I wanted you to know that I am still trying to find Mary Suhm at City Hall, and I need your help. Last week I made a movie based on my hunt for the former Dallas city manager, who is rumored still to be lurking somewhere in City Hall. It was a very bad movie.
But if you watched that movie all the way through -- and I don't think anyone did -- then you would know that I did not find her. In fact that was the big un-surprise ending.
But there were clues. First of all, if you go back and look at the movie, and frankly I can't recommend it, you might notice several things. When I asked people at City Hall where her new office was, they said she didn't have an office, but they didn't say she wasn't there, except for the one woman who told me she was on vacation.
She's retired. How can she be on vacation? If somebody thinks of her as being on vacation, doesn't that person also think of her as still working there?
Then if you were to focus on one particular scene -- and I wouldn't -- you would see the woman who finally comes out, tells me before I even ask that Suhm does not have an office at City Hall but also tells me that they let her come sit in a chair once in a while. I said in my column about it last week that I guessed that was a joke, but I didn't get it.
Aha! Now I think I do. It wasn't a joke. It was the truth!
Over the weekend, a person with inside knowledge of City Hall called me and told me it was his very strong impression that Suhm is still at City Hall almost full time but that she does not, indeed, have an office. Instead, she most decidedly and deliberately does not have an office, this person said. She floats from available space to available space, logs in and out of computer terminals wherever she may be, and uses her cell phone.
The whole point, he said, is for her not to have an identifiable numbered room or numbered telephone extension that some nosy reporter with a hat-cam on his head could find and come make a mockery of. I thought this whole explanation had a distinct ring of truth, but I should tell you I always think that about stuff that turns out later not to be true. So, the grain of salt.
At any rate, I am attempting to solve the riddle -- is she there or is she not? -- through conventional reportorial means, like the stuff they talk about at that Mayberry Convention at UNT every year. Open records searches, all that kind of stuff. For that, I refer you to another part of the film that I can't advise you go back and watch: A security officer and a lady both tell me that Suhm is inside a zone at City Hall where I am not allowed to go, because only people with badges can go there. Me, no badge.
So does that mean that Suhm does have a badge? Why would she have a badge if she no longer works for the city? So I have filed an public records request for a list of all persons to whom badges have been granted. I didn't want to have to look through too long a list, so I narrowed it down to people who have been granted badges this year. Suhm retired last year. Then I decided I didn't want to look through even that long a list, so I narrowed it down to people whose names begin with SUH.
If this goes the way most of my public records demands go at City Hall, they will delay giving me the list by sending a letter to the Texas attorney general arguing that state law specifically exempts from disclosure anything to do with persons whose names begin with SUH. That's enough to tie it up for the better part of a year.
Eventually some hard-working legal assistant in Austin will send them what I call the What-Are-You-Nuts? letter saying they have to give me the list, but by then the city hopes a bus will have run over me.
Anyway, it's in the hopper. I wanted you to know I'm on the job with that. In the meantime I have a better idea, and that's where you come in.
I am sponsoring an open public competition that I am calling the "Where's Mary Photo Contest." Prizes for the best time-and-date-stamped photos of Mary Suhm at City Hall will include a range of things from sincere gratitude to a place in history. Your mission is pretty straightforward: If you are ever at City Hall and see Mary Suhm, you are to whip out your phone or camera or whatever and squeeze off a couple good shots.
Just do it. Then, speaking as one who once had his hatcam savagely ripped from his head by Suhm, I would advise you to book it, make tracks, pick 'em up and put 'em down. You are within your legal rights to take pictures of her in a public place, but I would advise arguing legal rights with a pissed off Mary Suhm like I would advise arguing legal rights if a gorilla jumps out of its cage in front of you at the zoo. Legal rights later. Right now, feets don't fail me.
Of course we will post all the best Suhm shots right here, and, of course, you will be in the real movies soon after and never work another day in your life maybe. I specifically deny, reject and will flee from all responsibility, legal or illegal, for persons who fail to run fast enough and get caught by her, but don't let a little fine print stop you.
Where's Mary? Don't forget the time and date stamp, and show some background so we can see she's at City Hall. History is calling you. Calling and calling. Pick up the damn phone, will you?
*fabulous: of or like a fable; imaginary, fictitious or legendary. (Webster's New World College Dictionary)