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01/20/03  The Mayor Should Not Have Paid Attention?

When Brett Shipp and his team broke the story about our tax money being spent at topless bars to "entertain" potential convention center clients, we were shocked!  Well, not really!  Those of us in the Bachman-Northwest Highway area and the businesses in the Stemmons Corridor knew there was some arrangement between the Convention Center folks and the sex clubs, but had no specific proof.

It was truly shocking to have our Mayor and several council members pay attention!  

When this story broke in November, congratulated Brett Shipp and also marveled at our Mayor's response.  Sex Clubs.  As one reader commented "
The ONLY reason this story sprouted legs was because Laura has the guts and the integrity and the good sense to say this is NOT acceptable.  Kirk would never have done that....he would, as you exactly pointed out, have shut his mouth and run from it."

You know who else knows things are different now and that dirt is to be cleaned up and not swept under the rug or behind the door -- Chris Luna and David Whitney.

As I have said many times, Chris Luna is an amazing guy.  He is exceptionally smart, articulate and funny -- but he has an extraordinary ability to go South on himself and the rest of us.  

When he ran against and defeated former Councilman Ricardo Medrano for the District 2 seat, Chris went after one of Medrano's campaign supporters with a mean spirited "slap" suit.  Not during the campaign -- after the campaign, after he had won.  Rather than trying to mend fences with his opponents, Luna filed a slap suit and made a life-long enemy.  
While he was on the council, he cost Dallas taxpayers millions in the Cinemark case by personally giving their attorney data from Council Executive Sessions.  He and Ron Kirk pushed through a multi-million dollar settlement with Cinemark when the court later ruled for the city.  
Then there's the Tri-City Hospital mess.
When he got a really important position as Chair of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau (DCVB), he again let his dark side rule his thinking.

But -- the guy is just so likeable!  It took me awhile to see his charm because I had never heard of him before he ran for city council and only got to see his mean side for several years.  But once he wins you over, you can't help but marvel at his shear gall.  

Much like Old Al Lipscomb!  Take a bribe -- it was just a gift.  Accept a city franchise for your business while serving on a city board -- it was just a mistake.  Spend taxpayer money in sex clubs when the city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits against them, both as Plaintiff and Defendant -- it was just keeping up with competition.

Last week Chris Luna and his cohort in crime, David Whitney, resigned from the DCVB, and both went out blaming someone else for their own wrong doing.

Luna quits as bureau chief;
In parting shot, he says Miller doing disservice to convention industry
01/17/2003 By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News
Chris Luna resigned Thursday as chairman of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, forced out by a mayor who he says has been reckless with the convention and hotel business of Dallas.  .  .  .    His resignation followed two months of media reports about questionable expenditures by the bureau's staff, which Mayor Laura Miller said caused her to lose confidence in her chairman's ability to reform the organization.
. . .  But he did not go quietly. He said the mayor had often over-reacted to the media reports and imposed her authority on an independent organization designed to market the city and its convention center.
   "The mayor has done a disservice to the hospitality industry, the hotel community and to this board," Mr. Luna said.
    The bureau is a private corporation with a contract to market the Dallas Convention Center. Most of its budget comes from the city's hotel-occupancy tax.
. . .  WFAA-TV (Channel 8) and The Dallas Morning News began reporting in November that bureau president David Whitney spent thousands of dollars on car service to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and on liquor that he took home to entertain clients. Some of his top executives expensed visits to topless clubs ? outings that the bureau said were requested by clients.
   The investigation also found that Mr. Whitney approved paying his wife's law firm to do legal work for the bureau.
. . .

What exactly was the Mayor supposed to do other than try to clean house at the DCVB?  Was she supposed to be like Ron Kirk and ignore it or laugh about it or attack the press for reporting the wrong doing?  Mayor PreTend Mary Poss said she would have handled it quietly.  How do you handle something quietly that is already a huge story in the press?  Why would you want to hide information from Dallas taxpayers?  MPT Poss is completely out of step with the rest of the city.

Visitors bureau president resigns
By DAVE MICHAELS / Dallas Morning News
David Whitney, the president of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, resigned Friday, blaming the media for focusing on money the bureau spent entertaining clients and associates.  .  .  .    he has spent much of the last two months answering questions about the way he and his staff expensed town-car service, liquor and golf outings.
. . . 
"Let me make it clear that the sole reason for this [resignation] is the possibility that recent media attention to issues other than the successful job done by the bureau could seriously harm our ability to do [the] job" of president and CEO, he wrote.
. . .  Dallas Mayor Laura Miller had criticized Mr. Whitney but never called for his resignation.
   "I think there was some bad judgment. I expressed that to him," she said. "But it really wasn't my call. I really didn't feel one way or another about whether he stayed on."
    Ms. Miller had forced the resignation of Chris Luna, the chairman of the bureau's board of directors, for what she called his tepid response to the questionable expenses.
. . .
WFAA-TV (Channel 8) and The Dallas Morning News began reporting in early November that Mr. Whitney spent thousands of dollars on town-car service to the airport and on liquor that he took home to entertain clients. His staff expensed out-of-state golf trips and visits to topless clubs that the bureau said were requested by clients.
   The investigation also found that Mr. Whitney approved paying his wife's law firm to do the bureau's legal work. It paid Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue about $70,000 over four years.
. . .
  Mr. Whitney earns more than $200,000 a year. Bureau officials would not say how he might be compensated as he leaves. He had three years left on his contract. . . .

Neither Whitney or Luna get it!  They both abused their positions with the DCVB.  Whitney was making $200,000+ annually, not to mention all the perks (trips, booze, fancy meals), but he still funneled over $70,000 to his wife's law firm.  

If there was nothing wrong with Luna's Pizza Inn contract, why did he give it up?  If there was nothing wrong with taking clients to sex clubs on the taxpayer's dime, why did Whitney agree to stop the practice?  

Bad guys in this town have become accustomed to doing as they will with no interference from the media, and certainly no oversight by the city council or the Mayor.  Did they not notice  we have a new Mayor who's biggest issue is Ethics Reform at City Hall?

It's not just Luna and Whitney who should resign over this DCVB mess.  City MisManager Ted Benavides needs to go as well.  This guy who makes (not earns) over $250,000 annually also used Mavericks tickets he got from the DCVB rather than pay for his own entertainment.  

Questions raised about use of Dallas city credit card 
11/07/2002 By BRETT SHIPP / WFAA-TV
Two Platinum tickets for Dallas Stars hockey games.
To some, those tickets may be a dream, but they are just one of the perks offered by the City of Dallas to visiting VIPs.
    News 8 is investigating allegations that some of those tickets are going to city officials.
    The confusion results in part from a small piece of plastic -  .  .  .  the credit card carried by the former manager of the Dallas Convention Center.  .  .   has, in fact, been used by at least one top Dallas city official.  .  .  .   Sources told News 8, however, that what was supposed to be used for city business has allegedly been used for personal pleasure.  .  .  .   But sources said instead of using those tickets to attract business to Dallas, some city officials took them for personal use.
    Benavides was asked, "What about local officials - including yourself - taking advantage of Stars tickets, Mavericks tickets, etc."
    "I did that, yeah," Benavides said. "I've gotten tickets, yes sir." .  .  .   So, does that mean the tickets are for use by city officials?
   "I don't know," Benavides said.  .  .  .  "We probably shouldn't have used them - no," Benavides said.

On this DCVB issue, Mayor Miller has done just what we elected her to do -- clean up things at City Hall.  Had Chris Luna or David Whitney done nothing wrong and used some common sense, they would not be the subject of all this media scrutiny.  Blaming the Mayor for his own bad judgment is very sociopathic.  That's not to say Chris Luna is psychotic, but his behavior over the years certainly leads people who care about him to be concerned.  

Not being in the restaurant, hotel or convention business, I had never heard of David Whitney before this mess.  Just from what his various TV interviews, he does not look like a Dallas person.  He looks and dresses like that guy who showed us how the "Rich and Famous" live.  Whitney may be well respected in the convention business, but what has he done for Dallas lately?  Owners of football teams and college athletic directors fire coaches all the time when they have one off year, regardless of past successes.  What worked two or three years ago may not be what is needed now.

This DCVB issue is the real difference between Laura Miller and Mary Poss.  Miller appointed Chris Luna.  When she realized her mistake, she took action to correct it.  Poss would not have admitted to a mistake.  As much as Poss loves a camera, she would not have responded at all and waited for it all to die down.  It shows how dim Poss really is that she would have gone on camera last week and agreed with Chris Luna that the Mayor was wrong in her public handling of this matter.

Excuse me?  The press broke the story.  The press asked legitimate questions and exposed some very questionable doings at the DCVB.  The Mayor acted swiftly and prudently.  Exactly what would have Poss have done differently?

Those of us who live or work near sex clubs know they are not good neighbors.  
Many recent scandals relate directly back to Dallas sex clubs.  Probably the saddest was that DPD officer Johnny Hernandez who tried to get Michael Irvin whacked over his sex club dancer girl friend.   
Now, we have the football player who was hanging out at The Lodge and Silver City before he went on a killing spree on Stemmons.  He and the sex club operators claim he didn't drink while he was there.  He may not have had to pay for any drinks, but no way do I believe he just stood around for a couple of hours and looked at naked women.

The clubs need to go -- the City Manager needs to go -- the Chief of Police needs to go -- thinking like Mary Poss needs to go.  We need to stay on this new road toward honest, clean government at City Hall.

If you don't want the Mayor to respond to your bad press, don't give the press something to write about.  

The bad guys need to wake up to 2003.  No more cover ups.  





  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