By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Get this. A guy involved in city council politics in suburban Southlake, where U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall's wife is on the city council, calls the Southlake city secretary and asks for Kendall's wife's home address.
The next thing the guy knows, he's in downtown Dallas getting the Miranda warning from a Unites States marshal, who tells him he's under investigation for threatening the life of a federal judge.
But wait: This man was Southlake's "Citizen of the Year" two years ago. He comes from a well-known Southlake business family. Kendall's wife, Ronnie Kendall, obviously knows who the man is and that he's no crackpot or threat. So does Judge Kendall.
They were just mad at him. So one or both of them sicced the marshals on him.
You will remember that Kendall was the judge in the bribery trial of Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb. In the course of that trial, Lipscomb's lawyers accused Kendall of being "out of control." I don't think very many people took that charge seriously -- I didn't -- because Lipscomb was so obviously guilty of the charges against him.
But here's what happened afterward:
On April 13, the Dallas Observer published a column I wrote about Ronnie Kendall's 1998 Southlake City Council race. The column said Ronnie Kendall had collected major campaign contributions from a bunch of trial lawyers who weren't from Southlake and had no dog in any Southlake fight, but many of them did happen to have business in Judge Kendall's court at different times.
The column talked about the Lipscomb trial, in which Joe Kendall told the jury they could look at campaign contributions -- even perfectly legal ones -- to decide if the people who gave Lipscomb money were shopping for favors. The question, then, would be whether the people who gave campaign contributions to Kendall's wife may have been shoppers as well.
Not too long after the column was published, Dallas community activist Marvin Crenshaw grabbed up an armload of Observers and motored on out to Southlake, which is out beyond Flower Mound somewhere, and spoke to the Southlake City Council. I wasn't there. I don't actually get out to Southlake a lot. I am relying on the accounts of others, including Crenshaw, but I believe his remarks went something along the lines of, "Ha ha, look at this story about you bunch of suburban yutzes," and "I'm going to bring 20,000 demonstrators out here to Southlake City Hall."
Subtextual message: Many unhappy black people may come here soon.
Subtextual reaction: Yikes!
Crenshaw tells me that in the days after his appearance before the Southlake City Council, he received reports that Ronnie Kendall was calling up law enforcement agencies in Dallas and making inquiries about him.
That's OK. In fact, Crenshaw agrees with me that it was OK for her to pull some strings, run some traps, and check him out. In a way, she did with Crenshaw what she should have done with the Southlake guy. She used connections to check him out.
Now we skip scenes, back out to Southlake. Southlake is a little North Texas farm town that turned into a high-dollar suburb more or less overnight. In Southlake, Ronnie Kendall is allied with a crowd of newly arrived, new-money people who want to shove all the old families out of City Hall. They tried and failed in the May 6 election to unseat Mayor Rick Stacy (of the "You're-burnin'-money" furniture ads on TV), whose family has been in Southlake for five generations.
Stacy describes his own faction succinctly: "We're the good ol' boys," he tells me.
Several weeks ago, there was some kind of brouhaha over hiring the right tennis pro for the municipal tennis center -- apparently a soul-defining moment in local political history. In connection with that, Ronnie Kendall and a bunch of the other new-money council members were accused of having an illegal council meeting at a restaurant in what has become known locally as the "Mi Cocina" incident.
Somebody snapped a picture of the allegedly illegal meeting. A member of the good-ol'-boy faction took the photo to the Tarrant County District Attorney and filed criminal charges against Ronnie Kendall and her new-money buddies on the council. This is all in the final weeks before the May 6 election.
So you've got the picture. Local politics. Everybody's real mad. The kind of community where they try to pick a tennis pro and everybody hires lawyers and files criminal charges against each other.
Enter Mr. Joey Milner. Milner is of the good-ol'-boy faction, even though his family has only been in Southlake since 1978. (Certain kinds of people can become good ol' boys faster than others.)
Milner is no pauper. His family are major local philanthropists. Two years ago, he was elected Southlake "Citizen of the Year."
Milner is allied with the people who took the photo of the Mi Cocina incident to the Tarrant County DA and filed criminal charges against Ronnie Kendall et al.
Everybody in Southlake knows that.
One day two weeks ago, Milner had what may not have been the world's brightest idea. Milner's thought, as he explained it to me: Why not have our protester guests from the city just motor right on past City Hall directly to Mrs. Kendall's house? "I was thinking, hey, there's nobody who's mad at the city of Southlake."