Yesterday a commenter wrote in to Unfair Park in reference to an item about Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway and the legal action he has brought against his own city to prevent the release of an embarrassing police tape.
The commenter said, "It's hard to imagine the tape shows anything other than that (1) Dwaine and Barbara (Mallory Caraway, his wife) had a domestic dispute and (2) Arthur and Archie (characters initially blamed by the mayor for causing the fracas) are fictitious. Does anyone doubt either of those matters now? How much more damage can release do?"
I agree with the commenter. But I think there's a very important subtext here we need to keep in mind.
On January 2, then-Mayor Pro Tem, now-Mayor Caraway called Dallas police Chief David Brown for help with a domestic dispute with his wife, state Rep. Mallory-Caraway. He didn't call 911. He called the chief.
The chief didn't send the troops, the normal way. He sent what has been called the "elite police Special Investigations Unit." The elite Special Investigations Unit investigated something, we know, because there is an investigative record which the mayor is now trying to suppress. But the police chief brought no charges.
Remember that this chief, rightly or wrongly, took office under an immediate cloud because of a perception he had deployed police officers improperly to direct traffic for his son's funeral cortege. I thought the criticism was unfair at the time. But Chief Brown does have a record of controversy in the matter of bending the rules for special persons.
Dwaine Caraway is a special person. Very special. He was a council member when all of this happened. He's the mayor now. He has used his status at the council chamber to promote his own version of this story, speaking at the council horseshoe at some length to portray all of it as a forgivable and not very notable private lapse.
If it was so forgivable and so un-noteworthy, why is he suing his own city to keep it under wraps? What about the matter of lying initially -- telling reporters his friends Arthur and Archie were arguing over football? I've never heard him apologize for lying to the public. All we know is that he lied, and we have to wonder how his moral character as a liar effects the rest of this saga.
The appearance here becomes more and more notably contrary of what the mayor, the police chief and the city attorney have tried to make it. None of it smells like what they've made it out to be. The harder they fight to keep it private, the more it smells like a public matter.
The chief may have subverted the law in dealing with the Caraway call. I'm not saying he did. But the way this is being handled raises that possibility. And how can we know, if the records are kept secret? The same can be said for the city attorney, who has expended city resources trying to keep this matter private.
And what to say of Caraway? Think about this. Caraway was the hand-picked lieutenant of former Mayor Tom Leppert, now running for the U.S. Senate. What did Leppert not see in him that he should have? What did Leppert ignore?
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Caraway is running unopposed for re-election as a council member. He is endorsing and campaigning for Ron Natinsky for mayor. How badly does Natinsky want to keep the lid on all of this?
I'm not saying that I know there is a perfect legal right to make the tapes public. I'm saying all of this is political as hell and public as hell. That tape is at least 100 miles away from any place Dwaine Caraway can call private.
The tape is a public issue, because Caraway has made it a public issue. The police chief is part of the issue. The city attorney, Tom Leppert, Ron Natinsky: They're all in this picture.
There just is not a moral or political justification for keeping the record private here, and I doubt like hell there's a legal one. This isn't England, and I'm quite sure even Dwaine Caraway would insist that he is not the queen.