By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Reese wouldn't speak to the Observer to answer whether that audit ever took place. Melton says he has no idea. "That might be a good question to put to them over there," he says.
But there is one big difference between the Robert Troy story and some of the earlier chapters in Reese's career. The earlier events tended to involve people from the art and community-service worlds who may not have been the world's best record-keepers. This story, however, involves a man so methodical about paper that he even sends memos to himself.
MEMO TO FILE
Beginning last February, barely a month into his new job and even before he had cleared his probationary period as a new employee, Troy began keeping a meticulous "memo to file" -- his own record of exactly what happened at each step of the selection process for the cultural affairs masterplan contract. Just beneath the surface of the droning workaday prose in this 14-page document ("February 26 -- Issued RFQ through purchasing") are themes, conflicts, and feeling enough to inspire an opera.
The selection committee was made up of five people -- Troy; his boss, Jay Macaulay; Margie Reese and Jan Adams from cultural affairs; and Elaine Hubbard Moore, of the Office of Minority Business Opportunity, whose inclusion in the committee was required by city ordinance.
Moore did not return repeated phone calls asking for comment. Macaulay confirmed that he had sided with Troy on the choice of Magill as a prime contractor.
On March 19, the committee pared down its original list of 13 applicant firms to five. Johnson McKibben was short-listed in the No. 2 slot, but not as a "prime" contractor. It was there as an "associate" with HOK Inc., meaning HOK was applying to be the contractor and was offering to bring Johnson McKibben in as a kind of tag-along. It's common practice among firms bidding to be prime contractors to bring in smaller minority-owned associate firms to meet diversity requirements.
The Observer reached Michael Johnson of Johnson McKibben by telephone, explained the premise of this story, and asked him for his version. He said, "I have no comment at this time." Johnson did say neither he nor his firm had any business relationship with Reese outside of her role as director of cultural affairs.
Troy's first big bump came on March 24, when David Dybala, director of the Public Works Department and Troy's boss' boss, verbally ordered the committee to add Johnson McKibben to its short list as a prime candidate. Troy did as he was told, but he noted the directive in his memo to file.
The people at HOK Inc. said they hadn't known Johnson McKibben would be coming in to bid against them as a prime candidate, as well as tagging along as an associate, so they dropped the firm from their own bid proposal.
During the next month, Troy spent a lot of time negotiating with Reese over just what questions the committee would ask the six short-listed firms when they came in to be interviewed and to present their detailed proposals. When he and Macaulay went to the Majestic for meetings, Reese often was not available, so they met with her administrative assistant, Jan Adams, instead.
On April 23, immediately after the last interview, the committee voted. When the votes were tallied, the No. 1 firm was Magill Architects Inc. of Dallas. HOK Inc. was No. 2. Johnson McKibben was third.
Troy's memo states that "Margie Reese refused to accept the ranking scores and insisted that her choice of Johnson McKibben/HHPA be accepted as the top team."
In a peculiar racial twist, Troy, who is white, reports in his memo that Reese, who is African-American, said one of her objections to the Magill bid was that it included William Geter, a black architect who is also an ordained minister.
"She told me," the memo states, "'I don't want any black preacher representing cultural affairs in the community.'"
Adams says she heard the remark too. Geter was not available for comment when the Observer called the Magill firm, but Patrick Magill, head of the firm, said, "I have heard about that. I don't know what to say about it. It's one of those remarks that just leaves you speechless."
Under pressure, the selection committee, including Adams and Troy, agreed to elevate Johnson McKibben to the No. 2 slot, knocking out HOK, even though the interview process and vote had put HOK at number two. Troy, meanwhile, got busy doing "due diligence" on the top two firms, calling all of their references.
Magill's references all came back sterling: "Extremely creative, tremendous follow-through, second to none, outstanding, will definitely use them again in the future."
Johnson McKibben's were a decidedly mixed bag. One DISD executive called architect Michael Johnson, head of Johnson McKibben, "tops in his business" and said he "provided excellent staff member to DISD during last Bond Program effort." But an executive at Parkland hospital said things such as "not inspired; things about their design wouldn't work; didn't seem competent; if they don't have proper experience, then be careful."
And the report on the firm Johnson McKibben wanted to bring in as an associate was worse. One of their listed references told Troy they planned to sue that firm.