Murphy advised Fisher not to report any of the alleged acts to the authorities.

Potashnik would testify in July 2009 that he nixed the Fantroy contracts because theft had increased at three of his properties and 12 computers were stolen from one of the community centers. When Fantroy told him he'd no longer support his projects, Potashnik said he learned that if he wanted council support, he needed to play ball. Potashnik declined comment for this story through one of his attorneys, Obiamaka Madubuko.

Just 24 days after Fisher's e-mail, Fisher and Potashnik each had three similar developments scheduled for council consideration, all of which lacked support from the city's housing department and were within a mile of their adversary's project, meaning only one of each could be approved by state law. Potashnik had an impeccable reputation and built affordable housing resembling North Dallas apartment complexes. Fisher's projects were also upscale and would have paid property taxes while Potashnik's wouldn't, but he lacked Potashnik's connections and experience. (SWH built more than 60 projects, including 26 in Dallas, before the FBI raided its offices in June 2005.)

Before agreeing to become an FBI informant, Bill Fisher says he considered the words
of 18th century statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary
for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Mark Graham
Before agreeing to become an FBI informant, Bill Fisher says he considered the words of 18th century statesman and political philosopher Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Two stories by former KTVT-Channel 11 reporter Sarah Dodd in September 2003 alerted the feds to the corruption at Dallas City Hall.
Mark Graham
Two stories by former KTVT-Channel 11 reporter Sarah Dodd in September 2003 alerted the feds to the corruption at Dallas City Hall.

So here's Potashnik, a sophisticated developer known all over Texas for his top-notch work, squaring off with Fisher, a relative unknown who wasn't trusted by city housing director Jerry Killingsworth or Mayor Miller, who had appointed Potashnik to a housing task force and sent letters praising SWH throughout the state. Miller, who declined to comment for this story, and Killingsworth voiced doubts at the council meeting about the financial strength of Fisher's company. During their August 2009 testimony in the case, Killingsworth claimed Fisher had "credibility issues," and Miller said, "I thought he was doing something unethical to get support for his projects."

The six projects—three in Hill's district, two in Fantroy's and one in both—were scattered around the poorest and southernmost neighborhoods in the city. The council, led by motions from Hill, unanimously approved two of Potashnik's apartment complexes, and his third was removed from the agenda before the meeting. Fisher's two competing projects were rejected to comply with state law regarding the so-called "one-mile rule," and his third was postponed at Miller's request for a later vote.

Fisher claims he only learned after the investigation that Potashnik had stuffed money into the pockets of illegitimate consultants and overpaid contractors selling Hill's influence, although he had his suspicions in fall 2004. "Frankly, it's hard for me to believe that Brian could be this foolish—that he would ruin a successful business, his family and his reputation forever over these two projects."

After Fisher's two projects were voted down by the council in favor of Potashnik's, Lee started pressuring Fisher in early November 2004 to sponsor Hill's birthday party—for $7,500 initially and then $2,500.

"That's when I went to our attorneys and said, 'This is getting out of hand,'" Fisher says.

Mead and a handful of other attorneys instructed him to report what he knew to the FBI.

Fisher met with FBI Agent Allen Wilson on November 10, exactly two weeks after Potashnik had cleaned his clock and a couple hours before Fisher signed a $100,000 contract with Darren Reagan in the parking lot at City Hall. Under the contract, Reagan supposedly would identify minority contractors for Fisher's third, postponed project. The project was approved by the council, once again led by a motion from Hill, shortly after the contract was signed. Strangely, Fisher never reported Reagan to the feds because he says he believed Reagan to be a legitimate businessman based on Nealy's tight relationship with him (she called Reagan "Velvet") and because BSEAT fund-raisers often had big-name politicos in attendance. Fisher's complaints focused mostly on the Chadwick tuition and birthday party incidents. Wilson "looked seriously disinterested," he says, but two weeks later the FBI contacted him with a proposition to listen in on his conversations.

"They said, 'This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the FBI,'" he says. "They suspected corruption. They waited for someone to come forward.

"People say, 'You went to the FBI to cover your butt.' Absolutely," he says. "These guys were asking me for money in the middle of a zoning case. They're trying to get me to pay a kid's tuition that was a relative of theirs without telling me they're a relative."

He stresses that's not an admission of guilt. "You can unwittingly find yourself in criminal activity. The rubber meets the road for you when that realization comes [and] you report it to the police."

Ray Jackson, Don Hill's former attorney and Rashad's half brother, contends that the real difference between Hill and Potashnik versus Fisher and Fantroy is that Fisher's projects didn't get approved. Fisher wasn't a hero, but a sore loser.

"I think he was just as culpable, and he shouldn't have been able to get immunity because he told on the other person," Jackson says. "The only reason he told on the other person is because he lost out. Had he not lost out, he would have never reported anything. He would have been doing business as usual."

Game Over

When jury selection for the Hill trial began on June 22, 2009, two of the seven defendants were nowhere to be found. Defense attorneys and the public would learn afterward that Brian and Cheryl Potashnik had caved at the 11th hour, joining five others who had already inked plea agreements with the government. Just hours before the three-month long trial's first day, Brian admitted to bribing Hill and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Wife Cheryl forced his hand 10 days earlier when she confessed to subsidizing the rent of state Representative Terri Hodge, now serving a one-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

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6 comments
Bettyculbreath
Bettyculbreath

Good story, both developers are victims ,of Elected Officials greed.I hate Brian crossed the line,I still think he should not have been sent to prison.There are some guilty of much worse deed still in office and doing corrupt deeds daily.

Wharter_56
Wharter_56

Why isn't there an ongoing investigation of the DISD Supt. of Schools, who just happened to misplace $30MM + in budgetary funds?We've yet to hear a peep from the Dallas Morning News or any of the Dallas TV news commentators!

BC
BC

Is the City of Dallas lawyer Madeline Johnson still there? Sounds she was either crooked or incompetent for approving Fantroy's shakedown schemes.

David
David

Coming from someone who was in the conference room when the FBI announced themselves at the Southwest Housing offices, I think Bill and Brian did what was in their best interests at the time. Brian was convinced that the only way to get the projects done was to hand over money, and Bill thought that the only way to get out of his situation was to report. I don't fault either one of these guys for what they did. I know them both, and they are both great guys who, in the end, just want to build apartments for the needy and make some money doing it. What is wrong with that? The real criminals got the longest sentences.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Nope, she resigned in April 2005, two months before the FBI raids.

Guest
Guest

I know them both too. Brian great guy? Yes. Bill great guy? You gotta be kidding. Every time I'm around him I feel like I need a shower afterward he throws off so much dirt.

 
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