As we told you yesterday, Willis Johnson is lobbying Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway on behalf of Concessions International in an attempt to secure the company lucrative concession contacts at D/FW Airport -- at least, according to Johnson and the lobbyist registration form he filed with the city. Johnson, one of Mayor Tom Leppert's top consultants, denied that Atlanta-based Concessions International has any interest in jumping into the bidding for contracts at Love Field, which Leppert is aiming to open up. Leppert denied knowledge of Johnson's affiliation with Concessions International.
So why lobby Caraway, who doesn't sit on the D/FW board?
"He had a board appointee," Johnson told Unfair Park via e-mail.
The situation got really interesting when Caraway phoned Unfair Park editor Robert Wilonsky shouting "bullcorn" regarding Caraway's connection to the story, claiming his meeting with Johnson wasn't about the D/FW concessions. It was about the upcoming wet-dry referendum.
When I e-mailed Johnson to clear up the matter, it only raised more questions.
"I stand by my statement that I met with Mr. Caraway," Johnson replied. "We met on a series of issues, and one of those issues was concessions at DFW and that my client had no interest in all of the things that were going on at Love Field. I mentioned that to him because of his involvement in the issue and the fact that he was the council person that pushed for a DFW appointee last year. So to be in compliance with the city ordinance, I listed him as a the council member I talked to on behalf of my client."
Caraway nominated two D/FW board appointees last year: Brenda Reyes, another one of Leppert's consultants, and Betty Culbreath, who's also close with Johnson. Seems odd that Johnson would lobby Caraway to get to someone he already knows well, so I asked him: "Is Brenda Reyes the D/FW board appointee you are referring to?"
That was at 7:44 last night. There's been no response.
I called Culbreath to find out if she was the one. "Why would Willis lobby Dwaine instead of coming directly to me?" she said.
She describes Johnson as a meet-and-greet consultant who tells it like it is.
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"He fell into this politics business all quite by accident," she says.
Our conversation was also prompted by her blog post last week about the issue, in which she defended Leppert and Johnson before the connection had been exposed. Here's a taste of Culbreath's (edited) post:
Mayor Leppert is not carrying water for anyone or [any] business by the action he is taking on the Love Field concession contract.
Mayor Leppert's service on DFW Board gives him knowledge of how airports operate. He has an interest in everything being done correct[ly] and without questions of fairness and integrity. People on one side of the issue have accused the Mayor of trying to help certain Minority business people from Atlanta gain entrance to opportunities in Dallas, [and] nothing could be f[u]rther from the truth. The economy has caused all real business people to seek opportunities where ever they are.
This can only get better, can't it?