By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Tick-tock:It's coming up on a year since the news broke of the FBI's corruption investigation into City Hall's dealings with...huh? What investigation, you ask?
You remember. Last June, the FBI searched the offices of Dallas City Council members Don Hill and James Fantroy, along with the offices of Southwest Housing Development Co., looking for evidence of dirty dealing involving low-income apartment developments. It was the start of a long summer of suspicion aimed at virtually everyone at City Hall--well, nearly everyone who happened to be black, but we were assured that was just a coinkydink.
You can probably expect a bunch of "What up with that?" stories about the investigation when the anniversary of the first big raid arrives in late June. (The impatient folks at Dmagazine did theirs in February.) Otherwise, The Dallas Morning News hasn't had a story specifically about the FBI's case since the end of the year, according to a search of news databases. The bet among media types had been that we could expect indictments late last summer or in the fall. Now? Expect the feds to do something by, oh, late summer or fall.
In 2006, we mean.
That guess comes from Mike Uhl, a former federal prosecutor now representing Southwest Housing owner Brian Potashnik. More than 18 months seems a long time to leave Southwest, Fantroy, Hill and others twisting in the wind, but it's not atypical for this type of case, Uhl says. But is it possible that, for all the fanfare, the feds could quietly close the investigation with no indictments and forget to tell anyone?
Uhl says the Department of Justice typically doesn't comment on the existence of investigations, though in high-profile cases where an investigation has been acknowledged, Justice has guidelines allowing prosecutors to call olly olly oxen free.
In any event, the waiting can't be good for Southwest's operations, we suggested. (Hill wouldn't comment on the investigation; we couldn't reach Fantroy.)
"It's never good when you're under investigation," Uhl says. "On the other hand, we're a large company doing great things in this community and others. We've been building low-income and senior housing for a long time--of the highest quality in the industry. To the extent we've been able to, we're business as usual...We keep moving along. Sure, it's always a disruption to be under investigation. Certainly, we hope when the government finalizes its investigation they don't find any wrongdoing on our part."