Morning News Does Half-Hearted Correction on Editorial Slamming HUD Whistle-Blowers

Oh thank you, God of Lazy Non-Recyclers, for sparing that grocery sack full of this week's copies of The Dallas Morning News, hiding it in that corner of the bedroom from the eye of The Great Recycler with whom I live, so that I was able to retrieve from it a hard copy of last Wednesday's newspaper, that day being September 3 of this year, 2014.

Ever since my phone call with Craig MacKenzie on Wednesday, I had searched for the editorial page retraction he told me the News had published -- the sort of thing we call a "skinback" in the newspaper business -- in which editorial writer Rudy Bush had been obligated to eat his words. And there it was after all in that brown paper bag, a big juicy word sandwich with Rudy's toothy grimace imprinted on its jagged fly-ridden edge.

It looks like Rudy and the News had to take a big ugly bite out of that loathesome burger and swallow hard after MacKenzie's lawyer, Ronald L. Holmes, wrote to them about their August 19 editorial. I told you about that editorial. Craig MacKenzie and Curtis Lockey are the two downtown tower re-do developers who five years ago reported Dallas for practicing racial segregation, resulting in a four-year federal probe and the biggest racial segregation case against a city in the history of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, still unresolved.

See also: Ignore All the Smoke Around HUD's Case Against Dallas and See Something Ugly in the Mirror

Bush wrote an editorial about HUD's demand that the city compensate Lockey and MacKenzie for killing their deal because they wouldn't conspire with city officials to violate federal de-seg laws. Bush, speaking for the newspaper, said the city shouldn't give the pair a nickel, and he painted them as a couple of financial fly-by-nights.

"So who are Lockey and MacKenzie?" Bush asked suggestively. He called them, "two developers who in the mid-2000s tried to get the city to partner on redeveloping the vacant 1600 Pacific building." He said their company wound up "in arrears on its taxes and had completed no significant development project." When they brought a legal action against the city, he said, "They were tossed out of court."

Bush quoted Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings as believing that HUD's demand that the city pay Lockey and MacKenzie damages for killing their deal was, "idiotic" and "government gone crazy."

This is all part of City Hall's line from the beginning, claiming they had to pull the rug out from under Lockey and MacKenzie's deal to protect the taxpayers because the two were not suitable partners. HUD asked them about it. They sent HUD the resumes. You can bet HUD's investigators over four years also vetted the hell out of them, searching every deal and investor they had ever touched and finally concluding, according to HUD's letter of findings, that City Hall's story was a fabrication.

But the city attorney recently floated the same line to Rawlings, who floated it to Bush, who bit. As soon as MacKenzie saw the stuff Bush had written about him on the editorial page, he asked his lawyer to send The Morning News the same document MacKenzie had sent HUD four years ago when the city first tried to pitch this story, the same document I saw four years ago when I challenged Lockey and MacKenzie about the city's characterization of them.

Their resumes.

I have reproduced them below. If you glance over them, you will see that Lockey comes from a solid background in equity finance and MacKenzie has been a principal in an impressive and long list of downtown Dallas tower re-do deals.

And here is the other part of this lie: Right up until the moment in 2008 when Lockey and MacKenzie informed the city their new federal financing was going to require them to accept Section 8 rent vouchers, the city loved these guys. The city had just finished giving them $102 million in new federal bond backing and some $6 million in cash. Then City Hall got the Section 8 memo from them. Suddenly these guys were fly-by-nights who had to be strangled.

That story is a lie. That's why the News agreed to do a skinback on its editorial page.

I talked to Holmes, MacKenzie's lawyer. He said he considered the small-type skinback to be a grudging half-hearted effort that didn't do the job. I agree with him. No, listen. You take two guys who have long business careers behind them and long careers ahead, in a field where you're only as good as your name, and you print this kind of crap about them in an editorial that will show up in Google searches forever? And then you find out you're totally wrong? Damn right you should do a skinback.

But the skinback is soooo grudging. It says the editorial "incorrectly described Craig MacKenzie's role..." but then tries to make it sound like a technical error involving his corporate affiliation. No, you mean bastards, you suggested every way you could to readers that he and Lockey were nobodies and fly-by-nights. Then you saw their resumes. Then you gulped and realized you had to do a skinback.

You keep on 'em, Mr. Holmes. They'll eat the whole thing eventually. Please let me know when it's dinner time. I'll bring the mayo.

Lockey MacKenzie Bios and Dallas Morning News Skinback by Schutze

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze