Tomorrow’s edition of the Dallas Observer will include a story about a series of e-mails that have been in the Observer’s possession since last summer, depicting Lynn Flint Shaw as the enforcer in a tight-knit group called “The Inner Circle.”
The e-mails have been on my desk for some months while I tried to authenticate them. After I was able to establish through a witness that they were legitimate, I began trying to contact Flint Shaw about them in the middle of last week. Yesterday, a few hours before her death, she faxed me a letter confirming that the e-mails were authentic but declining to comment directly on them.
The e-mails are between members of a group of black political figures who helped Tom Leppert get elected mayor last summer and then helped him defeat the Trinity River toll road referendum in the fall. The group was eager to remind Leppert of his indebtedness to them and was determined to closely control access to Leppert by minorities seeking city contracts.
Yesterday I spoke with Rufus Shaw in an attempt to reach his wife for comment on the e-mails. He referred me to Bickel & Brewer, her criminal lawyers. At 4:15 p.m. she faxed me a letter basically confirming that the e-mails were authentic but declining to comment on them.
The e-mails were given to me by a group of respected black residents and activists, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. Their concern was that Leppert, in their view, was undoing decades of efforts to open up minority contracting on a fair, transparent and competitive basis.
The apparent leader of the “Inner Circle” is radio personality Willis Johnson. I attended a contractor’s fair at Dallas Area Rapid Transit on March 1 with hundreds of minority subcontractors sitting on folding chairs in the second floor atrium at DART headquarters hoping to meet prime contractors, who also had been invited.
Leppert was there, but the master of ceremonies was Johnson, who is himself a contractor supplying equipment to DART and to Parkland Hospital. Johnson clearly was presented by both Leppert and by DART CEO Gary Thomas as the man to know if you are a minority contractor seeking work at either DART or the city.
Here are excerpts from the e-mails. --Jim Schutze
An excerpt from the first e-mail:
From: Willis Johnson
Sent: Saturday, July 28 2:36 am
To: (Lynn Flint Shaw)
I really appreciate your concern about the reception on Thursday night. Your friendship is unmeasurable. However the fact that (name withheld) and (name withheld) told you they thought I looked mad was moreso their guilt than my anger. The fact that they told you, that Tom, knows they are the ones that pulled him thru be cause of (name withheld’s) endorsement is insane and they are sadly mistaken, if they think Tom has forgotten their real roles in the campaign.
… material not quoted …
Tom has already demonstrated to me his loyalty. HKS is just a start, I still have to get with Matt at Turner and I meet this week with Chuck at Comerica.
From the second e-mail:
From: Lynn Flint Shaw
Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2007 8:09 am
To: Willis Johnson
(Name deleted) and group get my goad because they have completely and ceremoniously dismissed what you did and your group as not taking Tom over the finish line. BULLSHIT!!!!!!! Tom let them believe that the other night by even showing up and doing what he did. When he did not acknowledge you or your group that got him there, nor (name deleted) nor (name deleted), that was shitty as well. Forget about me. In the large scheme of things, I did what I did because I thought Tom was going to listen, pay heed and be different. Clearly he has not done any of those things. To say I am disappointed is an understatement, especially after the number of conversations I have had with him on this very topic.
From the third e-mail, in its entirety:
From: Lynn Flint Shaw (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2007 9:30 a.m.
To: Tom Leppert (e-mail)
Thanks for breakfast this morning. I know we went over a lot of items but here are the ones most important. 1. Willis is the guy. He is the “go to” person in all things southern sector and African-American. NO ONE AND I MEAN NO ONE should be going around and usurping his authority and that goes for John Price, Don Hill, Royce West, Ron Kirk, or anyone else. They all filter through him. He, Freddie and Rickey are the ones who stood with you when no one else believed. Now that you are elected, everyone does. Well that bandwagon has past it is in Willis’ court. As for Willis pulling you out of Thursday’s meeting, when we all meet on the 7th, we will talk about how Willis gets you out of meetings or whatever.
Remember, the folks down South believe in you because of your message and how you crafted your message down South. That happened because of Willis and his relationships and what he brought to the table. Don and all the rest are trying to go around Willis. You cannot let that happen. Thursday was a mistake. Let’s make sure it the perception (not with Don Hill and group. Pic with Rev. Nash) and those kinds of deals don’t happen again. Remember, you and Willis may not want to say NO on certain items and to certain people but I don’t have that problem.
2. The white paper and the initiative that I talked to you about today needs to be done pretty quickly if you are to get traction on it. News stories like that need to have wings to fly and spread the word. That takes time. Willis needs to help you get that together sooner or later and I will be glad to help. The votes will be decided in the South. We always do. The North will be divided and its up to how you craft the message down South that will help you win this.
3. The info about the foundations, should you use it, needs to be threshed out more but I do think that you should be really talking to all of the foundations about the money they should be giving you to fund initiatives.
4. We did not get to Transit-Oriented Development or Cherokee or what I am doing with Willis but I will fill you in soon.
This is enough on your plate from me today. See you soon. Lynn