There's a New Sheriff (Spokesperson) in Town

As the public information officer for the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, Don Peritz did the two things his job requires: He was honest with the press, and he didn't leak--at least not to me, and, judging by the lagging coverage of the department in The Dallas Morning News, he wasn't exactly loose-lipped with them either. So, naturally, Peritz is out of a job to make way for someone Sheriff Lupe Valdez likely hopes will spin for her. (He hasn't been fired, merely transferred to the traffic division...which, way we look at it, might as well be the same thing.) Peritz and I had it out a few times--and, in hindsight, I probably gave him a little too much grief--but he always told the truth and gave me the public information I requested in a timely manner. If you think that's a ho-hum accomplishment, you haven't dealt with the Dallas Independent School District. Most important, Peritz had worked at the department since the Andrew Jackson administration--or at least the 1980s--so he knew what he was talking about.

Anyhow, the gossip around the department is that Valdez blamed Peritz for the spate of negative press she received from us and Dallas' Only Daily over the last few months. Of course, not even the spawn of Karl Rove and James Carville could have spun the sheriff out of those self-induced controversies: The sheriff has had to explain why she is millions of dollars over budget in overtime costs, why her jail failed inspection for the second year in a row under her watch (it only flunked once in the 20-year tenure of her predecessor, Jim Bowles) and how she managed to flunk a mandatory law enforcement exam 70 percent of candidates pass on the first try. Then there was Valdez's excuse that she failed the test because she did not study, even though her own instructor stated she prepared vigilantly for it for three months.

You can't blame Peritz for any of this. These stories were unspinnable, and the only way he could have minimized their coverage in the press would have been for him to lie or simply refuse to answer questions. Instead, Peritz took the heat for a sheriff who struggles to talk to reporters without a script. If the sheriff had lived up to her campaign promises to reform the department, Peritz would still be the voice of the department. --Matt Pulle

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