Dallas Police & Fire Pension Says Lawsuit Isn't Imminent, Questions Morning News' Ethics

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Perhaps you've heard by now: the Morning News reports that negotiations "have all but broken down" between the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System, who own the neighboring Museum Tower, which its critics say is really lighting up the neighborhood.

But a statement sent to us just now from public relations rep Katie Sibley on behalf of pension fund administrator Richard Tettamant says that's not true. "The Dallas Morning News article about pending litigation is inaccurate," she writes, continuing:

As a result of the Dallas Morning News' numerous open record requests, we asked the Texas Attorney General to review parts of each request as allowed by law. A copy of that letter was required to be sent to the Dallas Morning News. The letter to the Attorney General is simply a prudent and conservative measure as allowed by law in response to the threat of litigation against Museum Tower as speculated in the press. More importantly, we agree with Mr. Luce's statement today that last week's discussions were successful, cordial and professional. We're confident that the process will continue and we'll have a positive outcome. The System has not changed its mission to try to resolve this matter in a reasonable and professional manner.

A source familiar with the pension fund's board tell us that pension fund staff claims the two sides are close to a solution. The board has apparently been shown drawings of a proposed fix and provided with a cost estimate.

The source adds that the pension fund staff has told the board that the publicity has actually increased condo sales in Museum Tower. But a letter the pension fund's lawyer Gary Lawson provided to the News said more or less the opposite, stating that sales had been "substantially adversely affected."

Lawson has also sent a rather disgruntled letter to Dallas Morning News reporter Gary Jacobson. The letter, which was forwarded to us, and which we've reproduced in full at the bottom of this post, accuses the newspaper "and at least one other media organization" (they mean D) of "pursuing advocacy journalism to serve the agenda of one side of this complex situation." He also accuses the paper of "engag[ing] in a coordinated campaign to move public opinion toward the Nasher side of that agenda and states that "the Dallas Morning News has poisoned the well for any real hope that mediation will succeed."

"Simply, the Dallas Morning News is not reporting the news," he adds. "It has and continues to engage in active and unethical advocacy, gleefully acting as a change agent of the Nasher and Piano that is forcing the mediation into failure."

We're awaiting comment from DMN managing editor George Rodrigue.

Full Letter From Gary Lawson to Gary Jacobson

Subject: Strasburger letter to Texas AG

Mr. Jacobson,

As you know, your colleague Mr. McGonigle has filed 4 open records requests, on the heels of his and your paper's continued effort to attack our client's Museum Tower building, despite our client's concerted efforts to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of the reflective light issue between Museum Tower and the Nasher. His open record request is based on the law and that same law entitles our client to seek the opinions of the Texas Attorney General with regard to certain aspects of such request, and by law we were obliged to and happily provided your colleague a copy of our request to the Attorney General, which included background information regarding Mr. Piano's threat of litigation as reported in your newspaper and your colleague's assertion of his right to change our course of action in the court of public opinion in utter disregard of our client's efforts to be good neighbors and work with the help of Tom Luce towards a collaborative solution.

We are a nation and state built upon the foundation of laws. Without laws there would be lawlessness. That notion depends, in part, upon the exercise an open and free press that is obedient to the Society of Professional Journalist cannon of ethics to report the facts of a story objectively and not take sides. However, Dallas Morning News reporters, and at least one other media organization in Dallas, have chosen to ignore the SPJ Code of Ethics, which they so fervently hold up as a shield of honor, and instead are pursuing advocacy journalism to serve the agenda of one side of this complex situation. The Dallas Morning News has engaged in a coordinated campaign to move public opinion toward the Nasher side of that agenda, because your own reporter openly stated he, and by projection your paper, hold the rule of law in disdain. The Dallas Morning News, by this unethical act, has declared its advocacy agenda to influence public opinion with such pejorative fervor against our client in an attempt to force them to change their building.
The Dallas Morning News and D Magazine have failed to explore other Renzo Piano projects elsewhere around the world that have been embroiled in controversy over his aggressive and purposeful designs that disregard the surrounding community. Likewise they have failed to explore Piano's flawed analysis of what future effects his buildings may project upon the immediate area. To suggest the Dallas Morning News independently and benevolently sought out Piano for his comments on the Museum Tower and Nasher situation is a stretch of the imagination. To invite, perhaps by suggestive questioning, a quote from Piano that a lawsuit will be brought in the Museum Tower and Nasher situation the Dallas Morning News has poisoned the well for any real hope that mediation will succeed.
Simply, the Dallas Morning News is not reporting the news, it has and continues to engage in active and unethical advocacy, gleefully acting as a change agent of the Nasher and Piano that is forcing the mediation into failure.

I will be on board an airplane between 1-4pm central time and will be unable to reply further.

Gary Lawson,
Strasburger & Price, LLP


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