City Hall

Carolyn Davis Outlines How Alleged Bribery Sausage Gets Made in New Court Filing

Former Dallas City Council member Carolyn Davis
Former Dallas City Council member Carolyn Davis Jim Schutze
New words from Carolyn Davis — killed five months ago by an alleged drunk driver as she awaited sentencing on federal corruption charges — explain just how she believed things worked at Dallas City Hall. Davis' statements, contained in a fresh court filing in the federal government's bribery case against Dallas low-income housing developer Ruel Hamilton, show a brazen elected official who knew exactly how to keep the money funnel flowing. She was perfectly willing to share her knowledge with others, too.

According to the filing, which adds two bribery-related charges to those already faced by Hamilton, Davis believed that using nonprofits as a middleman was the key to getting away with corruption.

Davis, according to the feds, told an unnamed Dallas City Council candidate not to take donations for more than $1,000, the city's limit for council candidates.

"Get some nonprofits that you could support and tell them to channel the money through those nonprofits," Davis said, according to the indictment, which was first reported in The Dallas Morning News. "I — and — and you know, can nobody touch you. The money ain't in your name. You can't put that money in your name and then expect not to get caught. I have turned people on to nonprofits all day long."

Davis pleaded guilty to accepting payments from Hamilton, both in cash and through a nonprofit called Hip-Hop Government, in exchange for supporting two of his housing projects. Hamilton has denied the charges against him, claiming that the payments were charitable donations.

Later in the indictment, Hamilton is quoted encouraging a term-limited Davis to work around the lobbying ban placed on ex-council members.

"(T)echnically you can't lobby directly for a year or whatever, but you could talk to people ... You can — you can effectively do the same thing through other people," Hamilton is quoted as saying.

According to the indictment, Davis also played a role in several contributions made by Hamilton to candidates for city offices that were first flagged this spring by D Magazine as having come from Hamilton's relatives, including his young grandchildren in some cases. Davis told Hamilton that he had to keep his contributions under $1,000 per check.
click to enlarge Former City Council member Dwaine Caraway is in federal prison. - STEPHEN YOUNG
Former City Council member Dwaine Caraway is in federal prison.
Stephen Young
"Yeah," Hamilton said after being admonished by Davis, according to the indictment. "Well, I got a couple people up here I'm going to get some from and then I'm going to start rounding out stuff for family members."

In a motion filed after the new indictment, Abbe David Lowell, Hamilton's high-powered attorney, questioned its timing. 

"There is not one new fact that has arisen after the original indictment was brought last February (and indeed since the events with Davis in 2015 and the call and video with [former Dallas City Council member Dwaine] Caraway in August 2018) to support the filing of these new counts now," Lowell writes. "In addition, only after months of repeated informal and formal requests, leading to a motion to compel, did the prosecution give limited access to Mr. Hamilton of discovery concerning the actions, statements and cooperation of Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway, again just in the last few days."

Caraway, who has admitted to taking illegal payments from Hamilton, is in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and tax evasion charges in August 2018. He is expected to testify against the developer.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young