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Breach of Contract

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Mike Watson
Dr. Wm. K. Gordon III
Rad Field


12/19/02  It's about honoring a deal!

The recent ruling by the 5th Circuit regarding the Tenison Park lawsuit is typical of what has been wrong at City Hall for the past dozen years, and why ward politics is so bad for Dallas.  Single member districts with no at large representatives has been a disaster because there has been no check on some rogue council members and mayors and staff who just have had no sense of honor.

It's easier to deal with life when you follow rules.  Unfortunately, many elected officials and high level staff at City Hall think rules only apply to citizens and taxpayers.  It's not true of all, but many (maybe most) council members and too many staffers have taken advantage of their positions.

We make deals with people, and they act on those commitments, only to have the rules change.  More accurately, only to have city officials ignore the rules and forget the commitments.

Stepping away from the Tenison Park issue for a minute, let's look at current personnel questions.  People took jobs with the city under a set of rules and implied commitments.  Some people took their city jobs for security, some because it was a job they really wanted to do.  Like to be a firefighter or a policeman or planner or to work with the community in a recreation center or to be a librarian.

These are not jobs where you can just go to the unemployed pool and look for replacements.  They are jobs held by people with experience, education, or expertise -- or all of the above.  They are jobs held by real people.

Unfortunately, some of these real people have worked for the city so long they have lost touch with the real world.  They thought if they showed up for work most days and did their job at least pretty well that things would go on until they retired.  They thought their jobs and benefits were recession proof.  That's the same attitude of some people who worked for big companies in the private sector, people who learned the hard way that working for a big company does not bring security, that loyalty and even good work do not guarantee a job or even compensation at the same level they were earning last year.  When the company goes broke, there are no jobs or benefits.  Dallas is broke right now.

Some of us are old enough to remember our employers paying all of our insurance premiums.  It was expected.  Now, it's unusual for a firm not to require employees to share in their health insurance costs or even pay all of the premium.  It's a double whammy for employees to get raises that don't even cover the cost for their health insurance.  I believe the city has a serious cash flow problem that has been concealed in the past with smoke and mirror budgets, but the city is trying to balance the budget on the back of employees because personnel costs are such a big part of the budget.  

Before we cut a benefit to any employee or lay off any employee or tamper with staff-compensation procedures, we should look at some services the city has assumed that are the responsibility of the County.  The County and the City have many dual welfare programs with duplicate services for the indigent.  In other cases, the City delivers health services the County refuses to provide.  Dallas taxpayers are paying for programs that should be shared  with County suburbs.  Farmers Branch can pay their sworn officers and civilian personnel more money because they are not duplicating services mandated  to the County.  This is not new information.

There are many problems at city hall.  We have more bad news from the Visitors' Bureau.

Visitors bureau ends tie to firm; Work with legal counsel severed for possible conflict of interest
12/19/2002 By DAVE MICHAELS / The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau has cut ties with its chief legal counsel over a potential conflict of interest, leading Mayor Laura Miller to say Wednesday she has lost confidence in the bureau to address its problems.
   Bureau officials cited "the appearance of a conflict of interest" in cutting ties last week with Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. David Whitney, the bureau's president and chief executive officer, is married to Katie J. Colopy, a partner in the firm's Dallas office.
. . ."We decided to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest," said Chris Luna, the chairman of the bureau's board. "We moved all the business to another firm."
   Ms. Miller called the arrangement an outright conflict of interest and demanded that the bureau hire new lawyers.
. . .The bureau is largely supported by the city's hotel-occupancy tax, receiving about $9.6 million in 2002. That amounted to 81 percent of the bureau's $11.9 million budget.
. . .When Mr. Whitney and Mr. Luna met with Ms. Miller last month, they told her the bureau had no other problems to disclose, Ms. Miller said.
. . .Frank Hubach, the partner in charge of Jones Day's Dallas office, defended his firm's business with the bureau. . .  Ms. Colopy and Mr. Whitney married six years after his firm began working with the bureau.
. . .Although Ms. Colopy did not do most of the bureau's legal work, many checks were sent to her attention at Jones Day, according to the records.
. . .Of 24 checks paid to Jones Day between 1998 and 2002, 14 were sent to Ms. Colopy. 
. . .Mr. Whitney approved the invoices submitted by Jones Day in 15 of the 24 cases,
. . . Each time a new chairman of the board was appointed, Mr. Whitney disclosed his relationship with Ms. Colopy, 
. . ."It was not a big secret," Mr. Luna said.
. . . Carol Reed, who preceded Mr. Luna as the bureau's chairman, said she knew Mr. Whitney was married to Ms. Colopy.

As Chris Luna says, this is not new information, and his attitude is typical of the Alice in Wonderland thinking at City Hall.  

Carol Reed chaired the Bureau under That Former Mayor's regime, which brings a whole other level of conflict of interest.  Reed was on retainer to That Former Mayor as his chief consultant.  You may know her better as Ron Kirk's Large White Shadow.  She chaired the Bureau while they were spending our money in Dallas sex clubs.  No wonder  Bachman-NW Hwy warriors had trouble getting That Former Mayor's attention -- the City Attorney's Office seemed less than enthusiastic -- the Chairs of the Board of Adjustment and Plan Commission were sympathetic to the pleas of the sex clubs at their hearings.  That Former Mayor appointed the Board Chairs and could have removed the City Attorney any time he wanted.  

Another breach of contract.

Council member a step closer to mayoral bid; Poss forms campaign committee, can start raising funds
12/19/2002 By GROMER JEFFERS JR. / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas City Council member Mary Poss formed a mayoral campaign committee Wednesday, signaling her intent to run in the May 3 election against incumbent Laura Miller.
.  .  .
Political observers say it will take in excess of $1 million to compete with Ms. Miller.
.  .  .Lisa LeMaster, a spokeswoman for Ms. Poss. "It's one more giant leap toward running for mayor."
.  .  .As of Wednesday, only Ms. Poss and Dallas activist Jurline Hollins had formed mayoral committees. Dallas lawyer Darrell Jordan, a candidate for mayor in 1995, said he is considering a bid.
   Ms. Miller has announced her intentions to run for re-election.  .  .  .  "It seems like yesterday we had a hard-fought, terribly expensive campaign for mayor," Ms. Miller said. "The voters wanted change, and I've worked hard to produce that change."
.  .  ."It's going to be a real tough race for Mary," said Dallas political consultant Pat Cotton. "She's going to need a lot of money. She says she can raise it." .  .  .

Another blast from our recent past -- Lisa LeMaster and Carol Reed ran Tom Dunning's campaign against Laura Miller.  (LeMaster also ran Wal-Mart's losing campaign for that Mockingbird/Lemmon site.)  Mayor PreTend Poss was Mayor Pro Tem under That Former Mayor, and she should have known about the problems at the Visitors Bureau if she had any real authority in that position.  Poss was a go along to get along assistant to That Former Mayor and carries much responsibility for problems that are now emerging.

MPT Poss claims to be a Republican but backed Ross Perot's presidential bid.  She was and is a shill for the Perot family at City Hall.  Poss backs every big ticket sports-related wacky idea that comes down the pike.  

MPT Poss supported the rape and pillage of Tenison Park when the East Dallas community plead for the city not to destroy a grove of mature trees or take away more of the park from the public.  She supported raising the green fees to a point where East Dallas Seniors could not longer afford to play at their neighborhood municipal golf course.  

Poss continued to support the assault on Tenison Park even when it was disclosed the city was violating the terms of the Tenison's gift.  Another breach of contract. 

Poss ignores problems at City Hall and never addresses the city duplicating programs mandated by the state for the County to deliver to indigents in the county.  Not a good record for a so-called fiscal conservative.

It may be hard-hearted this close to Christmas, but charity begins at home.  Rather than spend money on the homeless (which is the County's responsibility), spend that money for salaries and benefits to our sworn and civilian employees.  Put our employees first.  

Fund a raise for personnel before we match a gift for some arts facility.  Who will protect that facility if our best officers and firefighters leave for higher paying jobs in the suburbs?

If a big company laid off hundreds of employees, but funded some arts project or bought expensive art and furnishing for their offices, there would be a hue and cry from the press when it was disclosed.  Unless it's American Airlines shelling out millions to sports teams in Dallas and Miami when AA employees face salary cutbacks and thousands have lost or are losing their jobs.  

What is the matter with us that "sports" takes precedence over everything?  Streets, public safety -- everything comes second to sports.

Sports before personnel -- the new morality.  

We just paid off that shakedown money to the Big 8.  I hope you heard how happy MPT Poss was to be giving away all that money to the Big 8 when we have just terminated hundreds of jobs at City Hall.  Now Grandpa Jones is out there shaking down local city councils to give him millions to move the Dallas Cowboys to their town.  Boy, a lot of tourists and new businesses have flocked to Irving for the past 20 something years just to be in the town where Texas Stadium is located.   Now, the ODB and some people I respect want to divert more municipal money to another sports facility.

That should be the test of who you support for mayor.  Are they sports-chasers or are they focused on the "little things" that add to the quality of your life?

Speaking of city personnel, Jim Schutze has an interesting, but totally slanted piece in The Dallas Observer on last week's council performance by Old Al and his new army at City Hall. 
Who Controls the Cops?   Schutze says Old Al has some power and influence and might actually use it for the good of the community.  When donkey's fly!  Or when someone pays him some money or loans him some money like Annette Strauss did while she was Mayor and he was a council member -- talk about a conflict of interest.

Old Al was not demonstrating for a cause last week.  He's on a campaign to get Our Downtown Betters (the ODB) to put him back on the payroll.  
After he supposedly retired from pimping and pushing drugs, that's how Old Al supported himself in his younger days by fronting for the ODB.  During the 60's and his hey days, Old Al got paid by the ODB to rant and rave on cue and keep things quiet with the rest of the minority community in exchange for a financial allowance.  

(By the way, Old Al just non-endorsed Roxan Staff and Sharon Boyd for city council, which should be worth a couple of hundred votes to both of us.)

Our Mayor was right to look into every corner for cost-savings, even employee benefits.  Some questions about step pay and SIP and accruing sick days have been answered, but it does not mean the issues are put to rest.   Employees may not understand why she continues to look into these issues when we have already finished the budget for 2003.  That Former Mayor and MPT Poss would already be out looking for some rich guy's project where more of our limited resources could be diverted, rather than attending to next year's budget process where we are likely to have even less tax revenue to spread around.  Mayor Miller takes the job seriously.

Many people run for office to "ride in the parade" and be a celebrity.  As Rick Leggio likes to say, those types always go to the "Dark Side.  In some ways, I respect Shakedown Leo more than the parade riders, who can be bought cheap -- invitations to parties and big doings.  They always justify their "bad votes" with a "big vision" explanation.  At least with Chaney, you know what he's doing and he is spending his shakedown money in his district.

Mayor Miller won her election with a focus on the "little things".  It's the lack of attention to the little things that has us in such a mess.  

That old saw -- "Can't see the forest for the trees" should be reversed in Dallas.  We are crashing into a lot of scrub trees because we have been so busy looking for a forest.

We had implied contracts with our personnel that we are not honoring while we spend money duplicating County responsibilities.  

We have a written contract with the couple who donated the land for Tenison Park that we are not honoring, which breach of contract is likely to cost us that park.  

We have rules of conflict of interest that were ignored by That Former Mayor and the Visitors Bureau.

We need a New Year's Resolution in Dallas.  Let's start keeping our word. 





  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