The place was called Jim’s Car Wash, and the two operated the business until Dallas shut it down in 2019. Even today, Dale says the property is the cleanest on the street. “I’m a very proud owner,” he said. “I keep everything clean and in 27 years, I never got a ticket for trash or anything like that.”
Now, after more than 16 years of squabbling with the city and its leaders, the Davenports have sued. In the lawsuit, which names a majority of the last City Council as defendants, the Davenports claim Dallas targeted the car wash with “retroactive over-regulation designed to put it out of business under the guise of fighting crime.” This violated the Davenports' rights under the U.S. and state constitutions, according to the lawsuit.
“Since purchasing the car wash until the City forced its closure, the Davenports resisted full participation in the subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions to buy peace by paying off the politically connected,” the lawsuit said.
The suit also names disgraced former council member Dwaine Caraway; the estate of former council member Carolyn Davis (along with Caraway, she accepted bribes from developers); the estate of former council member Leo Chaney Jr.; Jeremy Scroggins, owner of the defunct Hip Hop Government Inc. (which facilitated some of the bribes to Davis, the suit alleges); and former City Council member Diane Ragsdale, founder and managing director of the nonprofit Innercity Community Development Corporation.
In an email, a spokesperson for Dallas said the city attorney's office had no comment.
Dallas had tried to shut Jim’s down for years, saying the car wash was a public nuisance and a hotbed for crime. In June 2019, District Judge Eric Moyé ruled that Jim’s had violated Dallas’ public nuisance law and ordered the business to close.
In 2001, Dallas’ Support Abatement Forfeiture Enforcement (SAFE) team reached out to the Davenports about recurring drug activity at their car wash. Freddy Davenport offered to help the cops set up a sting operation to crack down on this activity, but this suggestion was dismissed.
The next year, a Dallas police officer used mace on a man in Jim’s parking lot. The officer later said the man was resisting arrest, but Dale Davenport testified to the contrary in court. The day after, the lawsuit says, someone shot a bullet through a window at Dale Davenport’s home.
The man accused of resisting arrest was acquitted in part because of Davenport’s testimony. That day, 17 DPD vehicles and 26 officers blocked the car wash's driveway, preventing customers from entering. “The Dallas Police Department’s Internal Affairs refused to take a report of the incident,” according to the lawsuit.
Later testifying under oath, former Dallas police Chief David Kunkle admitted officers had blocked the entrance to Jim’s Car Wash.
"And it is true, and it makes me angry, and it was very unprofessional that we had 11 patrol cars that next day after the verdict that showed up at the car wash," Kunkle said at the time. "The officers parked their cars, and it was clearly in my opinion designed to intimidate and coerce, and it was unprofessional behavior that should never have occurred." (Dale Davenport insists it was actually 17 cop cars).
The city filed for a restraining order against the car wash in 2003. They told the Davenports they needed to improve the safety and security of his property, so he installed some surveillance cameras. That wasn’t good enough for the city. They told Dale he needed to hire a guard service, so he hired two armed guards to patrol the property. But the city wasn’t satisfied with this either. Two guards wasn’t enough, they told him.
In 2004, the city filed a petition against Jim's Car Wash, claiming it was a magnet for crime in the area and required the Davenports to install and maintain fencing around his property and hire security guards to patrol it for at least 42 hours a week.
“People’s property rights are a core tenant of being a Texan, so for those to be impacted, it needs to be an extreme scenario.” – Chad West, Dallas City Council
The Davenports were growing familiar with Dallas’ nuisance laws. In 2006, Dale Davenport provided testimony to two Texas House and Senate investigative committees in Austin that were looking into Dallas’ nuisance laws and claims of selective enforcement.
City leaders at the time told legislators they went after the car wash because people near the business were being found with drugs. But they also had to tell legislators they neglected to nab the crack dealers selling the drugs across the street.
In the investigative committees' final report, members said repeatedly that Dallas can’t blame business owners for crime if the part of the city they’re in is already riddled with it. It was the city’s job to help cure crime in those areas, not the business owners’. They also said the city used these laws to pressure businesses to hire off-duty police officers.
“Underlying the repeated allegations heard by the committees is a recurrent theme of ward-based politics run amok as the selective enforcement of nuisance laws protect politically connected insiders and punish their competitors,” the report said.
Further allegations of misconduct appear in the Report on Joint Interim Study Charge to the 80th Legislature released by the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence & General Investigating and Ethics Committee in March 2006.
That reported likened the criminal nuisance abatement program in Dallas to an extortion racket carried out by City Hall. The committee said the enforcement appeared to be motivated by politics or business competition, alleging that one property would get slammed by DPD, while their neighbors with just as much crime were left alone.
Andy Segal, an attorney with the South Dallas Business Association told Dale Davenport then-councilman Leo Chaney wasn’t happy with his “commitments to the community,” according to the report. Segal advised him to donate $500 to the African American Book Fair, one of Chaney’s projects. Dale Davenport donated the money.
The report also said that in 2005 Dale Davenport approached Chaney about the injunction on Jim’s Car Wash. Chaney, according to the suit, suggested Davenport hire the Nation of Islam or JL Security for his security needs. JL Security was owned by then-councilman James Fantroy.
The required security ended up costing the Davenports 60% of their revenue from the car wash. This went on for a year, as required by the injunction.
In 2013, Davenport received a letter in which the city threatened to seize his property through eminent domain. “As you’re probably aware, the city of Dallas is planning improvements to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and median,” the letter read. “Plans have progressed to the point that we wish to advise you that your property described above will be needed for the project.” The letter was signed by a city employee named Lou Jones, but Davenport could never figure out who initially authorized it.
According to the lawsuit, the city also “created, then surreptitiously amended” PD 595, also known as the South Dallas/Fair Park Special Purpose District, in order to eliminate the car wash. The car wash sat in an area zoned as a community commercial sub-district, which allowed car washes as long as a site plan review was submitted before any new work permits were issued.
The planned development district was created in 2001 to provide funds for security and authorized a special tax on property owners to improve the area. The Davenports paid this tax for years.
Dale Davenport realized he was spending more on these anti-crime measures than others in the district, so he asked the city if they could help him with some of the available funds they had for the district. However, he was told there weren’t any available funds.
Other businesses in the district received funds, but not Jim’s Car Wash. One was Hip Hop Government Inc., run by Jeremy “Jay” Scroggins. Scroggins later plead guilty to using Hip Hop Government to funnel bribes between developer Ruel Hamilton and late former City Council member Carolyn Davis.
In 2012, the city amended this district so that it didn’t allow car washes, “though no document on the agenda hinted at this change,” according to the lawsuit. So, the car wash was now not in line with zoning laws in the area.
The city moved to enforce the new regulations for PD 595 to close the car wash. The City Council voted to send the issue to the Board of Adjustment. Council members Philip Kingston and Sandy Greyson were the only two who voted against.
“This suit seeks to enjoin the Dallas City Council’s consistent harassment of the car wash and its owners, bring light to the corruption and squandering of taxpayer funds to the benefit of Councilmembers and their friends, who are doing nothing to earn such funds, and address violations by the defendants of plaintiffs’ rights under the United States and Texas Constitutions,” the complaint said.
From the start of 2019 to the end of July that year, there were around 100 murders in Dallas. One of them purportedly occurred at Jim’s Car Wash, on June 2, 2019. The city then devoted more resources to pursue closing the car wash. On June 5, 2019, the city filed a petition to prevent the car wash from operating and was successful. The Davenports have been gearing up for their lawsuit ever since. It was finally filed July 27.
Warren Norred, the Davenports’ lawyer, said this is only the beginning. “The first thing will be to survive the motions to dismiss that will inevitably come,” he said.
Several of the named council members said they knew about the suit but couldn’t comment on it directly. However, Chad West, District 1 council member, said shutting down a business should be a last resort.
“My voting record will reflect that I do not like heavy-handed ways of managing situations with longtime business owners,” West said. “People’s property rights are a core tenant of being a Texan, so for those to be impacted, it needs to be an extreme scenario.” (West also operates car washes in Dallas.)
Dale Davenport said he hopes his lawsuit can institute a change in Dallas because his case has discouraged economic growth in the area. Business owners tell him, he said, “If they can do this to you, they can do this to us.”
Davenport added, “There’s a lot of business consortiums that are supporting us who’d like to see this brought to a close where the development of South Dallas can continue.”