Who at Dallas City Hall Put the Severed Horse's Head in a Businessman's Bed?

Categories: Schutze

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Dallas Observer
This is where the real shady characters live.
You own a business and the land it's on. You get a letter from the city. It says the city needs your property for a project. Stuffed in the same envelope is a little pamphlet explaining how the city can force you to sell even if you don't want to. It's called "eminent domain."

That's serious. Right? So what if you go down to City Hall and start asking people, "Well, what's the project?" And they all say, "We don't know." And you say, "Who sent me this letter?" And they all point at each other and say, "He did." "No, she did." "No, he did."

You're thinking right about now you must be in a mafia movie. And you are. You're at Dallas City Hall.

I told you last week how Freddy and Dale Davenport, owners of a car wash on MLK Boulevard in South Dallas, got a letter from the city with a legal description of their property, saying the city had a new plan for their street. "We wish to advise you that your property described above will be needed for the project."

Between then and now, neither the Davenports nor I have been able to get anyone at City Hall to say what the project is, whose project it is, what budget it would come out of or who authorized the sending of an official city letter threatening eminent domain.

I asked Lou Jones, the city employee whose name was on the letter, who told her to send it? She told me to ask Dallas City Council member Carolyn Davis or the acting City Manager, A.C. Gonzalez. Davis wouldn't talk to me. She had her staff tell me to ask the mayor. The mayor's spokesman, Sam Merten, said they were looking into how the letter got sent.

Since then Dale Davenport has told me that he confronted Davis in a pizza restaurant on MLK Boulevard and that, after asking him, "What are you doing here?" (He said, "Getting a pizza."), Davis told him she had nothing to do with the letter and didn't know why it was sent.

I spoke with Gonzalez last night. Of the nature of the project, he said, "There has been conversation about MLK in a number of different fronts and times about what might be able to be done from an economic development standpoint."

Of the budget for the project, he said, "That hasn't been figured out."

Of the sending of the letter, he said, "At different times there has been some focus on that property, and the letter was sent to see really just if there was any interest on the part of the owner to sell and also to have them be made aware that there was an effort on the city's part to just get a better understanding of what the property value might be, period."

Look. To say there has been "some focus on the property" is the understatement of the decade. Eight years ago a state legislative investigative committee took testimony about fake police raids on the car wash (confirmed by the Dallas chief of police) a shot fired through the Davenport's home (confirmed by the FBI). All was linked in the committee's view to a pattern of shakedowns by elected officials in Dallas City Hall.

The Davenports, meanwhile, were investigated, vetted and given a clean bill of health.

So, yes, there has been a great deal of official interest in that car wash over the years -- specifically a proven pattern of abuse by elected officials, police and other city staff trying to shake the property loose from the Davenports' ownership. Why and for whom? Stay tuned.

When I spoke last week with Merten, Mayor Mike Rawlings' spokesperson, he made broad suggestions that there is something shady about the kind of business the Davenports do at the car wash, in spite an eight-year record of state and federal investigations showing just the opposite, that the only shady operator at that location is Dallas City Hall.

I asked acting city manager Gonzalez who else on MLK got a letter like the one sent to the Davenports. He said he didn't know.

So, wait. The city might or might not want somebody's land. It doesn't even know for sure yet what it wants the land for. It's just curious whether the person wants to sell. All they want to do is appraise it. So it sends a letter threatening eminent domain? Really?

Bullshit. Let me tell you how this one went down. Somebody who lacked any authority to do so caused that letter to be sent. It was somebody who could bully or cajole Lou Jones, the city employee, into sending it. That letter was a severed horse head in the Davenports' bed sheets.

Now the mayor and the city manager are covering for the person who got it sent, which makes me think the person must be a fellow elected official, because that's how they roll down there. Some elected official at City Hall jumped all of the process and the protocols to try to scare the shit out of some property owners and get them to jump. That's what this is. It's just like the fake police raids. I believe the legal term is official oppression.

Don't believe me? Think I'm wrong? OK. This is easy. Then explain it. Somebody stand up and say who authorized that letter. Somebody stand up and say what the project is. Somebody stand up and say how a simple request to appraise a property turned into a threat of eminent domain.

Because otherwise the whole thing sounds and smells like the mafia. Don't ask too many questions, because youse could have an accident or something. If that's not it, then somebody stand up and clear the air. Meanwhile, I will not be holding my breath.

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44 comments
annff69
annff69

Sad. These folks could teach the Chicago politicians some new tricks. Wow!

James080
James080

Looking at Google Earth, there seems to be a few abandoned/derelict buildings and several large vacant lots on MLK in the same general area as the car wash property. 

Maybe a FOI request is in order. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

 "We wish to advise you that your property described above will be needed for the project."

Was the letter actually structured like that?  Verbatim.

"wish to advise" . . . forgery.  I don't think their form letters use that language, then:

"will be needed" . . . not MAY, MIGHT, or possibly needed.  More like SHALL.

put the two together and it sounds goofy.

I don't think they talk like that.  Particularly if the City Attorney hasn't reviewed the staff proposal and the letter to be issued.  And, as previously mentioned - it is not constructive notice if it wasn't sent certified letter return receipt requested.

It may be a forgery in that Ms. Jones can later claim it to be, upon further investigation of course.

The Feebs probably won't care but the state Atty General's office might look into it.


RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

I'm a bit confused by the time frame of all this.  Did the Davenports recently receive the letter, or did this come 8 years ago at the start of all of this?  Maybe I'm not reading closely enough, but last week's story and this one both mention the letter in a manner that makes it seem very current.  My poor comprehension aside, I can't fault your conclusions.  All that's left to do is lay bets on which City employee falls on their sword over this one.  It won't be AC Gonzales, he hari kari'd on the Uber deal.  My money is on Lou Jones.  Rookie mistake.  In government, at any level, never ink your signature on any piece of paper that doesn't have someone else's higher authority clearly established.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

This is getting hilarious. 

A condemnation appraisal involves appraising the WHOLE, the PART TAKEN, and the REMAINDER.  These appraisals are contracted out to the private sector.  

The City typically must provide detailed plan sets for the larger strip or area being "taken", and how the appraiser's subject property fits in that engineering or plans set.

In other words, there are a lot of guidelines on the RFPs for a condemnation process.

A letter generated to the property owner is way on down the time line pike.  Multiple departments have been working on this.  There IS a paper trail.  A big one.

or there isn't (ha!).

And if there isn't, there is now only one alternative - stonewall like mofo.

Or, declare it a mystery.  The City just doesn't know.  But they will open an investigation.  Promise to get back to you in June of 2015.

Maybe there was a one-armed man seen running from the scene.  

Ha!  This really IS turning in to a mad cap whodunnit.

casiepierce
casiepierce

Why is Carolyn Davis asking him what he's doing there? He's spending money on South Dallas, that's what he's doing there! If anyone hasn't figured it out by now, she's the one who "caused" it to be sent, and probably on the advice of her good pal Diane Ragsdale.....

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I think Merten has gone native.

Something in the water downtown, I suppose.

Greg820
Greg820

Fortunately our council people operate on the subtlety level of the Three Stooges, so stuff like this can come to light. 

Metroplexual
Metroplexual

Though the players are different this reminds me of the efforts to confiscate the gas station / convenience store down the street.  If you can't come up with a plan, financing and management to start and succeed with a business, just find one you like and make a grab for it.  Problem is though even if you get it you won't be able to run it profitably for long.  The smarts and effort needed to start it are required to make it work.  

Political thuggery won't be much help there unless you get a contract with the city or county to wash all their cars exclusively at a premium price.  By the time you pay all players involved you won't have much left to invest in running the business with much profit to enjoy.



ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Jim, it is pretty obvious who did it.  Staff did it.


Besides, this is just another outcome of the 14-1 district plan.  All of the drawbacks of ward politics with none of the advantages.

ruddski
ruddski

Was the letter delivered in a jelly?

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Where's WylieH?

He(she?) usually has some insight on these matters?


Oxtail
Oxtail

New Yellow Cab dispatch center?

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Was it just a first class mailed letter or was it Registered letter ?

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

@holmantx ..02 cents here . And using my own simple logic . An attorney reading that letter could tell in the first few lines ( or just by the fact  that is wasn't sent as letters for this kind of legal matter  should be sent ) Who ever wrote that letter  shouldn't have been writing the letter or sending that letter in the first place ?

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@RTGolden1 Odds are no city employee will fall on their sword for this because it won't become a big story. Schutze is the only person in local media that will run with this, the Morning News won't touch it nor will local TV and the DO doesn't have the readership to create the pressure on the city.

The letter itself isn't all that damning unless you can trace it back to who  it was written for, and the city is going to stonewall Jim. It's pretty obvious this goes back to a private developer but we will probably never know who unless the city actually takes the land and someone starts building.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@RTGolden1 

Good catch. Legislative investigation -- eight years ago. Condemnation letter -- last week.  In between, sustained campaign of harassment.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@holmantx 

Dear Citizen: We have to take your house away from you. Hey. Just kidding.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Metroplexual 

Yes. Very strong parallels, probably a lot of the same personnel. Successful businesses viewed as siphoning money out of the community. Failing businesses viewed as deserving of external subsidy.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Staff only does shit like this when pushed by a councilperson. Unlike some of the council people, staff is actually smart.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

So Jim is there a copy of the letter to be viewed ?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@oakclifftownie @holmantx 

It is a public taking.  There is a public process so the public can participate and public monies can be authorized and spent.  Chiefly, before a letter is sent out like that the City Council must vote to condemn in a public session.  Did that happen and we missed it?

Was it jammed up under something else?  Did it go through the Plan Commission first?  Has this "public project" been approved or considered?

Is this a blight designation?  When did the City Council label it as such and under what criteria?

All this has got to be in front of the public.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JimSX @RTGolden1 

Just got off the hook with a commercial appraiser who does condemnation work for the city.  He isn't aware of it.

It has to have a project number assigned to it and you go to the 2nd floor down on Jefferson to pull the plans.  It's where the real estate department is located.  They will know all about it.  They issue the "scope of work".  And it has all been drawn up, gone through multiple departments, including the city attorney's office.  It's a huge paper trail.

And every property owner within, like 1,200 feet must also be notified and their opinion asked for.  It is a long, public process.  Committees, open meeting act.  Goes before the city council.



holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JimSX @RTGolden1 

Did the City Attorney's office kiss the paper on a condemnation?

What's their take on this letter if they didn't?  I think they normally have to issue an opinion before the City moves with a letter on contested property.


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@JimSX @holmantx 

I'll bet the downtown CVS sells a lot of antacid to city employees on the days your blogs are posted.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@holmantx @TheCredibleHulk 

Nah. Hope not. It's a good job.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@wcvemail 

At this juncture in the process, I think there is a simple question for the City's Real Estate Department:

What is the Project Number for this action?

This does not require an FIOA request.


wcvemail
wcvemail

Your description of the process certainly adds weight to your conjecture about the letter's extra-legal source, which at first blush I brushed off. This could indeed be a rogue, silo operation, but dang, for eight-plus years without more identification? Either the "they" is very good and very entrenched, or just lucky.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@casiepierce @wcvemail To hound a business out of business because it's successful and white-owned? Not even making noises about buying it out, as with that c-store? Wow, even for South Dallas, that's short-sighted. OTOH, Ragsdale's involvement would explain the very long history, since Davis hasn't been in office that whole time.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@JimSX 

I'm betting the compensation structure is such that moral dilemmas like this can be reliably back-burnered, if not outright dismissed by those employed by the city.

A  "change in perspective", as it were.

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