By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
We don't mean to brag (big lie), but if you take a close look at the federal corruption indictment against city council member Al Lipscomb and cab company owner Floyd Richards, you may notice that the Dallas Observer receives a little credit. On page 15, the indictment notes that a month after the Observer revealed many of the details of the smelly relationship between Lipscomb and Richards in January 1997, Lipscomb began abstaining on an issue before the council concerning Richards' Yellow Cab Co.
Until then, Lipscomb had been a true friend to the cab company on city council votes, federal prosecutors claim, in exchange for cash payments of $1,000 a month and other bribes. After he abstained, Lipscomb still received $1,000 monthly for several months, the indictment alleges, which Buzz imagines might have galled Richards a bit--kind of like totaling your car while you're still paying for it.
Now, Buzz isn't saying that Lipscomb is guilty, guilty, guilty, though unlike many people, we're not saying he's innocent simply because A) he's a nice old guy, B) he's a civil rights hero, or C) he's black. Despite some claims by others, the Observer does not have it in for nice people, the elderly, or blacks, just grafters and petty thieves. We'll wait patiently for a jury to decide whether Lipscomb is one of those. In the meantime, we would pay $5 cash for a seat at the next city council lunch briefing.
You see, former Observer columnist and Councilwoman Laura Miller wrote the story mentioned in the indictment, and the ever-polite Buzz is a devoted student of etiquette. So we wonder, How exactly does one behave at a luncheon engagement with a person whose hide one has helped nail to the barn door?
Picture Bill Clinton sitting down to tea with Kenneth Starr, or imagine this: Miller turning to Lipscomb and asking, "Say, Al, couldja please pass me a slice o' that pie?" while all the other council members flush, tug at their shirt collars, and roll their eyes toward the ceiling.
Or duck to the floor.
Like Miller, even humble Buzz occasionally has a hand in improving City Hall. Just last week, we prompted city Councilwoman Barbara Mallory Caraway to correct a clerical oversight on her latest campaign finance report. No fooling.
To be honest, we'd gone to City Hall with malice in our hearts. Councilman John Loza had told us last month that, although he was supporting a controversial re-zoning request by the Albertson's grocery chain, he had not received any contributions from them. No offense, John; we just wanted to see that on paper. He was telling the truth, dammit.
While there, we glanced at other reports and noticed that Mallory Caraway's largest expenditure was paid to "C," whose address was printed as a sort of squiggle.
C on Squiggle Street? Our heart was still full of malice. Buzz was suspicious, but it turns out that everything's jake. It was a clerical error. What Mallory Caraway meant to say is that she paid the money to her husband.
"I'm so glad you found that. Thank you," Mallory Caraway told us.
Well, shoot, you're welcome, and...hey, wait a minute. Her husband?
According to an amended form from Mallory Caraway, she paid the Profile Group, which is owned by her husband, Dwaine Caraway, $3,000 for political consulting. On her original form, she wrote "consulting" on the line where she meant to write Profile Group, whited out part of the word, and forgot to fill it in until we mentioned it at the city secretary's office.
According to the Texas Ethics Commission, using campaign funds to pay relatives for "personal services" is prohibited, to keep candidates from funneling money improperly to themselves. Payments can be made to a relative's business if the candidate is reimbursing the business for expenses. If your daddy owned a print shop, for instance, you could pay him for the cost of handbills. So was Mallory Caraway's payment OK? "That's a fact question," an ethics commission spokeswoman told us--as in what exactly does a consultant do? Actually, that's a question for the ages, but Buzz asked Mallory Caraway anyway, who told us to ask her husband.
Dwaine Caraway, after making noises that the Observer was once again hounding a black politician, said, "I do the same things as [white political consultant] Carol Reed."
Sleep with Barbara Mallory Caraway? No, you dolt.
"I'm out here trying to get her elected...I have eight other clients...I'm very good at it," he said. Mallory Caraway said she also made use of a Profile Group billboard, but the couple didn't get much more specific.
But that's OK, guys. Buzz trusts you. Besides, $3,000 seems a small price to pay for a husband's consultation. Buzz, for one, would give up much more than that if we never again had to answer the wife's question, "Do these pants make my butt look big?"
When it comes to religion, Buzz, being a compiled-by amalgamation, is ecumenical. We freely offend people of all creeds equally without prejudice, except perhaps for New Age mystics. Those people make us want to bring back the auto-da-fe. We can get away with it because we're not running for office, unlike born-again Gov. George W. Bush. The governor ought to thank the Lord (the Old Testament one) that no one took offense at a joke he made to Texas reporters last week.