17 August 2005

Dallas Morning News | Dallas housing inquiry widens

This is a sad sad state of affairs. Note to the FBI: if you're going to attempt to prosecute any criminal activity, make sure that at least one of them is not black. Apparently, if you go after a group of people, and they're all black, then it must be a rascist move on the part of the FBI. When can we get to the point in our society when we are judged by our actions and not the color of our skin? Perhaps maybe when the race mongers are out of business??

I can't even begin to describe how crazy this is. Why is it that we can't have an investigation into potential criminal activity without the black population crying foul? Why is it that a black councilman can say something like this: "They're going to make the Los Angeles riots look like a picnic...." and not suffer the consequences of inciting a riot?

We all know damn well if a white councilman had said something along those lines, the black community would be in an uproar. I'm listening to the news right now, and the Dallas City Council is in full CYA mode, and refused to fire the individual at the center of the controversy who by all the accounts I have read and heard should have been canned a long time ago.

What a crock.

Here's the story for those who don't want to register:

Dallas housing inquiry widens

Fantroy sees conspiracy as FBI subpoena targets more black city officials

09:25 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 17, 2005

By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News

A federal investigation into low-income tax-credit housing projects in Dallas has widened to include four more city officials and several city departments, after FBI agents served an overarching subpoena to the city attorney's office.

In addition to Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, council member James Fantroy and City Plan Commissioner D'Angelo Lee – whose offices were searched by federal agents in June – the subpoena named council members Leo Chaney and Maxine Thornton-Reese and plan commissioners Carol Brandon and Melvin Traylor, city officials close to the investigation said.

And some black leaders – outraged that the seven city officials named in the subpoena are black – went on the offensive Tuesday, calling the investigation a conspiracy on the part of Mayor Laura Miller and Dallas' white business elite.

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"They're going to make the Los Angeles riots look like a picnic," Mr. Fantroy said. "Why is this all just black folks? Why is it when it comes to us, we're guilty the minute there are accusations?"

The FBI declined to comment on Mr. Fantroy's comments. But Ms. Miller said Tuesday that the idea she ordered an FBI investigation is ridiculous.

"I certainly did not," she said. "I've never talked to the FBI ever since I've been mayor."

And Ms. Miller, who came under fire on Friday when she scheduled a vote for today's City Council briefing to remove Mr. Lee from the Plan Commission, said she won't back away simply because a few names have been added to the investigation.

"I am concerned that if the City Council doesn't take the lead in cleaning up the mess here ... people will look at City Hall and think everyone is corrupt," she said. "I've been very clear my goal is to get a plan commissioner who is unethical off the Plan Commission."

The subpoena served last week requested information from "city records" and mentioned "particular people and specific events" relating to the investigation, said Special Agent Lori Bailey, spokeswoman for the FBI.

Subpoena subjects
Sources on the receiving end of the subpoena said it named Mr. Fantroy, Mr. Hill and Mr. Hill's Plan Commission appointee, Mr. Lee, in addition to Southwest Housing – a development company owned by Brian Potashnik that works primarily in tax-credit projects – and Odyssey Residential Holdings, run by his rival and former associate, James R. "Bill" Fisher. Mr. Chaney, Dr. Thornton-Reese, Ms. Brandon and Mr. Traylor were also named.

"Nothing was served on anyone individually," said Agent Bailey, adding that she is barred from discussing details of the records request. "This was a general subpoena served on the city's custodian of records."

The Potashnik family, in addition to giving at least $25,000 to Ms. Miller's campaign since 2002, has also contributed $6,000 to Mr. Chaney since 2003, campaign finance reports show. Mr. Fisher and his family contributed $3,000 to Dr. Thornton-Reese in March 2005, records show.

Sources close to the investigation said the subpoena requested documents and tapes on at least five Southwest Housing tax-credit projects approved since 2000: Rosemont at Scyene in Mr. Hill's district; Rosemont at Laureland on the border of Mr. Hill and Mr. Fantroy's district; Cherrycrest Villas and Fairway Crossing in Mr. Chaney's district; and Rosemont at Arlington Park, which is in council member Pauline Medrano's district. Ms. Medrano is not named in the subpoena, nor is her predecessor in District 2, John Loza. All the projects were new construction except for Fairway Crossing, which is a rehabilitation.

Employees in the city secretary's office and in the housing, development services and economic development departments were ordered Monday to start collecting the requested information, including tapes, documents and e-mail messages, a city official said. They have been asked to give the information to the city attorney's office by Friday.

Ms. Brandon, who is Mr. Fantroy's appointee to the plan commission, said she didn't know anything about the subpoena until a reporter called her Tuesday morning. As far as she knows, she said, she's only had to vote on two tax-credit housing projects in her district, and hasn't done anything wrong.

Former DISD employee
Mr. Traylor, a former Dallas school district educator who went to work for Southwest Housing in 2003, two months after Mr. Chaney appointed him to the Plan Commission, could not be reached for comment. He is the manager of education programs at 21 Southwest housing projects in Texas and one in Colorado. In that position, he coordinates after-school tutoring programs at apartment complexes.

Mr. Chaney and Dr. Thornton-Reese said they were caught off-guard by the news that their names appeared in the subpoena. Dr. Thornton-Reese said she hasn't done anything questionable and noted that it doesn't seem like a coincidence that all the city officials named in the subpoena are black.

"Isn't that strange?" Dr. Thornton-Reese said rhetorically. "Blacks have been targeted before."

Mr. Fantroy took a stronger stance. He said the FBI investigation's focus on black officials is retaliation for the May defeat of the strong-mayor referendum – a measure that was championed by the mayor and beaten largely by unprecedented voter turnout in the southern sector.

And he said that if "the big boys" – referring to top elected officials and white business leaders – told the FBI to "pack up and get out of here," they would do it.

"What are they saying? That we can't be honest?" Mr. Fantroy said. "They're trying to set an example. Why don't the racism stop?"

Mr. Fantroy's sentiment rings true throughout the southern sector, political analyst Rufus Shaw said. Dallas blacks have gotten to a point where they "don't believe anything the Justice Department says, the FBI says, the white media says," Mr. Shaw said.

And even if there's no conspiracy in the FBI investigation, Mr. Shaw said, the perception of it is so strong that those who are guilty will become martyrs.

"We're in siege mode," he said. "I don't think you can get 10 African-American leaders to disagree with what Fantroy said."

The coming debate
Council members agreed Tuesday that developments in the FBI investigation would color today's debate about removing Mr. Lee from the Plan Commission.

Mr. Lee did not return phone calls on Tuesday. But City Secretary Shirley Acy said she hadn't received a resignation letter from him, and a spokeswoman for the family said Mr. Lee had not made up his mind on whether to resign.

Ms. Miller said she's not sure what he has left to decide.

"He needs to quietly resign and go away," she said.

But District 3 council member Ed Oakley said the FBI investigation is so preliminary and the cast of characters so big that it's inappropriate for the City Council to decide who should stay and who should go.

"All of it has been allegations," he said. "What's the next step? Are we going to remove four members from the City Council? Are we going to remove the other plan commissioners too?"

Council member Mitchell Rasansky said any plan commissioners being investigated by the FBI "probably need to do some soul searching and resign." But he stopped short of asking his colleagues on the City Council to step down, differentiating between elected officials and an "advisory body."

If council members "are indicted, they need to resign," he said. "But if I was subpoenaed and under investigation, I would give deep consideration to resigning."

Staff writers Dave Levinthal, Tim Wyatt, Scott Parks and Holly Hacker contributed to this report.
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