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Robert Riggs & Todd Bensman
                             

10/10/05  Councilman Don Hill Should Resign -- Now!

It's been hard to single out Don Hill as the primary bad guy at City Hall when Shakedown Leo Chaney has been feathering his nest at City Hall since the Smirnoff/Starplex scam.  It would be bad enough if the Smirnoff shakedown was Chaney's only abuse of his office, but DMN's Reese Dunklin and Gromer Jeffers expose how Chaney also hooked up with the now infamous Southwest Housing.  Still, Shakedown Chaney's escapades listed by Dunklin and Jeffers pale as compared to what CBS-11's Todd Bensman and Robert Riggs reported Thursday night about the nefarious activities of Don Hill and a couple of his buddies.  See
CBS 11 Bensman & Riggs.

I'm fed up with Don Hill.  With the possible exception of Confessed and Convicted Felon Old Al Lipscomb, any other human being would be showing some degree of contrition after recent revelations about his questionable habits of mixing personal gain with his council votes and commission appointments.  If Don Hill is even remotely embarrassed, he certainly manages to hide his discomfort.     10/08/05 James Northrup
  (CBS 11) Bensman and Riggs should get Pulitzers for their amazing work.
   The fiefdom system of zoning has to go.  Deference to local councilmen on zoning issues is an invitation to a shake down.
   The stronger mayor charter amendment must be passed as the first step to reform of governance.
(
CBS 11 Bensman & Riggs FBI Tapes alleged to show Hill closely involved in negotiating cash payment, other compensation, for development vote.)
 

The least Don Hill should have already done is step down as Mayor Pro Tem until the FBI investigation is completed.  That is not going to happen.  He knows better than the FBI at this point how much trouble he is in.  When I think how impressive he was during the campaign against the Blackwood proposal, it makes me question my judgment (others have been doing that for a long time).  That may be why I'm so mad at Hill these days.  I trusted him, thought he was special.  I never even gave him a DallasArena.com nickname because nothing he did seemed particularly onerous.  I don't expect everyone to agree with me or vote as I want, SO LONG AS what they do is not DISHONEST and not SELF-SERVING or even a DIRECT CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

Leo Chaney, however, does have a nickname -- SHAKEDOWN CHANEY.  Remember when the sellouts at City Hall started letting companies buy naming rights to our public facilities that were paid for by you and me?  After American Airlines forked out big bucks to Perot, Jr. and Tommy Hicks to slap the AA name on our basketball/hockey arena, the sky was pretty much the limit.  For decades, the South Dallas neighborhoods around Fair Park were plagued by excessive numbers of liquor stores and drinking holes.  Leo Chaney helped them get a planned development district that effectively shut down several liquor stores and made it difficult for new ones to open up in the area. 

Imagine how angry it made the community to learn City Hall sold naming rights for Starplex (located in Fair Park) in their neighborhood to Smirnoff.  Chaney threatened to have mobs in the street, violence and demonstrations if the city did not back out of the agreement.  The contract had been signed and money paid, so that wasn't going to happen.  When Smirnoff offered $3 million "to the community" under Chaney's guidance, suddenly all the mayhem was called off.  Commissioner John Wiley Price called it "Blood Money".

$3 million for just a little threat!  Pretty good return for a little bit of effort.  A lesson Shakedown Chaney took to heart if the suppositions in
FBI target gave to Chaney, projects  are valid, and you know they are.  The coincidences in the Dunklin/Jeffers story are just as obvious as the connected dots in the Bensman/Riggs report about Don Hill, FBI Tapes alleged to show Hill closely involved in negotiating cash payment, other compensation, for development vote.

Dunklin and Jeffers nail Leo Chaney, and I guarantee you there's more.  Don't forget, Chaney left a $57,000 a year job with the DISD (which job may or not be there when he goes off council) to take a $37,000 salary as city councilman.  Do you really think he gave up an annual $20,000 out of a spirit of community service?  Please, we're talking about Shakedown Chaney!

FBI target gave to Chaney, projects; Council member says he wasn't swayed by developer's donations
12:00 AM CDT on Friday, October 7, 2005
By REESE DUNKLIN and GROMER JEFFERS JR. / The Dallas Morning News
   A developer targeted in the FBI investigation of possible City Hall corruption contributed $64,000 to council member Leo Chaney and several programs he supports after state law was changed to require public backing for low-income housing projects, a Dallas Morning News review found.
   Southwest Housing Development Co. also hired Mr. Chaney's appointee to the city's Plan Commission, which oversees zoning and development issues, and reportedly pledged to share profits from two Chaney-backed developments with a community group affiliated with the politician.
   During the same period and with the endorsement of Mr. Chaney and the community group, the developer won more than $30 million in public aid for deals located in the council member's district.
   By contrast, Mr. Chaney received $4,000 in donations from employees of Southwest Housing from mid-2001 until June 2003, when the law was passed.
... Mr. Chaney said contributions from Brian Potashnik and his businesses did not influence his votes and noted the developer contributed before the new law was passed.
... Mr. Chaney also defended Southwest Housing's sponsorship of events he supported.
   "What they've done is not any different than any other public-private partnership," Mr. Chaney said, adding he had asked several companies for support. "They responded. They stepped up to the plate. I don't see anything wrong with that."
... Mr. Chaney initially was not among city leaders named in the FBI inquiry. He, and several other officials, surfaced in a second, wider-ranging subpoena served at City Hall in early August.
... Southwest Housing's financial relationship with Mr. Chaney began blossoming about two years ago, just as Texas' affordable housing landscape changed.
   State legislators heeded constituents' concerns that a high number of low-income apartments in their neighborhoods might become future slums and in June 2003 passed a law requiring developers to show public approval in order to receive economic incentives.
   The new rules meant that developers wanting to build in cities with twice the state average of subsidized housing units, such as Dallas, needed a formal endorsement of the deal from their city council. And they needed support letters from residents' groups affected by the proposed developments.
... Since the changes took effect, contributions from Mr. Potashnik and his companies have included:
? At least $40,000 to Tulisoma: South Dallas Book Fair & Arts Festival, which Mr. Chaney founded and launched in August 2003 to highlight award-winning black authors. Southwest Housing has been Tulisoma's leading sponsor. (Two city employees, who worked on the book fair and said they were familiar with its funding, said Southwest's giving totaled $50,000. Mr. Chaney said Southwest Housing's donations totaled $40,000 and that many other companies contributed to the event.)
? More than $11,000 in donations to the Ferguson Road Initiative, the neighborhood organization led by Mr. Chaney's campaign treasurer, Vikki Martin. Mr. Chaney is a nonvoting member of the board.
? A $10,000 sponsorship for an American Cancer Society fundraiser in Fair Park. Mr. Chaney listed securing the money as one of his civic accomplishments in an online Dallas Morning News voter's guide last spring.
? Donations of $3,000 to Mr. Chaney's political campaign last spring in the names of Mr. Potashnik; his wife, Cheryl; and his father, Jack.
   In October 2003, Southwest Housing also hired Melvin Traylor, Mr. Chaney's appointee to the city Plan Commission. Mr. Traylor, a retired DISD principal, coordinates after-school tutoring programs at Southwest Housing apartments for an undisclosed salary.
... Southwest Housing's development proposals received the much-needed public endorsements often as Mr. Potashnik's family or companies donated to Mr. Chaney, his favored events or the Ferguson Road Initiative, records show.
... The alternative, the Feb. 12 memo said, was that Southwest Housing might not buy the property and the out-of-state landowner instead might build a larger apartment complex.
... "Councilman Chaney is strongly encouraging us [to] coordinate with SWH if we want to have any control on what is being built in our neighborhood," the memo said. Its last page also noted that Southwest Housing had pledged to become a "major sponsor" of an economic development conference the Ferguson Road Initiative had planned.
... Throughout March, Ms. Martin and representatives from several of the organization's affiliated groups sent the state letters praising the Southwest Housing proposal. None mentioned the company's promise of financial sponsorship.
... On March 17, two days after the first letters of support went out, Southwest Housing made a $5,000 donation to the group's development conference, according to a copy of the check obtained by The News.
   The state eventually awarded Southwest Housing tax credits worth about $9 million for Primrose at Highland, and city officials said construction is about to begin.
... In February, Southwest Housing announced it bought a dilapidated townhome complex that had been cited for city code violations.
... Mr. Chaney wrote a letter to the state Feb. 11, asking that Fairway Crossing receive the tax credits.
... The day before Mr. Chaney's letter, Jack Potashnik made a $1,000 donation to the council member, according to campaign finance records.
   Then on Feb. 16, Ms. Martin and another Ferguson Road Initiative official wrote to the state saying the group backed the Fairway Crossing project, even though organization members didn't vote to support the deal until mid-March, according to their Web site.
... Eight days later, one of Mr. Potashnik's limited partnerships created for the Fairway Crossing project gave a second $5,000 donation to the Ferguson Road Initiative for another development conference, according to a copy of the check obtained by The News.
... In early March, the City Council voted to give the $310,000 loan to the Fairway Crossing project. About two weeks later, Mr. Potashnik and his wife made two $1,000 donations to Mr. Chaney's political race, according to campaign filings.
   Southwest Housing also "agreed to give a portion of its profits" from its Fairway Crossing and Highland projects to a community development corporation created by the Ferguson Road Initiative, according to the organization's spring 2005 newsletter.
... Southwest lawyer, said there was no pledge to share any profits with Ferguson Road Initiative.
... A month after the FBI investigation became public in June, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs' governing board delayed for one year awarding the tax credits to Fairway Crossing.
...

Pretty damning, but compared to what Bensman and Riggs expose about Don Hill's shakedown of at least one of the "tax-credit" developers, Shakedown Chaney sold out for peanuts.  Chaney's about as greedy and dumb as Old Al.

Don Hill is a lawyer.  He is supposed to know the difference between right and wrong.  He is supposed to understand the concept of fiduciary responsibility to his constituents and all Dallas citizens.  He is supposed to be able to read the plain English terminology of the City's Ethics Code.  He should have a working knowledge of common decency.  Since I don't believe that Don Hill is an illiterate idiot, he must be a crook. 

If the Bensman/Riggs story was about Brain Dead Thorton-Reese, there would be room to say she may not have known what she did is wrong.  The woman is just that stupid.  Her bungling that case for Councilman Fantroy last Fall may have been the catalyst for the FBI finally turning its eye on Dallas City Hall and the council in particular.  She blatantly said during council discussions that she talked with Fantroy about the case and knew what he wanted the council to do -- approve it.  The problem with her talking with the Councilman about the case was that his huge conflict of interest, since his security company had a contract with the respective developer. 

Don Hill was right in the middle of that. 

Lawyer Don Hill voted to approve that case, even though almost everyone on the council said there are already too many apartments in Dallas, even though it meant taking single-family residential land for another apartment complex, even though he heard Brain-Dead say she had talked to Fantroy about what he wanted to happen with the case.  The only NO votes were Mayor Laura Miller and Councilwoman Sandy Greyson.

If you did not see the Bensman/Riggs report Thursday night on KTVT-11, you missed some serious reporting that sheds light on serious wrong doing by Don Hill along with two of his close associates.  Use this link,
CBS 11 Bensman & Riggs, for the entire text.  The graphics and video would chill you to the bone.  After delaying it previously 4 times, Hill delayed a zoning case for a few minutes on the day it came back to council until he got confirmation money had changed hands between the developer and Hill's associate.  Then, Hill moved to approve -- after delaying the case 4 times.  FBI has tapes and pictures. 

This man can vote on matters that impact your life, your property.  Isn't that a comforting thought?

This was not some shakedown in Chicago or Detroit.  It was right here in Dallas, Texas. 

Don Hill not only shamed his office, Don Hill shamed the City of Dallas.  He should be removed as Mayor Pro Tem by his colleagues, but there probably aren't 8 votes to do that.  He should resign from both his council seat and the office of Mayor Pro Tem, but he has already been caught in an act that clearly shows he has no conscience or honor. 

It's time for Don Hill to go.

sb
 

                                        

    





                            

 

  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8