Anatomy of a smear

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Nash and Page had toured the Las Lomas complex, checked crime statistics, and concluded that the partnership had turned things around. "As the S.A.F.E. team operates, you open and work cases against properties, not the people," Page says. "But that's not what happened here. Somebody on the S.A.F.E team had a problem with Stolarski. One sergeant up there saw him as the devil incarnate. They saw his name, and they said, 'We have to be against this.'"

The second part of the accusation against Page evaporated after Sanders pulled the court records and checked out the fate of code violation tickets issued to Stolarski, who says he owned or managed about seven "very low-income" properties over the years. "I don't know who I fought more, the drug dealers or the S.A.F.E. team or the owners," Stolarski says. "I quit that business. It was too much trouble, and I can tell you there isn't a lot of money in it. Nobody was getting rich."

There were 27 citations -- including traffic tickets -- issued to Stolarski between 1994 and 1999, the detective found. Ten were dismissed because they were written to the wrong defendant, records show, and 10 more were dismissed on the recommendation of code inspectors. Of the rest, two were guilty pleas and two resulted in probation. Once again, the evidence hints more at poor investigative work -- writing tickets to the wrong owners -- than at a problem with Page.

Sanders also talked with two lawyers, Assistant City Attorney Jackie Middlebrooks, who had been Page's supervisor at the time of her leave, and Stewart, who knew more about major code violators than anyone. Both told Sanders that in their experience, the S.A.F.E. team did not always provide Page with needed information to properly prosecute the citations. Stewart was particularly critical of one of the administrative sergeants on the S.A.F.E. team, saying he was difficult to work with.

So much for the case. That was all Sanders would learn about the Stolarski business, his notes and final report show. But the S.A.F.E. team was cooking up more trouble for Page.

If there was any question that Hearn and perhaps others in her unit were spinning the facts to implicate Page in wrongdoing, the Gregory Moore episode lays most doubts to rest. Sanders' investigative log shows that on his second day on the case, Hearn told him that Moore, an Old East Dallas apartment owner, had called the S.A.F.E. offices and "related he had received a phone call from Robin regarding his citations. Mr. Moore said Robin told him she needed to meet with him 'off the record.'"

"No, no, no. That's not the way it happened at all," said Moore recently as he dug through his extensive files on the matter at his Oak Lawn townhouse.

Moore had called Page -- and just about anyone else in the police and city attorney's office hierarchy who would listen to him -- but his purpose had nothing to do with secret meetings or suggestions of payola. He wanted to talk about various transgressions by the S.A.F.E. team, including procedures and notices that to him smacked of Gestapo tactics.

Producing signed statements from tenants, Moore says the S.A.F.E. team showed up at his eight-unit apartment at 613 N. Henderson St. and demanded that they be allowed in "or we will smash down your door." No search warrants had been issued or produced, and, anyway, this was a code violation visit, not a drug raid. The city later informed Moore by letter that it was relying on a lone drug arrest -- which turned out to be for a small amount of marijuana -- when it decided that Moore's apartment building was a public nuisance in need of intensive, in-your-face policing and door-to-door searches for bad floors and leaking pipes.

Beyond that, the S.A.F.E. team's written notice to Moore -- dated in August 1998 -- speaks volumes about the sloppiness of its investigative work into property ownership, the very thing Page and her city attorney colleagues had been complaining about. In opening its investigation on August 21, the S.A.F.E. team left a letter addressed to "Manager, 613 North Haskell...Dear Sir/Maam..." It said the building on Henderson Street was being targeted because "of allegations being made about illicit activity and/or hazardous code violations occurring on the premises you own at 1825 Park Avenue, commonly known as the Up Town Motel #2."

Moore was flummoxed. "I don't own the Up Town Motel #2. I have no connection to it. I've never been there." He says he tried to make these things clear to anyone in the city bureaucracy who would return his calls -- and few would.

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec