At a mid-afternoon press conference dealing with the blizzard of guilty verdicts earlier today for five defendants in the Dallas City Hall corruption case, U.S. Attorney Jim Jacks of the Northern District of Texas seemed to wag a cautionary finger in the direction of Dallas voters:
"At the end of the day," Jacks said in prepared remarks, "the citizens of a community are the ones that ultimately decide what type of government they will have in that community."
So what type have we got?
"Through this lengthy investigation and subsequent trial, the government presented compelling evidence showing that an elected official and many of those non-elected officials working around him sought to use that position as a means to line their own pockets at the expense of the public."
Jacks seemed to throw the citizens a bone for the verdicts, which he said show "that the citizens of this community do not want a government where the game is rigged and the people in positions of power seek to further their own interests before that of the citizens they are supposed to be serving."
Unfair Park would observe, however, that it was the jurors who found former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill guilty. The citizens of Dallas elected him to office five times in a row.
Unfair Park asked Marcus Busch, the lead trial attorney for the government, about repeated suggestions by the defense that the government practiced a double standard by not investigating and charging former Mayor Laura Miller in relation to campaign contributions she received from one of the contractors who confessed to paying Hill bribes.
Busch pretty much jumped on it.
"There is no inconsistency," he said. "There was nothing improper about former Mayor Laura Miller's campaign contributions that she received."
He went on...
"I think you will recall from her testimony that she was precise in reporting campaign contributions, that there was even a contribution for one dollar listed in her campaign finance disclosure form."
And on ...
"So she was never a person who was anything other than an important fact witness in this case. The defense aspersions to the contrary, there was nothing unusual or improper about her campaign contributions."
He paused, and somebody was about to ask the next question, but he went on ...
"So there was no inconsistency whatsoever."
"It's not even in the same ballpark."
O.K. Well then. We guess we got that one off our chests.
Not to be outdone, Mayor Tom Leppert just issued this statement. For those keeping track at home, Leppert fought hard for Hill's endorsement (and got it) during the 2007 mayoral runoff against Ed Oakley.
The judicial process has taken its course and the jury has delivered its decision. A difficult chapter in our city's history has closed.
This ordeal reminds all of us -- as public servants -- to be mindful that everything we do lives up to both the spirit and letter of the law. Our citizens deserve and expect nothing less.
Almost two years ago, we embarked on a series of reforms designed to lift the ethical standards of public servants and improve the transparency of our city government. Those included clear reporting standards on gifts, travel, meals and tickets, as well as electronic reporting and searchable Internet access to campaign finance disclosure reports.
In the coming weeks, we will resume consideration of additional reform proposals to address some of the issues raised either during the course of this case or as other situations have come up. Those will include proposed rules covering lobbying and how the Council handles zoning cases.
This Council is committed to ensuring that the public has confidence in its city government. And every day, each of us works to make sure that confidence is well deserved.
Mayor Tom Leppert
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