds for after-school programs, work to improve students' reading and writing skills, and increase the number of computers in the classrooms.
On the telephone, Tyler makes a convincing argument that she has the strength to handle the pressures put on school board members. "I'm stern. I'm honest. I'm not one that they can pull strings and do what they want me to," Tyler says. "I'm not easily intimidated."
In person, however, Tyler doesn't come off so well. During the DAI forum last week, she was visibly nervous, and she spoke softly into the microphone. When a photographer zeroed in on her, his camera clicking and whirring, Tyler looked timid and uncertain. It seemed that if she were ever confronted by hostile community activists at a school board meeting, Tyler might melt in the heat of controversy.
And then there is Yul Lynch, the only candidate at the DAI forum who was worried that a Dallas County sheriff's deputy just might show up and haul him off to jail. In 1992, Lynch was charged with two misdemeanor cases of theft by check; the first for passing a $43.75 hot check at a Minyard supermarket, the other for writing a $25 worthless check at the Sears in Red Bird Mall.
In 1994, the district attorney's office dismissed the first charge after it lingered in court for two years without being resolved. But the second case remains open, and court records reflect that after Lynch didn't show up for trial, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
"Do you know where he is?" inquires a Dallas county clerk. "Because we've been looking for him."
Lynch says he has been waiting for someone to ask him about the cases. Although he fesses up to the first charge, saying he wrote the check in college when money was tight, he claims his cousin wrote the second check without his knowledge.
"We didn't know about the warrant until recently," says Lynch, who had someone check his records just in case it became an issue in the campaign. "Now we're trying to straighten that out."
When asked where his cousin is, Lynch lets out a sigh and chuckles. "In the pen," he admits. "It sounds funny, but it's not funny. It's sad that you have family members that will do you like that."
Rather than growing defensive when asked about the hot-check charges, Lynch, a self-employed photographer, maintains an easygoing, noncombative nature. The 32-year-old Lynch is married and has two daughters, both of whom attend DISD schools. His knowledge of education issues revolves around his children and his on-going involvement with the J.N. Ervin Elementary School's PTA, where he was twice elected president.
Lynch doesn't have a specific set of priorities that he would bring to the board. Instead, he says he just wants to do what's right for the kids.
"If we get someone in there who can bring a unity to the board, then that might help. We're supposed to stay focused on the children," Lynch says. "We don't need DISD to be used as a [political] stepping stone."
Lynch talks the right talk, and given his unflappable demeanor and his ability to shoulder criticism, he just might have the kind of qualities that would make for a good trustee. That is, if he doesn't get arrested first.
Political pundits often quip that the electorate gets the kind of government it deserves. Judging from the slate of candidates running in District 5's special election, the citizens of Dallas don't deserve a heck of a lot. A timid volunteer, a resume padder, a fugitive from justice--take your pick.
But it's Richard Evans who seems the solid front-runner: the mystery man who refuses to subject himself to public scrutiny despite running for public office; the "management consultant" who some would say has fraudulently held himself out as earning a doctoral degree; the rabble-rouser whose confrontational tactics have won him the respect of some and the disdain of others.
If Evans does win come August 8, there will be no honeymoon period, no chance for on-the-job training. The political forces that blindly catapulted him into office will have to live with him, as is.
In recent months, a momentary calm has beset the school board. But the NAACP's Alcorn says those days may be numbered, because he and his supporters are growing disappointed with trustee Hollis Brashear's performance as president. "There is a peace around the school board. I think that will be short-lived."
DISD Trustee Don Venable echoes the concerns of many who believe that Evans will bring his old game of race politics to the table, and the board will find itself where it was a year ago--embroiled in controversy fueled by people who would rather hurl racial invectives than work together.
Still, it's the political process that discourages truly qualified people from running and has coughed up this slate of unremarkable candidates. And if Richard Evans ever gives those powerful forces within the city cause to consider why they endorsed him in the first place, they can turn to the list of alternatives and comfortably answer: Why not?
For one DISD official, that answer just won't do: " If Richard Evans gets elected, it'll be like pouring gasoline on the fire.