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Dallas's Bishop Kevin Farrell Takes on An Old Latino Community Center in West Oak Cliff

Dallas's Bishop Kevin Farrell Takes on An Old Latino Community Center in West Oak Cliff

That sure happened fast. Behold, the Three Stages of Lawyering Up:

Stage 1: A perceived injustice occurs -- in this case, a July 29 letter from attorneys representing the Diocese of Dallas and Kevin Farrell, the recently installed, Dublin-born Bishop imported from a titular see in Algeria, ordering the Calumet Community Center -- a non-profit center that serves as a gathering spot for West Oak Cliff Latinos -- to vacate the premises the diocese owns.

Calumet has occupied the space for 14 years. The center had been sharing land with the Santa Clara Catholic Church, and director Juanita Miramontes said they had an agreement with a previous bishop for a lifetime lease. The new bishop, Farrell, didn't like the arrangement, so he drew up a new lease for 25 years in 2009, Miramontes said.

And now he wants them out.

Miramontes issues a press release Tuesday and schedules a presser for this morning. A David-and-Goliath allusion is made, and the diocese is accused of engaging in "bully tactics." It's the classic set-up for a big-guy-crushing-the-little-guy scenario. In one corner, it's a nonprofit that relies on donations and fundraisers, and provides a haven for the children of working parents. In the other corner, you've got the Catholic Church, which hasn't made for the most sympathetic protagonist lately. It's a public-relations no-win for the diocese.

Stage 2: Lawyers get involved.

Stage 3: The presser is canceled. A terse, "revised" press release is issued. It says the presser is postponed "pending engagement of legal counsel."

Things get complicated and, for the moment, unknowable. The diocese says Calumet is getting evicted because they haven't kept their insurance coverage up to date, which was a part of the deal. "Calumet has been in continued, repeated violation of the terms of the lease agreement," diocese spokesperson Annette Gonzales Taylor tells Unfair Park. "And it's been over months and years. They have again failed to show proof of insurance. That's what all this is about: Their failure to abide by the terms of the lease agreement."

Before she quit talking completely, Miramontes responded, saying the Dallas Diocese's excuse is hogwash. "It has not lapsed. I had to renew in July, and it was right on time. If I knew I was at fault, I would not have called a press conference."

She wondered aloud whether the diocese was clearing Calumet out to make way for a new occupant. "They should let me know," she said.

"They can look at our books. I don't know why they're doing this."

Unfair Park asked Miramontes to show us an up-to-date insurance statement. She passed us along to Calumet director and treasurer Rosa Orenstein, who said all inquiries would have to wait for -- guess who? -- the attorneys.


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