According to court documents filed yesterday (copy below), the State Fair of Texas wants to make a legal issue out of the fact that I called them “moneyed gray-hairs and blue-beards from the Park Cities.”
In a motion asking that State District Judge Staci Williams remove herself from an open-records lawsuit, the fair argues that my article, which she re-tweeted, was “a polemical piece, taking one side of the dispute, … replete with exaggerations, distortions, and outright falsehoods.”
Before I get into the weeds on this, I need to say this much right at the top. As for my calling the state fair board “moneyed gray-hairs and blue-beards from the Park Cities,” I don’t even know what that means.
Yes, yes, it’s true, I called them that. But what does it mean? I wasn’t calling them criminals, for God’s sake. I did say they had gray hair, but I didn’t say it was bad hair. I said they were moneyed. I rest my case on that one.
Now, “blue-beards” might be another matter. Maybe I went too far with that. When we talk about people from the Park Cities, that would include women, and certainly I did not mean to say that women from the Park Cities have blue beards. Not very many. And not that there’s anything wrong with that. I do wish I had phrased that part of it more subtly.
But – and we’ll get into the legal issues here in a second – let me ask you something: Would people from Garland go to court because some guy in the paper called them blue-beards? Would people from DeSoto hire lawyers and make a big case out of it? No. They’d be embarrassed. They would feel silly going to court over that.
We all know the real answer here. Only people from the Park Cities, our blue-chip enclave suburbs, would make a court case out of the fact that somebody called them moneyed gray-hairs and blue-beards.
The State Fair of Texas board of directors is heavily populated by persons of Park Cities extraction. And so here we have it, a bunch of moneyed gray-hairs and blue-beards from the Park Cities, whatever that means, members of the State Fair board of directors, all of them running around flapping their hands doing the hully-gully about it. And I rest my case again.
The story in question, called, “Take an embarrassing peek into the love between the State Fair of Texas and Fair Park,” ran last June and laid out, among other things, a series of internal communications between the previous CEO of the fair, Errol McKoy, and former Dallas Parks and Recreation Director Paul Dyer. In the emails, McKoy basically asks Dyer for $4.5 million in un-budgeted city money, and Dyer basically says OK, you got it. Easy.
The point was to show the kind of power the moneyed blue-hairs and gray-beards on the fair board have over quaking smirking city officials. Even though the fair is a tenant at Fair Park and City Hall is the landlord, you’d think it was the other way around. The gray-hairs at the fair can make city officials wet themselves and bulimicly up-chuck $4.5 million by snapping their fingers at them.
The lawsuit in question has been bouncing around the state court system for the better part of two years. An Austin law firm, probably acting at the behest of Dallas philanthropist Don Williams, made a series of open records demands of the State Fair based on reports of financial and other improprieties.
The State Fair, in typical fashion, didn’t want to give up a shred of anything. But rather than resist the requests the normal way by asking for an attorney general’s opinion, the State Fair hired lawyers and sued the law firm making the request.
Judge Williams, who heard the suit, eventually ruled against the State Fair and then fined the fair, saying their suit was a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” or “SLAPP” suit. A SLAPP suit, under Texas law, is a bogus lawsuit filed to bully an opponent into submission by running up legal costs rather than obey state and federal law governing access to public information.
After a trip up to the appeals court, the lawsuit was sent back to Williams’ court recently, where, as I had more or less predicted in my article, the state fair tried to kill its own suit. Why? Because in order to try the suit in Williams’ court, state fair officials were finally going to have to put their hands on a Bible and start answering some questions – the one thing they don’t ever want to do.
But the law firm they were suing, Riggs & Ray of Austin, out-swifted them. Riggs & Ray jumped back into court at the last moment and filed motions that kept the lawsuit alive.
So now we arrive at now. The State Fair wants Williams to recuse herself or be removed from the case because she retweeted my article, which, you know, was bipolar and extremist and full of outright falsehoods. Their argument is that a judge who would retweet an article making such blatantly false statements about Park Cities persons cannot be trusted to render a fair judgment in the case.
By the way, as soon as I saw the motion, I immediately wrote to Bryan P. Neal at Thompson & Knight, the lawyer whose name is on the motion, asking about those falsehoods: “If we were to leave the exaggerations and distortions for a chat on some other day,” I said, “would it be at possible – would you have time? – to send me at least one of the outright falsehoods so that I can include it in my report?”
Neal answered me: "Given the basis of State Fair’s motion and that it is pending, it would be inappropriate to respond at this time. Once this matter is concluded we will be happy to answer your question."
Meanwhile there is a falsehood in Mr. Neal’s motion, but I don’t know that I would call it outright. I think Mr. Neal’s falsehood is more sneaky than outright. He talks about a binder of internal communications that I said in my article I had received anonymously. He calls it “an anonymous ‘binder’ that the article’s writer discovers was admittedly put together by Riggs & Ray’s anonymous client,” whom we all know by now to be Don Williams.
So Neal manages to make it sound as if Williams or some minion of his slipped me the binder. I said this in the story, and I need to say it again here: the binder was compiled by Williams, but the copy I got did not come from Williams. Williams agreed only reluctantly to discuss the information in it with me, then only after I had prodded him by saying I had the binder in my possession and intended to write about it anyway.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Mr. Neal is perfectly welcome to consider me a liar. I can’t do anything about that. But the binder did not come from Williams, and I do not believe he had anything to do with my getting it.
And, look, what’s the bottom line here? We have this huge 277-acre park, Fair Park, that lies idle, dormant, a wasteland most of the year, paralyzed by the iron grip around its neck of the State Fair, its prime tenant. The State Fair is able to maintain that grip because its board of directors is populated by a bunch of moneyed gray-hairs and blue-beards from the Park Cities.
But, oh my gosh, oh my golly, whatever you do, don’t call them a bunch of moneyed gray-hairs and blue-beards from the Park Cities! Oh, no, if you do that, they will sue you and weep and wail and do the hully-gully, which, by the way, is precisely how you would expect a bunch of moneyed gray-hairs and blue-beards from the Park Cities to behave. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, for the last time I rest my case.