Police and Fire Pension Fund Should Never Underestimate the Powers of Dave Neumann

On the Opinion Blog of The Dallas Morning News today, editorial writer Rudy Bush identifies one Dave Neumann as "a clearly unqualified former council member" in reference to Neumann's recent brief engagement as a public relations consultant to the city's police and fire pension fund.

Unfair? Could be.

The fund, in trouble over stupid investments, is clicking its claws trying to crab-walk backwards from a threatened external audit. The fund hired Neumann, a former City Council member from a demographically diverse district, at $5,000 a month to help it with "public relations." Bush, who uncovered the arrangement, has described Neumann several times as having no background in public relations. Neumann has already been fired by the fund.

But wait. What is public relations? That is the question. In this case, public relations is getting out of an external audit. How could Neumann have helped the fund do that? I don't know. I can only guess.

This is sheer speculation, but if I were a former council member from a diverse district, here is how I might pitch my deal to the anxiety-ridden claw-clickers at the pension fund. Please imagine me in a board room with a bow tie using a laser pointer to call attention to a large projected graphic on the wall showing head shots of all 15 members of the City Council, including the mayor.

"Fifteen votes total on the council, eight votes to kill the audit," I would tell them. "We need to offer cover -- something they can do instead of an audit. Anything. I'll come up with an idea over the weekend and tell you Monday. Maybe group therapy. Just no audit.

"For votes we start at the soft end. Everything begins and ends, in fact, with the black members from southern Dallas. The trick is to sign up the black votes, then use those votes to leverage North Dallas white votes.

"I am a made guy from a diverse district. I can get a call returned from everybody on the council but Scott Griggs, the son of a bitch who beat me, and who needs him?

"Most of the black members are going off the council soon because of term limits. They're hungry. You've got a big fat pension fund. It won't take much -- a modest position in one of the management companies you use, something untraceable. C'mon, you were paying some dude in Hawaii $300,000 a year as a house sitter, right? Give me half that to work with, and I can get you three solid black votes to kill the audit.

"Now we play. North Dallas member Jennifer Staubach Gates needs votes to get her husband's development deal done at Preston and Northwest Highway. She's close to the votes she needs anyway. She doesn't need big help, just insurance. We give her a script about how somebody she knows benefitted once from group therapy. Doesn't matter: If I can pledge three solid votes to her for her husband's deal, she'll come my way.

"Gates is usually bonded at the hip with North Dallas member Lee Kleinman. The problem with Kleinman, though, is that he's going to be afraid to do anything that looks friendly to the pension fund for fear of pissing off the culture-vulture community, who hate the pension fund because that condo tower they built is reflecting too much sunlight on the Nasher Sculpture Center.

"Offer to blow it up. No, seriously, at this point all you care about is the audit, and the condo tower is costing you more votes than it's worth. Tell Kleinman you are going to blow up the condo tower and you will let him push the plunger on TV. He's in. No audit for him.

"OK that's five votes. We only need three more. I send my three black council members to all the old white people on the council, and they threaten to start a civil rights movement in Dallas.

"Think about it. We've never had one. The old white people will start having nightmares -- black and white newsreel footage from the '60s. Listen to me, it's just this button we can push. It's always good for at least two elderly white votes. We'll give them a script where they can say they decided to forestall the audit 'while tempers cool.' Always good for two votes.

"So that's seven. Almost over the top. The last one, that ultimate vote you are paying me to get for you, is the mayor. I know. I know. The mayor has been talking big for a half year about wanting an audit. But I can do it. He's a get that I can do.

"How? You may have to trust me on this. All I can tell you is that there's somebody still lurking in the corridors over there, somebody I know well, somebody for whom I was a boot-licking lackey during all my years on the council, somebody who owes me, and she has the power to flip the mayor on a dime no matter what he's been promising the public for the last six months.

"She's supposed to be retired, and they're afraid to ask her to leave the building. What does that tell you? All we need to talk about now is a modest advance on my next 12 months fee."

That's public relations, people. Screw the public. Have some relations. Are we sure Neumann is not the man?

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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