City Hall

Former Dallas City Council Member Carolyn Davis Pleads Guilty to Bribery Charges

Update: 12:49 p.m. — Ruel Hamilton's attorney, Abbe David Lowell, issued the following statement:

“Prosecutors make mistakes all the time. Today, they added to the list by staging a set-up to trap and then bring charges against my client Ruel Hamilton. People in this city know Ruel to be a pillar of the community, a fierce advocate for civil rights and fairness to working people and an honest man. When this case is heard and the truth is known, Mr. Hamilton will be exonerated and we will look forward to our day in court to defend him.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that he was grateful for the federal investigation:

“I join my fellow Dallas residents today in a shared sense of despair over a former council member’s betrayal of the public trust. I’m also sick and tired of the vultures who lurk around City Hall in search of corruptible public officials. There is no place in our government for those who cheat the good people of Dallas by offering bribes, just as there is no place for those who accept them."

Original story — Longtime Fair Park and South Dallas City Council member Carolyn Davis accepted more than $40,000 in bribes in exchange for her support of a low-income housing project. According to a federal plea agreement unsealed Friday morning, prosecutors and Davis' legal team have agreed to a three-year prison term. Without a plea, Davis faced five years for conspiring to commit bribery. Davis also could face a fine of up to $250,000.

Davis told federal authorities she took cash from Dallas developer Ruel Hamilton in exchange for her support of Hamilton's Royal Crest Apartment complex development near Interstate 45 and Illinois Avenue. Hamilton, who has also been indicted by the feds, wrote checks to a third party, according to court documents. That third party then gave cash to Davis.

Hamilton made the payments between November 2013 and March 2015, federal officials allege. Davis held up her end of the bargain, helping Hamilton's project get a recommendation from the City Council housing committee she chaired. Hamilton's project received $168,000 from the city and a $2.5 million loan from the Dallas Housing Finance Corp.

Hamilton also is charged with paying another Dallas City Council member $7,000 in exchange for help getting a referendum item onto Dallas' November 2018 ballot. While that City Council member is only identified as "Council Member A" in court documents, a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas' office says that "Council Member A" left the council last Aug. 9.

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway resigned from office that day after pleading guilty to bribery charges in a separate federal case.

"It's important to recognize that when citizens of Dallas cast their ballots, they should be able to trust that their elected officials will act in the citizens' best interest," U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said at a news conference. "We know this doesn't always happen, and sadly we've seen this conduct happen in Dallas too much."

According to city records, Hamilton has made campaign contributions of at least $1,000 to eight council members since 2015, including current members Casey Thomas, Carolyn Arnold, Kevin Felder, Scott Griggs, Philip Kingston and Tennell Atkins.

Neither Hamilton nor Davis' attorney, Scottie Allen, immediately responded to request for comment Friday morning.