By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
I tried to see where some of the real estate finance experience might have come from. I learned that Lee was involved at an early age in the debt collection business in Los Angeles.
I came across references to an unfortunate event in 1986 in which Lee, then 22 years old, was one of several men accused of loan sharking, extortion, theft and trying to collect a debt with a gun. Lee appears to have been charged only with robbery, of which he was acquitted.
I spoke with the complainant, Merv Evans, a familiar figure and perennial candidate for public office in L.A., who was very forgiving of Lee for his role in what Evans shrugged off as "a little ass-kicking."
"They were upset by the fact that I had got $5,000 from them and hadn't paid them back," Evans told me. He said Lee was the least involved of the lot. "He was like a nervous didn't-want-to-be-there kind of guy."
With the advantage of years and maturity, Evans is more inclined to blame himself for the entire matter than Lee. "I clearly admit that I beat them out of their $5,000. I took a little ass-kicking, but nothing serious. I'm still walking around today. I still got the $5,000!"
Evans said of the others accused in the matter--not Lee but his associates--that they were drug dealers: "They were dealers in Englewood, California. They were dope dealers. And I knew they were dealers, OK?
"The fellow you're talking about [Lee], I believe that he probably was in over his head and didn't realize what was happening. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It's the other guy that hit me."
What a sport. If he ever gets tired of running for office in L.A., I think we could use Merv Evans here. What do you think: plan commission?
I spoke with Lee's attorney, Larry Jarrett, who said he and his client would have no comment on the business in California or any other matter.
Here's my other radar check on D'Angelo Lee. My very astute intern, Robyn Curts, a 16-year-old DISD student, attended a plan commission meeting last May and then dropped by the Dallas Observer to report. She told me that most of the meeting had been pretty dull--a useful lesson, I thought, for an intern to acquire.
I always tell the kids: If it's excitement you're looking for, glamour, danger, risk and adventure, the highs, the lows, the adrenaline rush, go into real estate.
Robyn did mention that one member of the body seemed to be strikingly...I'm trying to think of how to put this because I don't remember her exact phrase, and she's not a person who uses mean words (yet)...I could say she described this person as dramatically non-astute.
She said the board member in question was beating up on the owner of a nightclub, accusing him of outrageously operating his den of iniquity on Sundays. He based his accusation on several police reports describing bad behavior at or near the club on Sundays.
Before the board member in question was able to get too far into this hole, another member at his elbow leaned forward and whispered audibly that the pertinent offenses, although showing up as occurring on Sundays, actually involved closing time on Saturday nights.
Last week I went to City Hall and listened to the tapes just to make sure. And yes. The Sunday den-of-iniquity exchange had involved D'Angelo Lee.
"Most of the reports that we have here are all on Sundays," he said accusingly. "There are a couple of Saturdays, but most of them are Sundays."
I could even hear plan commission member Neil Emmons, who sits next to Lee, whispering hoarsely, "Saturday night...Saturday night."
Put a gold star over the name of Robyn Curts. She may be only 16, but she can already spot one when she sees one.
So what's my point here? Do I just want you to be depressed? OK, let's be honest about that. Yes. I believe it is our civic duty as citizens of Dallas to be deeply, deeply, possibly even clinically depressed about the state of things at City Hall.
By the way, I forget: Did I remember to thank Elaine Agather of the Dallas Citizens Council and former council members Alan Walne and Max Wells for their help in the recent defeat at the polls of the only shot at meaningful reform this city will ever see for the next 10 to 20 years? Yes, I think I did. I think I thanked them last week, but I can never repeat it enough.
When you think FBI raid at City Hall, think Elaine Agather. When you think D'Angelo Lee, think Elaine Agather.
Life is choices. Our choices were a charter change establishing a strong-mayor system instead of what we have now. Or what we have now.
OK, I'm depressed.