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.

He might have lost at the polls, but Fantroy was a big winner the next month when he landed a half-million-dollar contract to supply security guards to 14 Dallas Housing Authority projects. Competitors protested the award because six of the 12 bids were lower than Fantroy's.

Of the four companies that the housing authority determined met basic requirements, two still had lower bids than J.L. Security.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development initially objected to the contract, but DHA officials defended their choice because Fantroy's company had local armed-guard experience. Then-DHA head Alphonso Jackson signed the contract with Fantroy's company. Jackson, now president of Central and Southwest Cervices Inc., a utility company, said he could not recall anything about the bidding or how Fantroy's company received the contract.

Long-shot candidate Joe Tave
Long-shot candidate Joe Tave
Long-shot candidate Ruth Steward
Long-shot candidate Ruth Steward

The choice of Fantroy's firm turned out to be a headache for the public housing agency. After receiving complaints of abusive guards who displayed shotguns and automatic weapons, chased off guests, and were either verbally abusive or flirtatious, DHA pulled J.L. guards from a third of its properties and cut the two-year contract back to 18 months. It later sued Fantroy's company when it failed to defend DHA against an abuse-related suit brought by one of the residents. Jackson says he vaguely recalls the residents' complaints and remembers that the contract was cut short. "They weren't performing, but I can't remember the specifics," he says.

Court records show that J.L. paid resident Broderick Lumpkin a $12,000 settlement in 1997 after one of Fantroy's guards entered his apartment, pulled a gun, and threatened to shoot the man if he didn't return a set of pool balls the guard accused him of stealing from the complex.

Lumpkin went into a breathing seizure and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. The guard, who was later accused of assault in the incident, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor reckless-conduct charge. Lumpkin's lawsuit accused J.L of failing to check the guard's criminal record. He had received probation in an assault case and in another case of unlawfully carrying a weapon.

Fantroy himself is no stranger to the criminal courts. On April 1995, Fantroy showed up on the ground floor of Dallas City Hall with a 19-year-old woman named Abike Washington. He had accompanied her to the Department of Public Safety's license office as she applied for an identification card.

When a trooper ran Washington's name through the computer, he found an outstanding warrant on a misdemeanor bad-check charge and stepped forward to arrest her.

According to a later indictment, Fantroy, who was wearing a badge, misidentified himself as a deputy constable and said he would take Washington into custody later. In fact, the indictment alleged, he had no such authority and had misled the trooper in a way that interfered with his doing his job.

Fantroy had been a reserve deputy constable two years earlier, but was asked to surrender his badge in 1993 when state authorities began looking into allegations that he had impersonated a police officer. That investigation was closed for lack of evidence.

The Dallas County District Attorney's Office brought the 1995 impersonating-an-officer case before a grand jury, and Fantroy was indicted on a third-degree felony. He went to trial in 1997, but the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. Prosecutors later dropped the case, saying it was improbable they could obtain a conviction.

Some of Fantroy's political supporters say they are aware of his past troubles but dismiss them as inconsequential. "People know of these things," says Faye Gafford, president of a homeowners group in Highland Hills, in the eastern end of the district. "Everybody's had something in their past. I'm hoping he's learned from past experience."

Gafford says Fantroy was a strong advocate for residents in a recent battle to halt expansion of a bothersome truck stop along the interstate. Indeed, Fantroy is touting himself as a man of experience handling such issues. But at City Hall, and in the neighborhood where he has lived for 42 years, he gets mixed reviews.

"He's done things here...mainly nothing," says Adge Barnes, a retired military man and postal worker who lives a few blocks from Fantroy. His neighbor, Reynolds Kirby, noted the lack of Fantroy yard signs in the immediate neighborhood where he lives. Kirby and another neighbor -- a woman very active in local issues -- say Fantroy has a habit of moving into leadership of neighborhood groups, then disappearing when things need to be done. "People around here know that," says Barnes.

At City Hall, Fantroy's former colleagues on the Plan Commission sound as if they're talking about a different person. "He's been an excellent commissioner," says Plan Commission chairman Hector Garcia. "He has stuck up for communities. He's been hard-working, with many community meetings. I've found him to be a pleasure to be with."

Says another commissioner, asking to talk on background, "I've heard him say on more than one occasion, 'We're in the majority now. We're going to be running this.'"

It's difficult to be Sandra Crenshaw these days, as anyone who on one recent morning was at Annie Nelson's house, a little frame structure that doubles as the Living Sacrifice of Praise church, could see. Crenshaw wandered by on the campaign trail, and Nelson invited her in.

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