Christine Biederman's recent article "Courthouse Coup" [November 27] was fun and entertaining. However, the article gave me too much credit, or blame, according to one's view. For example, while I supported Keith Anderson's race for a district judgeship, I did not recruit him to run. And, I would be honored to claim Danny Clancy as a protege, but that's a big overstatement.
Ms. Biederman is a very engaging reporter, and I enjoyed the interview. While the article wasn't entirely accurate, it was fair. But my wife, Sue, is upset. She has always believed that someone has to keep each politician's ego in check, and I am her charge. She insists that I remember the old political adage, "Take your job seriously, but never take yourself too seriously." The article doesn't make her job easier. And I am a little upset too. I don't wear "wet stuff" on my hair as the article described. But at my age, I am just glad she pointed out that I have hair.
On a more serious note, my seeming irreverence for politics and public service comes from believing government can and should be better. When I quit believing that, public service will lose its attraction. Nothing ever gets better without questioning the status quo. After 23 years on the inside of government, still acting like an outsider is my ambition and hope.
Although she didn't use it, I shared with Ms. Biederman my politician's prayer, "Lord let me know when it's over before you tell everyone else." Whenever it is over, I will retain many titles more important than Commissioner--Christian, American, Husband, Father, and Son. In these roles I take myself seriously.
Commissioner, Precinct 1
The rich get richer
Thank God someone like Laura Miller is here to report the facts concerning the sports arena ["Get real," December 4]. How can anyone think that Dallas is getting a good deal here by paying $125 million to two already very rich men? This is ridiculous.
I am sick to death of these owners holding me and the rest of the Dallas taxpayers hostage by threatening to go elsewhere with their teams. I say go if they want. If Arlington, Grand Prairie or anyone else wants to shell out the money, then let them pay for it. And for all those sports fans who want to complain about not having a sports team here in the city...then let me ask, do we not enjoy the Texas Rangers? The Dallas Cowboys? How tough is it to drive 30 minutes to see a game? If the teams are all that important to you to want to spend hundreds of millions, then they should be important enough to spend the extra five bucks in gas to drive to see them.
As Ms. Miller has pointed out, The city is getting the short end of the stick. The owners would amass another fortune (to add to the one they already have) on naming rights to the arena worth tens of millions, vendor deals, parking revenues, and development around the site. What does Dallas get? A lousy basketball team to call its own, an outdated Reunion Arena that may or may not be bulldozed, and a tax burden it will be saddled with for the next three decades. No thanks, I'll vote smart, and vote no!
I enjoyed the article in this week's Observer about Councilman [John] Loza and the burden the proposed "tourist tax" on rental cars will impose on those he cares about so much. However, the article dismissed questions about the effect of the increased hotel tax on residents. Meanwhile, right next to the article is an ad from the Stoneleigh for its special holiday rates. While I am sure the Observer has a wide distribution in other cities from which we attract tourists, do you suppose that ad may also have been directed toward local citizens who might want to spend a few days in a local hotel? Ironically, the same juxtaposition occurred in the original Dallas Morning News article about the arena, which ran next to an article about the Adolphus that included the statistic that 65 percent of their weekend guests were local people.
However, if we believe the rosy thoughts of Loza and his buddies that these increased "tourist taxes" will have no impact on those of us who live in Dallas, then why don't they take that "free money" and use it to actually reduce taxes? According to their estimates, these taxes will raise millions of dollars annually (well yes, you can't find out exactly how many millions in anything they publish, but take our word, it's a lot!). If we were to use that money to replace the taxes we know citizens are paying (especially property taxes, of course), then Mr. Loza and his ilk could actually reduce taxes on the city's residents.
I bet we suckers could generate some economic activity with those dollars, or is buying Shiner Bock and pickup trucks less economically beneficial than fancy wines and Mercedes?
David B. Canine
After reading the article in the Dallas Observer titled "The cats of war" [November 20], I became so incensed by the lack of accurate information and the trivialization of major fraud, mismanagement, and misappropriation on the part of the former director of Texas Exotic Feline Foundation that I felt compelled to write this response.
Your wannabe writer should be writing for publications that have sightings of Elvis, pictures of Martians, and the latest escapades of Michael Jackson on its cover. This is not a serious, documented, researched article. The sub-title states, "Did the punishment fit the crime?" I submit to you that, without attending the two-week trial held before a jury in Austin and prosecuted by the attorney general's office, or at least reading the transcript of said trial, no one should feel competent to judge that issue.
One of the people quoted, Fred Brodsky, stated that the defendant [Gene] Reitnauer's "mistakes she made were done out of ignorance, not out of malice." Let me give you a few facts. The jury found Reitnauer guilty of breaching her fiduciary duties as an officer of TEFF; committing constructive fraud; committing fraud against the Texas public and TEFF; unjust enrichment; converting property of TEFF; and engaging in false, misleading, or deceptive acts. The jury also found that the harm to TEFF resulted from malice or fraud and that the harm to the Texas public resulted from malice or fraud.
Reitnauer, after a hearing taking several months in front of a different judge here in Dallas in another case, had sanctions imposed on her for destruction of computer records and Waiver of Liability forms of TEFF, the order further stating that this destruction of evidence was done with the intent to impair its availability as evidence in an official proceeding of the court and that her conduct of destroying evidence directly related to her actions to destroy Louis Dorfman's ability to prove alleged financial improprieties.
Reitnauer also admitted in sworn testimony that she tried to get her ex-husband to physically threaten myself and another plaintiff, that she committed forgery of a note, and that she gave false information under oath in an official government document.
I think the above shows quite a bit more than the fact that "she was not a bookkeeper," as stated by one of her supporters in the article as being her only mistake. Two judges and a jury found Reitnauer guilty of serious misdeeds that were quite a bit more than "mistakes out of ignorance."
The characterization that Reitnauer and I "had a series of spats" completely misstates the circumstances. What I did state to her was that it was imperative that TEFF have an independent board of directors as required by the nonprofit statutes under which TEFF operated, that professional rules and procedures be established, and that the land under the cages and improvements of TEFF be taken out of her name and put in the name of the foundation as it should be. Her response was that no one would ever tell her how to run her foundation. The article in question completely misstates the facts when it says "the Reitnauers never hid the fact the majority of the cages...were built on property they owned." I didn't know it until after I had paid for one cage and paid half of the cost of another for a total of over $30,000. [Gene] Reitnauer's own sworn testimony is that the Dallas Zoo wasn't told, even thought they paid for a cage.
The issues raised here are important ones. If people such as myself can't contribute to charities with the confidence that our money is being spent for the purpose for which the charity is established and that the charity is being run in accordance with established criteria, we won't give money, or at least not as much. I now submit to your readers, what punishment does fit the crimes committed by Reitnauer against the people of Texas, the donors of TEFF, and the animals that are innocent victims of arrogance, deceit, misappropriation of money due them, and the charity established for their benefit?
Editor's note: Many of the points Mr. Dorfman raises were reported in Ann Zimmerman's January 2 cover story on the Texas Exotic Feline Foundation, "Cat fight."
I wish to compliment you, and Muriel Sims, on the article about our aunt, Marilu Dennis ["Nobody noticed," November 13].
The integrity of Ms. Sims is appreciated. We talked a dozen or more times. Her investigative reporting was accurate and professional.
I have sent a photocopy of her story to my relatives, and again congratulate you, and Ms. Sims.
Mary Lou Dennis
The "Stained glass" piece by Ms. [Ann] Zimmerman [November 27] is an embarrassment to its author and to the Observer, which has in the past shown some talent for investigative reporting. If Zimmerman wants to play the role of historian in the future, then she better learn the rules that govern historical analysis. First of all, consider her sources, all of which remain undocumented: Mr. [Martin] Barkley obviously has a bone to pick with the Sixth Floor Museum, which, according to the article, laid him off. Would he want to embarrass his former employer? Mr. [Aubrey] Mayhew admits, at least in the article, that he was told to stay out of Dallas or face prosecution for arson. His sad tale of abuse at the hands of the city fathers is told in depth by your reporter, who certainly believed his story about owning the "original" sniper's perch window that no one except Mr. Mayhew seems to have seen during all these years.
Now, let's get down to the boring facts; sorry, but historians rely on them. First of all, the Sixth Floor Museum is not a mouthpiece for the Warren Commission. The issue of conspiracy is covered in the display. If Ms. Zimmerman had studied the exhibits, she would realize that one of the official investigations concluded that the assassination was a part of a conspiracy. The museum is named the Sixth Floor because that is its location within the assassination site. The name has nothing at all to do with acting alone or Oswald.
Second, Ms. Zimmerman's assertion that the window on loan from the Byrd family is "likely...an impostor" is based on thin air. Her ignorance about the assassination shows clearly; she seems to think that the sniper's perch was a window, when in fact it was the entire southeastern corner, consisting of two windows, flooring, brick, pipes, and boxes. She quotes Mr. Mayhew as stating that windows from the north side of the sixth floor were used to replace the originals; I gave Zimmerman that information, and she must have passed it on to Mayhew.
Zimmerman has decided to dismiss the authenticity of the Byrd window based on differences that appear in two photographs of the sniper's perch that date near the time of the assassination. She does not allow for the fact that the window was removed from the building, taken to another location, and framed for display there; the artifact was out of pocket for nearly three decades, during which time cleaning or repairs could have been made. The weight of the evidence--the history of ownership, the video interview with Byrd and the employee who removed a window, previous eyewitness accounts of those who saw the window on display in Colonel Byrd's home--still points to authenticity.
The reporter's account of my early dealings with Caruth Byrd contains errors. I knew of a window in the Byrd family from Joe Dealey, Sr. and Lindalyn Adams, both of whom had seen the window on display in Col. Byrd's home. I was contacted by Caruth Byrd in 1988, and asked him to send photographs, measurements, and other proof; he did not respond, so I let the matter drop. In 1988, Laura Miller was working on an article about the window and she, not I, actually saw the Byrd window in storage in Dallas. I never saw it until I examined it in person in 1994 at his ranch in Van, before it was loaned to the Sixth Floor Museum.
Mr. Mayhew's story that he had bad dealings with me is surprising, since copies of all my correspondence are in the archives at the museum, and the tone was professional throughout. He wrote, I wrote back and asked for photos, measurements, the standard proof required by historians. He did not send any proof. He never told me whether he had two windows or only one. We had a telephone conversation later where he stated that the sale of the window would be a part of a larger collection, and that the price for all of it was $250,000 (as he states in the article) for 300,000 objects. We were interested in the window, less interested in the other artifacts. Perhaps Mr. Mayhew resented the fact that I asked for proof; this is standard procedure in the museum profession. Remember, I asked for the same from Caruth Byrd.
The reporter quotes Mayhew as having an affidavit attesting to the fact that Col. Byrd had the wrong window removed from the sixth floor, but again, Ms. Zimmerman did not see the affidavit. This is news, since Mayhew never mentioned any such proof during our correspondence in 1988. In any event, there must be a mistake, since the southwestern window is still intact on the sixth floor.
I know that Mr. Mayhew came to Dallas during the time that Ms. Zimmerman was preparing her article, and that he visited the Sixth Floor Museum. I know that he was invited to contact Dr. Marian Ann Montgomery, the head of interpretation for the museum, but declined to do so. He has declined to let her come to Nashville to visit him, and now states that the mysterious missing window is residing in Detroit. I invite your reporter to look up the definition of "interpretation," if she is unfamiliar with the term, and might remind her that her dismissal of Dr. Montgomery's title as "creepy" was juvenile. She quotes Oliver Stone's movie, so I'll quote Stone: "History is too important to be left to newsmen." According to the rules of our profession, Mr. Mayhew must be given to his claims. He should not take this personally; it is simply the rules.
Ms. Zimmerman should have let the Sixth Floor Museum continue its quiet investigation into the matter of the window. There has been no attempt to defraud the public; an article about the windows was published by the media in 1988, the window on loan from Mr. Byrd has an excellent provenance, and there is no evidence to suggest that the Byrd family has failed to act in good faith. Her naive foray into history has, I fear, retarded the museum's attempts to deal constructively with Mr. Mayhew and deliberately misled the public.
Former Project Director/Chief Curator
Sixth Floor Museum
Editor's note: Ms. Hunt did indeed get a call from Caruth Byrd in 1988--not 1987, as the Observer reported, and she did not see the window until 1994, when Byrd agreed to loan it to the Sixth Floor Museum. We regret the errors.
The rest of Ms. Hunt's arguments are matters of interpretation.
Thank you so much for doing the recent story on the Walt Whitman school ["School's out," November 13]. That school means so much to those young gay and lesbian students who feel that they cannot be themselves in other institutions of learning. At Walt Whitman they feel safe--physically and emotionally.
In that article, I was given credit for DISD's adding sexual orientation to its non-harassment policy. However, I only played a small part in that; I did speak to the DISD board requesting that sexual orientation be added. But Cece Cox and Steve Atkinson from the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance were the driving forces behind it.
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Thanks again for doing a story on the Walt Whitman school.
I appreciate Jimmy Fowler's wonderful article on the Walt Whitman School and its students. However, I must correct an inaccuracy in the story that attributed the work done to secure passage of an anti-harassment policy by the Dallas school board to only two people: DISD trustee Jose Plata and Pat Stone, co-president of the Dallas Chapter of PFLAG. The driving force for inclusion of language in the school district policy that would protect people based on sexual orientation was actually the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (DGLA). Trustee Plata worked with us on the issue.
DGLA has successfully worked to protect and advance the rights of lesbians and gay men for the past 20 years. It is important that people understand the key role DGLA plays in these battles since we are--as is true for most nonprofit organizations--always working to raise needed funds and keep a strong volunteer base. Please be sure your publication gives credit where it is due when you include such facts in your stories.