With all the anger and frustration Philip Kingston has caused his colleagues during his four years on the Dallas City Council, his critics around the horseshoe weren't going to miss an opportunity to get in their licks when they could. And on Wednesday, with Kingston facing city ethics charges because of a campaign ad filmed in his City Hall office, they got their chance.
Kingston's issues stem from a complaint filed by Barry Jacobs, a retired attorney. After seeing Kingston's Facebook ad encouraging potential donors to attend a fundraiser at Urbano Cafe in East Dallas, Jacobs noticed that the ad appeared to be filmed at Kingston's City Hall desk, an apparent violation of Dallas' prohibition on officeholders using city property for campaign purposes.
"It's politics 101. You don't do your campaigning from your government office," Jacobs said Wednesday. "Everybody knows that. I knew it. He put the ad up, and I said, 'My God, that's not right.'"
Last month, the City Council's Ethics Advisory Board took up Jacobs' complaint, eventually recommending — during a hearing that, to the consternation of the board, Kingston did not attend — that he receive a reprimand from the city. With the board's recommendation, it was up to Kingston's colleagues on the City Council to decide his official punishment.
Before council debate on his punishment, Kingston issued a brief apology. "This is a stupid mistake, and I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you. I'll see you after lunch," he said, before recusing himself from the debate.
After Kingston left the council chambers, North Dallas council representative Lee Kleinman moved that the council should censure Kingston and require him to complete ethics training, a punishment one step above the reprimand recommended by the advisory board. Kleinman said that Kingston's behavior after the Ethics Advisory Board meeting, including his failure to remove the video from Facebook — Kingston left the video up throughout the process, finally removing it from his campaign Facebook page Wednesday — merited the more stringent punishment.
"Clearly, the Facebook post stayed up, had many more views," Kleinman said. "Never, during the hearing or since then, have we heard an apology, have we heard anybody say this was a mistake until today, until the sentencing. ... It's really upsetting to me that there's no apology, no remorse, and there's just a clear disregard for the the recommendations of the EAC."
Dwaine Caraway took things a few steps further, accusing King
ston of being hypocrite because Kingston opposed giving council members offices in their home districts on the grounds that they would become campaign outposts. The council eventually voted not to include the district offices, which would've cost about $250,000, in the city's just-passed bond package.
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"It was insulting to me when we were talking about our district offices, Mr. Kingston led a charge to say that we were going to use our district offices for campaigning," Caraway boomed. "That's what he said. That's what some of you council members bought into — the fact that we in the southern part of Dallas were going to use our district offices for campaign purposes. He said it, and he put it into you all's minds."
Kingston's allies on the City Council accused those seeking censure of playing politics with the city's ethics policy. "If, at the council level, we start censuring people and changing things because, frankly, we just don't like them, which is what this is, you go down a path we don't come back from," council member Mark Clayton said. "I have always said I like my job six days a week, and then I come [to council meetings on Wednesdays] because this is not a nice group. It's politics."
Eventually, after Caraway said Kingston had been "been publicly admonished pretty good," the council voted to split the difference. Kingston got a reprimand, not a censure, but he will have to undergo additional ethics training.
Jacobs said he's happy he filed his complaint. "I'm glad that this was brought into the open. I'm glad that the council has weighed in on it," he said. "I hope that he's learned his lesson."