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Who ya gonna call?

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John Ware
City Manager John Ware has the most interesting telephone bills in all of city hall.

Picture Ware as the media portrays him: Tough, energetic, no B.S.
Now look at John Ware's phone bills as city manager during 1994, his first year in the job. Ware made 1,167 calls last year on his mobile phone. Of those, more than half--689--were to three people.

Ware made 70 mobile-phone calls to his North Dallas home, where he lives with his wife, Shirley, a schoolteacher, and their two sons.

But the 47-year-old manager made the most calls on his mobile phone to a long-time acquaintance, a Fort Worth assistant city manager named Libby Watson. Ware and Watson worked together as assistant city managers for the city of Austin from 1986 until February 1989, when Ware resigned and came to Dallas. Watson resigned seven months later and took a year off work; she took a job in Fort Worth in 1991.

Watson, 45, was easily Ware's number-one mobile phone pal. Our city manager made an impressive 505 calls--43 percent of his mobile-phone total--to her home and office last year.

Second only to Watson in telephone attention during 1994 was Bernadean Steptoe, a 40-year-old Oak Cliff resident who works in the community relations department at WFAA-Channel 8, as liaison to the African-American community. Steptoe, who is councilwoman Barbara Mallory's sister, received 114 calls from Ware; phone records show he began calling her home and office regularly last March.

What is most striking about these calls is their regularity. Mobile-phone records show Ware often began and ended his day with mobile-phone calls to Steptoe, Watson, or both. On many occasions, he hung up with one only to call the other. The morning round typically started around 7 and wrapped up before 9--presumably when he settled in at his city hall office. The evening calls began after normal working hours, about six, and finished up around midnight.

For example, last April 27, a busy Wednesday council day, Ware made his first mobile phone call to Libby Watson at 7:09 a.m. He placed the second call at 7:17 a.m., and a third at 7:45 a.m. The manager made no more mobile phone calls at all until 11:41 p.m. that night--when he called Watson again for five minutes. He called again at 11:46 p.m. for five more minutes.

The following morning, it started all over--calls went out to Watson at 7:14, 7:22, 7:30 and 7:33 a.m. They resumed again at 10:16 p.m., when the two spoke for 15 minutes. Ware placed his next and last call of the day to Watson at 10:33 p.m.

The next day, Friday, records show four morning calls to Watson. Ware then called no one from his mobile phone until after midnight, when he again phoned Watson--at 12:04 a.m. and 12:58 a.m. He made five more calls to her on Saturday, beginning at 9:51 a.m.

The following Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday revealed the same pattern. Steptoe also received calls on those three days, usually within seconds of the calls to Watson.

During those seven days, Ware called his home twice. He called his office three times. The only other call he placed during that time was to an Addison residence--apparently a misdial of Steptoe's phone number at 11:14 on Monday night; he called Steptoe immediately afterward for a 12-minute conversation.

During that seven-day period, Ware made a total of 37 calls to Steptoe and Watson.

After reaching Steptoe at her Channel 8 office, I asked her why the city manager was calling her so often, so early in the day and so late at night. "I think you need to call him," she said. "I have no comment on that."

I also sought comment from Watson, who failed to return messages left at her office and home. One early-morning weekend call to Watson's home was answered by a woman who insisted she was not Watson and hung up the phone shortly after I identified myself.

Ware was nonplussed and cryptic last week when asked how he could have called these two people 619 times. "Well, I was in my car," he said.

Yes, but 619 calls--many in the early morning or close to midnight?
"I'm very comfortable with the calls I make because I roll early in the morning and late at night," he said. "If that was the time, that was the time."

Asked if there was a particular reason he called Watson and Steptoe so often, Ware said: "No more than that I talk to them quite a bit."

Ware, of course, clearly conducts some city business on his mobile phone. But most of those business calls are simply quick check-ins with his office at city hall. Occasionally he'll call a Dallas business executive, such as Texas Commerce Bank chairman John L. Adams, the immediate past president of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce; Ware phoned Adams at his Highland Park home for a minute-and-a-half on the evening of Friday, June 3. But such calls are surprisingly rare.

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Laura Miller

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