Damaged goods

What do you get for 50 bucks a meeting? Thomas Korosec sizes up the man and woman most likely to succeed Al Lipscomb.

Asked why she shouldn't be the first casualty in the voters' war on corruption, Crenshaw answered, "They know what I've done. We'll let them judge."

Says Jeannette Brantley-Wango, a former southern Dallas council candidate and occasional columnist, of the candidates: "God help the citizens of District 8."

It is impossible to underestimate the value of an Al Lipscomb endorsement in District 8, several neighborhood leaders say, and James Lee Fantroy claims to be holding the golden coin.

James Fantroy, the other front-runner in the race for the District 8 city council seat
James Fantroy, the other front-runner in the race for the District 8 city council seat
Ambush: At a sparsely attended candidates' forum sponsored by KNON-FM, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price began heckling Sandra Crenshaw, with the apparent consent of  the forum's moderators and sponsors. Price, who is backing candidate James Fantroy, was seated with a number of relatives of former council member Al Lipscomb. Crenshaw repaired to an office in the Tommie Allen Recreation Center and dialed 911. When police arrived, debate organizers told them that a little heckling from the audience was permitted and that everything was under control. As Crenshaw put it later, "Everybody knows this was a set-up deal."
Ambush: At a sparsely attended candidates' forum sponsored by KNON-FM, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price began heckling Sandra Crenshaw, with the apparent consent of the forum's moderators and sponsors. Price, who is backing candidate James Fantroy, was seated with a number of relatives of former council member Al Lipscomb. Crenshaw repaired to an office in the Tommie Allen Recreation Center and dialed 911. When police arrived, debate organizers told them that a little heckling from the audience was permitted and that everything was under control. As Crenshaw put it later, "Everybody knows this was a set-up deal."

Three of Fantroy's maroon-and-white signs decorate the front yard of Lipscomb's modest Polk Terrace house. And while Lipscomb has not officially said it -- he could not be reached for comment in Fort Worth -- Fantroy is telling voters he is indeed the anointed one.

From 1995 until his resignation to run for council earlier this year, Fantroy was Lipscomb's appointee to the city Plan Commission, which hears zoning issues. Fantroy had considered running for council in 1995 but pulled back when Lipscomb got in the race. Crenshaw and others say Fantroy's appointment to the planning board was a reward, part of a new-found alliance.

Back in 1993, when Lipscomb endorsed Sandra Crenshaw, Fantroy pointedly informed a reporter, as a knock against Lipscomb, "The community asked me to run. Al Lipscomb didn't ask me to run." Now, Fantroy has a list of influential southern-sector politicos and Lipscomb friends in his camp, including Commissioner John Wiley Price, Dallas NAACP chapter president Lee Alcorn, Justices of the Peace Thomas Jones and Charles Rose, and Darren Reagan, head of the Black State Employees Association of Texas. Price wrote an endorsement letter on official-looking stationery last week, which the Fantroy campaign sent to thousands of district voters.

"Eighty percent of the people in the district will love Al Lipscomb as long as he lives," says Mary Watkins, president of the Arden Terrace homeowners' association. "I really feel people are gonna vote for [Fantroy] because they'll figure he'll do what Al wants him to do. Al put him where he is."

Beyond that, Fantroy is the only person, as one observer put it, "who has the money and will to do the things you need to do to win."

Fantroy's campaign headquarters proves that point particularly well. It is filled with printed signs, beautifully produced mailers and door cards, precinct maps, volunteer sign-in lists, and a coffee machine, all overseen by a full-time office manager. Fantroy is clearly running a professional campaign. He opened the office a few weeks ago in his security company digs near the Southwest Center Mall.

Down the street is an Elect Fantroy billboard, one of at least a dozen in the district.

Through April 5, Fantroy was the only candidate in the race with more than a few hundred dollars to spend: $25,000 and counting, most of it his own, according to his most recent campaign filing.

With it, he's touting his experience in the security-guard business: the good part of the record, not the one you find in criminal court files.

The 62-year-old Fantroy has for the past decade run J.L. Security and Investigation Co., and three years ago he completed the contentious purchase of a 64-unit apartment complex near the intersection of Loop 12 and Lancaster Road. "Doing business as" records in Dallas County show that Fantroy operated a liquor store through most of the '80s -- Fantroy's Liquor on South Lamar Street -- before getting into the security business. A native of Fairfield, southeast of Corsicana, he graduated from Dogan High School there.

Records show that Fantroy registered his security company in Dallas in 1989 but that for several years he had operated the company without the required license from the Texas Commission on Private Security.

In September 1989, the commission ordered Fantroy to pay a $3,000 fine for cheating on the licensing exam, operating without a license, and illegally carrying a weapon, says Ken Nichols, the commission's interim director. The commission found that Fantroy was operating without a license when he applied for one in October 1988. He signed a sworn statement saying he was a peace officer performing security for Minyard's Food Store on South Lancaster Road.

When state investigators checked with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education, they found that Fantroy was not a peace officer -- the only scenario in which he could have been working the job without a license.

The cheating accusation was leveled by two witnesses, one of whom told the commission that Fantroy had opened a law book and looked at the answers while taking the security officer's licensing exam. The Observer could not gather Fantroy's side of the matter, despite repeated requests for an interview. The candidate had scheduled an interview at his office and confirmed the time, but did not show up for the appointment. He and his office staff declined to return phone calls seeking to reschedule.

State officials referred the charge of operating without a license to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, which filed a felony charge of operating a guard service without a license. Court records show the grand jury declined to indict him in August 1989.

Fantroy went on to run unsuccessfully for the District 8 council seat in May 1993. Lipscomb, who was first elected in 1984, was ineligible to run because of newly enacted term limits. He endorsed Crenshaw, who beat Darren Reagan in a runoff. Fantroy gained 22 percent of the vote and failed to make the runoff.

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