By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The Dallas City Council voted last week to protect the man on the plan commission who refuses to say who gives him the luxury cars he drives.
The issue here is that the cars may be bribes.
Your stellar city council danced all around the town about it. Everybody was a law professor. Oh, they had to be sure this was all done according to Hoyle, and they wanted to be certain the man wasn't deprived of "due process." They said they didn't want to act "on the basis of media reports."
Listen. There's no Hoyle handbook on this. There are no rules by which people get to act flagrantly corrupt in public and then demand to be appointed to sensitive boards and commissions where integrity and trust count for everything.
And by the way, there's no "due process" either. This isn't court. This is the courthouse square.
Last month everybody in town saw the FBI searching the expensive luxury automobiles driven by Dallas Plan Commission member D'Angelo Lee and the man who appointed him, city council member Don Hill. Everybody knows the FBI is looking at Lee, Hill, council members James Fantroy, Leo Chaney and Maxine Thornton-Reese and two more plan commission members in an investigation of influence-peddling and bribery.
Forget about whether the FBI is on the right trail. Forget the FBI. The FBI is irrelevant. Those guys, Lee and Hill, won't say where they got the cars.
Where did they get the cars? The cars, the cars, the cars.
For days after the cars were searched, radio and TV and newspaper reporters--to say nothing of everybody else on the council--tried to find out where Lee and Hill got the cars.
It's not a "media report" that they refuse to say where they got the cars. It's a fact. Ask 'em.
Lee's term on the plan commission is up. He hasn't even troubled himself to reapply for his position properly. Of course, that would involve filling out paperwork--something he and Hill generally eschew. If the council leaves him on the plan commission anyway, he becomes a "holdover"--a screwy special status by which he can remain there without ever going through the formal approval process.
Mayor Laura Miller introduced a motion to remove Lee from the city plan commission. Council member Ed Oakley made a big impassioned speech about how it wasn't fair and introduced a motion to put the whole thing off. Council member Bill Blaydes sided with him.
You know, Blaydes is a real estate agent involved in controversial transactions for the school district. Oakley's in the bar business. There's nothing wrong with either of those occupations on the surface, but when these guys start getting all anxious about protecting the rights of people like Hill and Lee, who won't say where they get their cars, you have to wonder. Are Oakley and Blaydes afraid this integrity stuff is a dog that might come back to bite them?
When Councilman Hill was asked whose car he's been driving, he gave some answer about, "I have earned the right to drive this car."
Think of it in Old West terms. Stranger rides into Deadwood on a tall white horse. Sheriff says, "That's a fine animal you're riding, sir. Where'd you get him?"
Stranger says, "I cannot answer that question, but I have earned the right to ride this horse."
Sheriff shoots the guy.
You should have heard Oakley. He said anyone who thought Lee had done something wrong should "file a sworn complaint under penalty of perjury with the city secretary."
See, it's yourjob. If you think the council's dirty, then you need to hire a lawyer and risk a perjury prosecution and go downtown and devote the next six months of your life to the bizarre kangaroo court the council has established as its ethics commission but which I refer to as the Dallas City Ethics Complaint Toilet.
What's the hold-up?
Hey. Do me a favor. See if you can follow Oakley's explanation of his defense of Lee:
"My vote here is a reflection of what I believe my ethics are," Oakley said at the council briefing last week. "If I had a plan commissioner who was causing me a problem and I felt like I needed to remove him, I would ask him to leave. If Mr. Hill believes in his plan commissioner, it is a direct, it is a reflection of, our appointees are a reflection of--Mr. Hill, Mr. Griffith and I have had this conversation about this issue--it is his appointee who represents all of us in the city of Dallas. You're absolutely right. But if someone has an issue with any of the parties that I mentioned, then an ethics complaint should be filed with the ethics commission in the next three weeks.
"If not, then I guess due process will continue."
Sheriff turns to dead stranger's little buddy on a brown horse. "Where'd you boys get the horses?"
Little buddy says, "If I had a problem with my horse, then I would get off and walk. But if my friend believes, or I believe, because I have discussed this with Lefty and Clinch and Deaf, and Lefty is a reflection of his horse as are we all, therefore, but you're absolutely right. Due process."