Mr. Conflict


Give credit to Don Venable, the gadfly-turned-trustee-turned-gadfly again. He may have been out of public service for a while, but the former school board member still knows how to toss out a good sound bite. Venable, who is suing the Dallas Independent School District to block its plan to hand management of some public schools over to Edison Schools Inc., points out that the same lawyer, Eric Moye, represents DISD and Edison. He calls that a clear conflict of interest.

"Whose interests is he arguing?" Venable asks of Moye. "Taxpayers are not only being screwed by this relationship, but they'll have to pay for it too...We're paying to have Edison's attorney convince us that Edison is doing right."

This was juicy. It was provocative. We called Moye, who pointed out that it is also -- in his view, anyway -- nonsense.

"There's no conflict of interest," Moye says. Edison and DISD both want the contract to go into effect. "Both of the parties are aware of that allegation, and both are satisfied." Where's the conflict? Moye asked us.

Venable contends DISD needs a lawyer to tell them the law doesn't allow the deal, which is a little bit like saying DISD needs a lawyer to tell them they're going to lose and to give up. While that might be in Venable's interests, it doesn't exactly make for good advocacy on DISD's behalf.

We called Charles Silver, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, and put the question to him. Nope, no clear conflict, he told Buzz. Two people defending a lawsuit can share a lawyer up to the point that their interests diverge, and there's no divergence here. Of course, Venable still may be right. He should know a conflict of interest when he sees one, after all. Venable sat on the school board at the same time he was suing the district.

Not easy getting green

They have a lake. They have all the nudie bars anyone could possibly demand. What, oh what, do the people who live around Bachman Lake want as far as recreational venues go?

A little green space maybe?

Residents near the Bachman Lake area are protesting city plans to delay construction of a long-awaited park.

The city's park department recently spent $380,000 to buy an unused parking lot on Overlake Drive. Its plan to transform the 2.5 acres of cracked asphalt into a green oasis for children, hoops players, and soccer kickers by early next year was No. 3 on its priority list. Unfortunately, that wasn't high enough.

Last week, the Community Development Commission, a city panel that advises how federal grants should be spent, nixed a plan by the city manager's office to devote $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for the park. The city council could discard the lower panel's recommendation and reinstate the park funds by August, but Councilman John Loza, whose district includes Bachman Lake, isn't optimistic. Still, he insists the council will find a way to pay for the park.

Uh-huh. Good luck, guys, but remember this is Dallas, a city that can't keep pools for poor kids open, even when the money for them is donated.

-- Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams


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