By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"It hurts me to see that individuals who disagree with the few are treated with disdain and are often characterized as not part of the 'team.' This should not be," Gonzales wrote.
"Regardless of our disagreements, we should hear each other out, and with respect, reconcile differences and present a united front. We are all Hispanic, and our concern should be as to how we serve our community, not how to control the board."
Evidently, the trouble inside the Chamber is something Brenda Reyes doesn't want known. At least that's the impression one gets from listening to the phone conversation taking place on this Thursday morning--the day after Gonzales resigned. The conversation is also a pretty good indication of just how nasty life has become at the Chamber.
On one end of the telephone is Amanda Moreno, a former Chamber board member who resigned July 12 and is currently sitting at a table inside the coffeehouse she owns in north Oak Cliff. On the other end of the line, an unidentified person is calling to say that Reyes has given her new employees instructions to inform any reporters, should they call, that Gonzales didn't really resign.
Moreno puts her hand over the mouthpiece and whispers that the caller, presumably a Chamber insider, is terrified of being identified. Moreno, who tells the caller they'll talk later and hangs up, says that person isn't the only one who feels threatened. Since she resigned, Moreno says she's heard that she may be sued if she dares publicly express her views on the Chamber. Unlike Gonzales, Moreno isn't shy about naming names: The source of the gossip--and, as far as she's concerned, the trouble at the Chamber--is Adelfa Callejo, a woman who Moreno says she used to admire but now loathes.
"If [Callejo] wants to sue me, I can be served at 336 West Davis Street," Moreno says. "I'm not afraid. I have money, and I can afford to hire an attorney if I have to."
Whether Reyes has really issued any such instructions is uncertain. In response to a request for an interview, Reyes told the Dallas Observer to put all questions in writing, and then she abruptly hung up the telephone. Days later, Marcos Ronquillo, a lawyer and a former Chamber chairman, sent the Observer a one-page response on her behalf in which he stated that Reyes would not grant an interview because of "pending claims and or threatened litigation."
(Ronquillo didn't specify what legal threats he meant, though one former Chamber employee, Sandy Garza, recently notified Reyes that she may sue the Chamber after she was fired from her new job as the Chamber's liaison with the city of Dallas. Garza, whose salary was paid by the city under a one-year contract, contends the Chamber owes her $29,000 in lost wages as part of an oral contract between her and the Chamber.)
Unlike Reyes, Callejo spoke at length about the Chamber during a recent telephone interview in which she denied that she has threatened Moreno or any of the other board members who have resigned from the Chamber. Callejo did, however, say she is highly offended that Moreno and others are publicly complaining about the Chamber's inner workings and, specifically, Reyes' hiring as its president. In short, Callejo says, they don't have the right.
"For starters, let me say this: They're no longer board members. If they wanted to contest this, there was a time when they could have done it," Callejo says. "For them to be doing this now, I think it's reprehensible. They're really acts of very bad faith toward a person [Reyes] who does not deserve it. And not only that, but I think it's reprehensible that they would be staining, if you will, the reputation of one of our greatest institutions in our community. I don't think they have the standing to do that."
Callejo also dismisses complaints that the Chamber's bylaws were manipulated to ensure that Reyes got the job. She does, however, confirm that she has helped sponsor Reyes' political return, first by asking Loza to nominate her for the DART board and, later, by suggesting to Jim Richardson Gonzales that Reyes become the Chamber's president, a job that came open earlier this summer when Frank Cortez left it to become an assistant vice president at DART.
And that, Moreno says, is when all the trouble began.
Moreno, as well as other board members who spoke with the Observer, says she became suspicious of Reyes when she declined to disclose her Social Security number for background check purposes to the selection committee, which was headed by Gonzales and two other board members. (When she applied for the DART position, the application shows Reyes also ignored a city requirement that she disclose her Social Security number for background check purposes.)
"That bothered me," Moreno says. "I wondered what was she trying to hide."
When the issue arose, Callejo says that she personally "spoke up" to keep the information private because she believed disclosing it would be an invasion of Reyes' privacy. Instead, Callejo says, the information was given to the Chamber's interim president, Peter Borling, who conducted the background check. Everything about Reyes checked out, Callejo says, and the board members were later told that she had "cleared" the check with glowing colors.