How vicious racial politics, mismanagement, and dirty dealing turned Dallas' Redbird Airport into a Third-World airfield

Clark said the availability of rental planes and other services to private pilots deteriorated under Redbird Development. "It was just a steady decline," she says.

After getting a month-long runaround while attempting to rent hangar #39, a garage-sized structure known as a T-hangar, private pilot Jonathan Alston wrote a three-page, single-spaced letter detailing his outrage. "It infuriates me that the city that I pay taxes to willingly and knowingly contracts people of this caliber to represent them and manage city-owned property," he wrote. "The entire situation reeks of corruption at some level."

George Day's name comes up in connection with Redbird Development Corp. on the very day of its legal birth in April 1994. The company's articles of incorporation, its birth certificate, lists him as Redbird's one and only director--a title that indicates some degree of control. Given Day's history of swindling, insider dealing, shuffling of dummy corporations, and outright fraud, this was not an auspicious start.
Mark Graham
Redbird Airport's city-run tower, runways, and navigational aids weren't the problem. It was the facilities around them, managed by Redbird Development Corp., that caused pilots to flee.
Mark Graham
Redbird Airport's city-run tower, runways, and navigational aids weren't the problem. It was the facilities around them, managed by Redbird Development Corp., that caused pilots to flee.

At the very least, Day's involvement in Redbird Development Corp. ensured that the company was as muddled and confused internally as it was without. The Days incorporated a second Redbird Development company in 1997, calling it First Redbird Development, then transferred the airport leases from the original corporation to the second company. Shirley Day claimed to be president of both and complicated matters even more by periodically swapping the companies' names. At worst, if Day or his wife controlled the company as they claimed at various times, it meant Redbird Development wasn't a minority firm at all--a scenario Atkins and White vigorously dispute.

"He was meddling with the paperwork," Atkins says. "George Day didn't own the corporation. George Day is a known felon. He's in jail. This isn't the first corporation he wrote letters for. Did George Day control Redbird Development Corp.? The answer is no. Did George Day own any Redbird Development stock? The answer is no."

Gayle White, however, admits that Shirley Day owned a piece of Redbird Development. And later in an interview, Atkins concedes that Shirley Day had a 16-percent ownership stake.

According to a document White and Atkins signed in 1997, Gayle White owned another 49 percent. Even though the numbers don't add up, Atkins insists he's the majority owner.

How Shirley Day came to own her shares is anyone's guess. "Gayle gave her some stock," Atkins says. But White says he doesn't know how Day obtained her shares. "That was back...when the corporation was formed, I think some promises were made. But I'm just guessing there."

Those answers are murky at best, but the only other people who'd know don't want to talk. Neither Day, who, through a prison official, turned down a request for an interview nor his wife in Brownwood would comment for this report.

For Day, toying with a little company like Redbird must have been a comedown from his former life.

A retired Army colonel who served in the Judge Advocate General's corps and once was elected district attorney in Brown County, Day was a politically active, well-connected bank and mortgage company owner in Fort Worth. He had longtime connections in the Democratic Party going back to the LBJ-Connally days. Former House Speaker Jim Wright was among those who vouched for Day's character after his conviction in 1995 on charges related to insider dealing at the Early Bank, located just outside Brownwood, which Day owned.

When the bank failed in 1985, state regulators cited "liberal and ill-advised loans" to Day and his friends that caused losses "far exceeding the bank's total capital and reserves." Federal regulators, investigators, and prosecutors took nearly a decade to take Day to court. "The FDIC took a number of years to pass this along," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Sucsy. "Like everything else George Day is involved in, it was a complicated case."

At least some of the seven fraud and embezzlement counts against Day involved his cleaning up bad loans to his own businesses, including a company called Too Cheap Car Rental, without actually paying back the loans, Sucsy explained. Day simply started a new company, gave it a fresh loan backed by little collateral--a few old cars and a piece of undeveloped land--and at least for a while, it looked on the books like nobody was in default. A jury found Day guilty, but the judge suspended his $30,000 fine and four-year sentence and put him on probation for five years. He had been found guilty on bank fraud charges six years earlier in connection with his activities at another bank he owned in a Fort Worth suburb.

As was later revealed at his probation revocation hearing in front of U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings in Lubbock last May, Day didn't tell his probation officer that he claimed to be in charge of Redbird Development and was negotiating with tenants and would-be investors on the company's behalf. He was required to report his employment, property ownership, and business dealings.

That, and a list of 18 other violations, including a few continuing scams, prompted Sucsy to push to revoke Day's probation at the hearing in Lubbock. "You can say we were beating a dead horse, but complaints [about Day] kept coming in," the prosecutor says. In one swindle, Day gave a man a corporation and a piece of mortgaged property. After the investor paid off the loan, he learned the company was never legally his.

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