Fed Up

Dallas braces for a scandal involving money, power, and race.
Illustration by Andy Potts/agoodson.com

There are no winners in Dallas now that sixteen indictments have been handed down in a massive public-corruption case.

Not the city council, though none of its current members were involved. Not African Americans, who saw so many of their leaders paraded through the Earle Cabell Federal Building. Not investigators, who had been roundly criticized for their lack of progress after a dramatic raid of city hall way back in June 2005. And certainly not Dallas itself, which is doomed to witness the messy details play out in the media and the courtroom. The case boils down to this: Developer Brian Potashnik and his wife, Cheryl, are accused of bribing local officials to obtain permits to build low-income housing units in mostly poor, mostly black South Dallas. The U.S. attorney contends there was no shortage of takers, including Democratic state representative Terri Hodge, former mayor pro tem and recent mayoral candidate Don Hill, his wife and political consultant Sheila Farrington, and former city plan commissioner D’Angelo Lee. (Former city councilman James Fantroy was charged with embezzlement in a separate indictment.) All have pleaded not guilty; some have insisted that the accusations are racially motivated. In a city that often seems intent on straining relations between blacks and whites, that could be the most dangerous charge of all. As for the council, it has been eager to move past the sordid talk of money laundering, extortion, and the like. Two days after the indictments, deputy mayor pro tem Dwaine Caraway announced he was leading the fight against another pressing issue: sagging pants that reveal a person’s underwear. Now, there’s a cover-up for you.

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