If I'm blushing -- just the slightest tint of rose upon my gray and whiskery cheeks -- it's because my I was back in federal court again yesterday. Sort of. There was mention of me.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor handed down a ruling in the Lockey and MacKenzie (Dallas segregates by race) case, and I was sort of ... well, I don't want to say a star, exactly, but, you know, front and center. I wish they'd give me some warning so I could wear my good tassel loafers on these days.
Judge O'Connor shot down an attempt by two Dallas developers to get him to reconsider an earlier dismissal of their whistle-blower case against the city. They say they caught Dallas City Hall red-handed defrauding the federal government over a decade of massive sums of desegregation money -- money they say Dallas spent to promote ... oops ... deliberate segregation. (Maybe we didn't notice the de- ?)
This is about two things. 1) At this late date in American history, is Dallas really deliberately segregating its downtown by race? Or is this an acid flashback to a Sidney Poitier movie? And, 2) Are Lockey and MacKenzie the dudes who caught Dallas doing it, in which case federal law would allow them to claim a huge reward for exposing government fraud?
See also: The Feds Say Dallas City Hall Has Promoted Racial Segregation in Housing Projects for Years Hey. Let me come back to the Lockey and MacKenzie question in a second, because it's interesting. But first, what about the deliberate segregation thing? No, that's got to be wrong, right? This is the year 2014. Maybe City Hall goofed up and got the books all whomperjawed and forgot to add things up right and it all just came out wrong, but you're not going to tell us that Dallas City Hall, our City Hall, went out and deliberately tried to racially segregate downtown Dallas! Seg. Re. Gate? No way.
Ah, yes way. In fact, this is the really interesting thing about O'Connor's ruling yesterday. In stronger, more explicit language than the judge has used in the prior several years of litigation in this case, O'Connor suggests Lockey and MacKenzie could be right, that Dallas officials have been deliberately racially segregating the city.
In fact he names names. The main name in yesterday's opinion is that of Karl Zavitkovsky, the city's economic development director. Lockey and MacKenzie testified to the court that in 2008 when they were trying to renovate a downtown tower as apartments, "Mr. Zavitkovsky told us that Downtown Dallas is not the right place for low-income housing and that low-income housing 'is not part of the vision for Downtown Dallas.'"
They told the court they took Zavitkovsky's admonition as a big fat hint the city didn't want to see any housing projects downtown that would put more minorities in downtown, in spite of the fact that the city was using federal money dedicated to desegregation. They told the court they spent the next 15 months carrying out their own in investigation of city policies. They say it was their investigation that spurred the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to launch a four-year probe of Dallas housing practices.
The HUD report on its investigation, which came out last month, agreed with Lockey and MacKenzie. It said Dallas had been doing just what they claimed -- using federal money to racially segregate downtown -- and the report credited Lockey and MacKenzie as the whistle-blowers who alerted HUD to the scam.
But back to the deliberate segregation thing. In his opinion yesterday, O'Conor said, "the Court acknowledges that Relators' personal experience with Zavitkovsky strengthens their claim to the extent it shows intentional segregation."
It doesn't say, Dallas deliberately segregated. But it comes pretty damn close -- the closest the judge has ever come so far to acknowledging that Lockey and MacKenzie have proved that much of their claim.
But then the judge goes on to say they don't get credit for being the original whistle-blowers. He says I was. Yeah, I told you about this a couple weeks ago.
I wrote stories about Lockey and MacKenzie's claims in 2010. The judge has basically said my stories and some stuff in The Dallas Morning News, along with an earlier housing segregation lawsuit, already blew the whistle. That's why he threw out Lockey and MacKenzie's whistleblower suit, now on appeal before the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. He said they didn't whistle first, which is a requirement to claim the reward money. (If it's on appeal before the 5th Circuit, you ask, why is it back before O'Connor? Oh, sorry, good point, just a second while I go to law school. I don't know. It just is, OK?)
My reading of yesterday's opinion is that, even though I am still mentioned, I have been demoted to the status of sort of a joke, along with several other sources the judge originally claimed had blown the whistle before Lockey and MacKenzie. What the judge is really down to now is his argument that the earlier litigation, called the "Walker Case," was the real whistle.
More on that later this week. It raises all kinds of interesting questions. If Walker was such a great case, how come City Hall is still practicing deliberate racial segregation? And, look, forget me, forget Lockey, forget MacKenzie and think about the segregation thing. So next time you travel, people say, "Oh you're from Dallas. That's the city that still practices deliberate racial segregation, right?"
I know what my reaction will be. "No, no! We're the ones who shot JFK!"
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.