By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
If anybody looks like a central figure in the FBI raids on Dallas city officials, it's he. Lee. But he's disappeeeearing. Nobody knows him.
Two weeks ago when the FBI swarmed City Hall with search warrants, Lee was one of three top city officials whose vehicles and offices were tossed by agents in a bribery corruption probe linked to tax-subsidized apartment projects.
Lee is a member of the Dallas City Plan Commission, which happens to be the second-most powerful body at City Hall. I have before me a document depicting Mr. Lee as a well-favored figure. Dated June 16, 2005, it shows Lee was nominated to sit on a very obscure but powerful city body called "RZ09-Reinvestment Zone Nine Board."
You've never heard of it. I've never heard of it. But during its brief tenure, RZ09 will distribute more moolah than some small cities see in a decade--tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of tax dollars handed out by the city as incentives to real estate developers in the blighted Vickery/Meadows area.
Pretty powerful. You could make some things happen on that board. Such an appointment would make Lee especially powerful, given his position already on the city plan commission.
As a plan commissioner he will vote on any developments in Vickery/Meadows that require new zoning. And as a member of the board of the obscure RZ09, he would be able to influence lucrative funding for those same projects.
You could almost call it a conflict of interest, couldn't you? Especially since Lee, a man whose means of support is not something I have been able to understand, has been huckstering himself all over town as a potential partner on tax-subsidized development deals.
Lee's background, according to documents filed with the city, is as a Wall Street analyst and minister. Now, this may be bias on my part, I know: But if I ask a guy what he does, and he tells me he's a Wall Street analyst and minister, my instinct is to run for my car. But Lee, instead, was appointed to our city plan commission two years ago by Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hicks.
And then here, according to this June 16, 2005, document on my desk, the same Mr. Lee is being nominated to RZ09 by Dallas city Councilman Gary Griffith. Now, let's not move ahead one quarter-inch before I tell you that Griffith says he flat out definitely did not nominate Lee.
I asked Griffith why the document initially circulated to the council showed him as nominating Lee. Griffith said several times, "I can shed no light on that.
"I have never talked to Mr. Lee about it, nor have I asked him to submit an application, nor do I believe he is qualified to serve, because he's not."
Griffith told me he was unaware of any list or page showing him as nominating D'Angelo Lee.
The full document with the page showing Griffith as Lee's sponsor was called "Status of Reinvestment Boards," assembled and distributed to the city council on June 17. Of course, a mere three days later the FBI descended on city offices and Lee's home and car with sealed search warrants in a wide-ranging corruption/bribery probe.
The very next day, page 58 of the city secretary's document, showing Griffith as nominating Lee, disappeared from everybody's packet. On June 21 when reporters asked for the full document, page 58 was missing. The document skipped from page 57 to page 59. (Whatever else may be going on here, I am confident this is not a CIA operation.)
Then on June 24, City Secretary Shirley Acy distributed a new document with a new page that did not show Lee as a nominee. But you see, I still had the original page 58: After it was expunged, a copy of page 58 appeared mysteriously one day in my hand. It must have floated down from heaven like the gentle rain.
Anyway, I took my page 58 to Acy's office and asked her why she had expunged it and then replaced it with a new one. She said Griffith had asked her to. Pointing to my page 58, Acy told me: "He said that these individuals were given to him, and he asked us to remove these names, because although he turned their résumés in, they were not his nominees."
Does this mean Gary Griffith is a secret ally of D'Angelo Lee? Naaaah. I tend to believe Griffith's story, even if the precise handling of the documents remains fuzzy. The bottom line is that D'Angelo Lee can find a way to get himself appointed to positions at Dallas City Hall where he can help hand out tens of millions of dollars in tax money and maybe hundreds of millions of dollars in zoning value to developers. And what does that tell you about Dallas City Hall?
Let me ask you something: Could you go downtown and get yourself slipped onto the board of RZ09 without the knowledge of the council member who is supposed to be nominating you? No, neither could I. Nor would we try, right? But a special kind of guy maybe could, somebody with a background in Wall Street analysis, theology and "real estate finance," according to documents at City Hall.