Rules are for suckers

When it came time to hire an architect at city Hall, bureaucrats Robert Troy and Jan Adams made one unforgivable mistake. They were honest.

"Elias was on the telephone talking with William Geter in Magill's office this PM when I returned from the break room," the memo to file states. "He was obviously upset because of a letter Geter had sent to him restating Geter's understanding of his telephone conversation with Elias on July 9."

Geter's letter simply restated what he thought Sassoon had agreed to in their first chat -- that Geter and Magill would be able to see the paperwork on the selection process after it was over.

"Elias kept saying to Geter, 'No, that is not what I said,'" the memo relates. "They hung up, and Elias called Geter a 'son of a bitch.'"

Baely two months into his new job as a city architect, Robert Troy found himself hip-deep in the dirtiest deal he'd ever been asked to take part in.
Mark Graham
Baely two months into his new job as a city architect, Robert Troy found himself hip-deep in the dirtiest deal he'd ever been asked to take part in.
Pat Magill of Magill Architects Inc. is waiting to see what the city does with allegations of contract rigging in the Office of Cultural Affairs.
Mark Graham
Pat Magill of Magill Architects Inc. is waiting to see what the city does with allegations of contract rigging in the Office of Cultural Affairs.

When the Observer described these events to Magill, he laughed. "We were thinking, 'This is no reason to get mad.' It was fairly typical procedure for us. To my knowledge, with a city activity there's always a certain freedom-of-information thing. We were asking in a spirit of cordiality."

Magill and Geter obviously had no idea how many terrible sins they had committed, City Hall-wise. First, they had asked about paper. Then, to make things worse, they had put their question about paper on more paper. Then, turning mishap to disaster, they had sent copies of this paper to higher-ups. And finally, in an act of sheer madness, they had indicated a desire to see all of the paper.


The end of this long, ridiculous process came on July 16, when Dybala announced to Troy, his own employee, and to Adams, Reese's employee, that he had untied the Gordian knot. Dybala told them he was eliminating the vote of the representative of the Office of Minority Business Opportunity (OMBO) because, according to Troy's version of the conversation in his memo, her vote "didn't count that much scoring-wise."

If Troy's account is accurate, it means Dybala violated city ordinances that require the participation of OMBO in contract awards of this size. Scoring-wise, the OMBO representative on the committee had voted consistently each time for Magill.

That turned the vote on the committee into a two-two tie for Magill and Johnson McKibben. And Dybala said he was appointing himself to cast the tie-breaking vote.

"He considered himself the tie-breaker," the memo states, "and he was going with Johnson McKibben/HHPA to satisfy Margie Reese."

At that point, Troy blew the whistle. He assembled the biggest pile of paper anybody in City Hall had seen in years -- the memo to file, the minutes of the meetings, detailed records of the votes, along with copies of all of the ordinances, policies, and directives that had been violated -- and sent them to everybody from the city council to the city manager.

The outcry from the architectural community was immediate, loud, and clear. Several prominent architects, including Bob James, president of the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), contacted the city manager and demanded a full investigation.

James says the issues for architects involve both simple honesty and serious business matters. "An architect typically puts a lot of his time, effort, and energy into an application. And then they typically ask you to bring along consultants, and they put their time and energy in too."

James estimates that a bid for a project like this one will cost any short-listed firm many thousands of dollars and weeks of concentrated effort. Obviously, if the process is rigged from the outset, it's all money and time down the tube for the firms who aren't wired. James says architects in Dallas are taking Troy's allegations that this one was wired very seriously.

"I did not know Bob Troy back before this, but I have every reason to believe his letter was responsible," James says.

In response to the outcry from the architects, City Manager Benavides has referred the Troy matter to City Auditor Melton. Melton says his initial report will go to Benavides "sometime soon, possibly this week."

Neither Melton nor Benavides will discuss details of the investigation before the report is issued.

Sources close to Melton's investigation say it has expanded and split into three separate inquiries: one into Troy's charges, a second into the firing of Jan Adams, and a third into the general operations of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

The masterplan contract for cultural affairs is on hold, pending the outcome of Melton's investigation.

Jan Adams is floating around City Hall and the police department in various secretarial jobs. She has interviewed for permanent jobs with the city, but she says that after she tells them what happened with Margie Reese, she never seems to get the call.

"I don't know if I did the right thing," she says. "I still have to earn a living. Maybe at my age I should have just gone along with her and kept my mouth shut."


Robert Troy says his immediate superior, Jay Macaulay, supported him by voting with him throughout the selection process and has never threatened to fire him. At this point, Troy has been informed, he says, by the city auditor that he is covered by the Texas Whistleblower Act and could sue the city if he were fired in connection with the cultural affairs masterplan contract.

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