In the '08 Obama/Clinton primary election, it was clear we had two Democratic Parties in Dallas County. We had the one that won that election -- the smart Obamacrats. And then we had the losers, the Dallas County Demacrooks, the usual suspects, the ones who took all that Clinton money but didn't do squat to run a campaign for her because they were too lazy, stupid and greedy to get off their asses.
I've been wondering which one would come out on top, now that the county and the courthouse are solid majority Democrat. Now I know. What a mess.
I'm talking about the political assassination of Bruce Sherbet, the county elections administrator for 24 years. Sherbet is an honest, straight-up guy, very smart, with huge moral integrity and backbone. He has always done the right thing in a job where sooner or later almost everybody he works for wants him to do the wrong thing.
So last week our new Democratic County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price succeeded in running him off. Jenkins, an inarticulate knuckle-under hey-boy for Price, offered some asinine story about how he never wanted to fire Sherbet. He just wanted to subject him to a "performance review."
Yeah. Have you ever had a performance review at your job that you didn't get to attend? And at the end of it they vote whether to fire you?
I can't believe Jenkins couldn't come up with a better story than that. In fact, the only debate I am having with myself over this whole thing is this: Was this a case of monumental stupidity or monumental arrogance?
Did someone think he could get rid of Sherbet behind the scenes, without anyone noticing? Or did someone just not give a rat's ass?
I'm going with the rat's-ass theory, and my best candidate for rat's ass is Price. When Price was working to sabotage the inland port project, the huge warehouse and transportation center that was the single best opportunity for employment and prosperity black Southern Dallas has ever seen, he didn't give a rat's ass if his own constituents caught him at it. He doesn't think his constituents are smart enough to figure out that Price was foot-dragging on the port while his friends lined up to get a cut of the deal.
Price cares about two things: Price and money.
So here's a promise. Watch. This Sherbet thing is going to be about Price and money. At some point before the May elections, the county is going to take up a new set of contracts having to do with those elections -- machines, ballot printing, consulting, I don't know yet. Something.
And the Demacrooks are going to have a very big sleazy interest in seeing that those contracts go one way or the other. It's just the kind of thing they couldn't have pulled off with Sherbet in office, because Sherbet is honest and is capable of standing up to them.
I called Price and Jenkins. Price didn't call back -- surprise! -- and I missed Jenkins's assistant's call at the end of the day.
To get an idea of the sort of class acts we're dealing with at the courthouse, though, consider this bit of news: Sherbet's letter of resignation had him out the door March 1, though he'd offered to stay through the May mayoral election.
That wasn't quick enough for him to be gone to someone.
On Monday, Sherbet said he'd gone to the the warehouse in Hutchins, where the voting machines are stored, to meet with the workers out there and explain to them what went down.
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"I owed it to the warehouse guys," Sherbet says. "I told them, any credit I got was because of them. We sat in a circle and had a talk, and it was warm and kind. It closed that chapter."
Then, Darryl Martin, the commissioners court administrator, called Sherbet and told him the county would pay him through March 1. Sherbet asked him, "You'll pay me not to come in, right?" Martin told him that was right -- as far as Dallas County was concerned, he was done. Said it was for the best. Things between Sherbet and his former second-in-command, Toni Pippens-Poole, might be "uncomfortable" during the transition. Sherbet hung up.
Not long after that, two guys from the warehouse showed up at his front door with boxes full of his belongings.
"I'm kinda numb to it at this point," Sherbet says. "I knew I wouldn't be able to come back in. The good news is I don't have to pack up my office anymore. They did it for me."