One of the problems newshounds face when writing about scandalous or bizarre behavior by elected officials is that the reporting tends to drive the more entertaining politicos out of office. That's good for government, but bad for the muckraking business. (Buzz once worked in a city where the mayor's race was between a competent, but dull, councilman and a colorful, if slightly nuts, challenger. When asked who he was going to vote for, a columnist at the paper said he was "going to vote his wallet"--that is, for the nut.)
All this is a wordy way of saying that Buzz is going to be mighty blue when we don't have Dan Peavy to kick around anymore. Luckily, that day hasn't come just yet.
The former Dallas public schools trustee was back in court this week for a hearing on WFAA-Channel 8's motion to compel Peavy to cooperate with the station's attempts to depose him. Last week, Peavy stormed out of a session in which he was being deposed by Channel 8 lawyers for a lawsuit that Peavey initiated against the television station.
Peavy alleges that Channel 8 reporter Robert Riggs invaded his privacy by broadcasting a series about Peavy's alleged acceptance of kickbacks when he negotiated insurance contracts for the school district. Peavy says that in order to produce the stories, Riggs invaded his privacy by listening to the infamous tapes of Peavy's intercepted telephone conversations.
At the hearing, Vinson & Elkins attorney William D. Sims, representing Channel 8, brought in giant placards displaying some of the wit and wisdom of Dan Peavy--excerpts from the aborted deposition. It's classic Peavy, the sort of stuff that has earned him a place in Buzz's wicked heart. Some highlights:
Peavy on kickbacks (he was acquitted late last year on federal charges of bribery): "I feel pretty good about kickbacks myself. I don't have a problem with it, because I earned that money."
On the veracity of Channel 8's stories concerning the alleged kickbacks: "Whether it's true or false, I don't care."
On the possible damages caused by the Channel 8 stories: "I'm damaged because I'm sitting here having to listen to these tapes." (Snippets of the Peavy tapes were played during the depositions, which are sealed.)
On Peavy's deposition strategies: "It's my job not to recall."
Peavy on the deposition in general: "What's the purpose of all these [blank-blank] questions?"
Sims commented at one point (and we think we would agree), "Mr. Peavy lives in a different world than most folks do."
Yes, but we hope the former opera singer and schoolteacher isn't planning on heading back to Planet Bizarro anytime soon.
But John Wiley Price doesn't
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price has a mind to go where U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins and the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice fear to tread.
"We have no alternative," Price insists, complaining that federal prosecutors have characteristically dropped the ball. "I've had enough dealings with them," he says, to know when they've quit.
Backed by a coalition of African-American church ministers, Price says, he has been talking to a number of lawyers, including well-known class-action activist Steve Gardner, about pursuing some kind of civil rights litigation stemming from the evidence available on the Peavy Tapes.
Some of the fortunate few who have listened to the tapes, which have never been made public, claim that Peavy is heard discussing with former trustee Sandy Kress ways to limit the influence of black DISD board members.
Price concedes his strategy is only sketchy now. How, for instance, will Price's group get access to the tapes, which are all under court-ordered seals at the moment?
"I'm not at liberty to say much," Price says, "but we're talking to a lot of people who are offering assistance."
Maybe Price knows the name of a good second-story man who can "liberate" the tapes from the courthouse. If so, we hope he remembers his lifelong friends here at the Dallas Observer.
Just don't call me Al
OK, Buzz admits that we have been less than diligent in following the foofaraw over campaign financing that has enthralled Washington, D.C., over the past few months. That's the price we pay for having a life, we suppose.
But in Austin, where politics is life, the controversy apparently has been taken a little more to heart. How else to explain the wordy message Gov. George W. Bush's communications director Karen Hughes left on our answering machine?
"I am returning your call," she said, "Karl [Rove, an outside political consultant] told me it was related to the campaign, so I am calling from the campaign line in my state office." Hughes went on to say that Buzz could call her or her assistant at the campaign office. If Buzz called her, Hughes stressed, she "would take just a few minutes off state time" to respond.
"We take this stuff very seriously," Hughes later explained about her lengthy recording.
In other words, Hughes and her boss are no Al Gore when it comes to maintaining the separation of state and campaign on her government phone lines.
He's walkin', yes indeed
Populist and Republican are not two words you generally see applied together, but then Stan Tungate, a GOP candidate for district clerk, is not your stereotypical well-heeled Republican business-type.
Tungate is running a campaign literally on a shoe-string, plus a little shoe leather. The 33-year-old deputy district clerk, who supervises the office's records department, is spending his evenings and weekends going door-to-door trying to meet as many Republican voters as possible before the March 10 primary. His hope was to visit all 19,000 who voted in the 1996 presidential primary--at a pace of 30 a day after work and 200 to 300 on weekends--in sort of a Victor Morales approach, sans pickup truck.
"I don't like to think of it as unusual, but in this day and age, it seems to be," says Tungate, who adds that the reaction from voters has been "really favorable."
Well, if it's working for Tungate, Buzz figures, maybe the same approach might work for Ross Perot Jr. and Tom Hicks as they try to persuade voters to pony up for a new arena. We figure a little one-on-one from Dallas' wealthy sports gods might do something to slow the spread of "it's a bad deal" signs we've seen sprouting in our neighborhood. (Hint to Ross and Tom: If you do decide to block-walk, wear running shoes. You'll need them.)
Better yet, maybe Perot can fire up his trusty helicopter and offer the same free ride to voters he gave suburban leaders when he was looking for a city dimwitted enough to place this boondoggle on the ballot. One free ride deserves another.
--Compiled from staff reports by Patrick Williams