MORE REASONS NOT TO REMOVE D’ANGELO LEE

Another media report for the City Council to ignore, from CBS11:

ETHICS QUESTIONS MOUNT: PLAN COMMISSIONER HAD UNDISCLOSED STAKE IN LAND DEAL FUNDED BY UNAWARE CITY COUNCIL

Aug 30, 2005 9:00 pm US/Central
By Sarah Dodd and Jack Fink
CBS-11 News

The Dallas City Council earlier this year approved a million dollar grant to build a housing project in which Dallas Plan Commissioner D’Angelo Lee apparently held a secret financial interest, CBS-11 News has learned. The project, dubbed the Kiest Boulevard LP, is located at the intersection of East Kiest Blvd. and Southerland.

The deal apparently fell through since the onset of intense publicity detailing an FBI corruption investigation that has scrutinized Commissioner Lee and his two business partners. The development plan obtained by CBS 11 lists as primary developers Denton Contractor Ron Slovacek and Andrea Spencer, who have been linked in at least one other business development deal to the Plan Commissioner. All three are among a long and growing list of people of interest to an FBI public corruption investigation of how Dallas City Hall, council members, and plan commissioners have handled an affordable housing construction boom in the city’s southern sectors.

Slovacek and Spencer have shared adjoining suites with D’Angelo Lee at the Southside on Lamar Lofts, which were searched by FBI agents in June. The trio’s business plan was presented to the city last November, and the partners stood to make more than $800,000 on the city-approved grant without investing their own money, CBS-11 has learned.

“When it comes to the City Council we need to know if there’s any board member who would benefit by this,” said Council member Mitchell Rasansky, when informed of Lee’s involvement in the council-approved deal to fund the scheme. “If there is, that man should not be on a city board.”

Last month, Commissioner Lee became the subject of an intense, racially charged council debate over whether he should resign in the wake of other CBS-11 reports detailing his acceptance of consulting fees for a project he then voted to approve, and about the source of two luxury vehicles he has driven but did not own. A majority of the city council voted to defeat a measure by Dallas Mayor Laura Miller to have Commissioner Lee removed from his powerful appointed advisory post. He is Mayor Pro-Tem Don Hill’s appointee.

The project’s investors did make one specific requirement: “The purchase was contingent on rezoning.”

Two weeks ago, the Plan Commission considered rezoning the property on the southeast corner of the intersection. Commissioner Lee, by then under a well-publicized FBI investigation, recused himself from that vote. But Commissioner Lee’s explanation in a public form he was required to file was vague – and, apparently, mistaken.

He wrote that he had an interest in “a proposed development” on the “southwest” corner of the intersection. The land at that corner belongs to David Tips, who told CBS-11 that he does not know Commissioner Lee and that he wants to use his property as a landfill.

Commissioner Lee did not return five telephone calls seeking comment. Spencer and Slovacek also did not respond to telephone messages.

CBS-11 has learned that Slovacek and Spencer have backed out of their pending contract to buy the Kiest Boulevard property.

This is the second private development project that CBS-11 has linked to Commissioner Lee and his two partners. As CBS-11’s Jack Fink first reported last week, Commissioner Lee played a role in a 250-unit housing complex under construction by Brian Potashnik’s Southwest Housing in Mayor Pro-Tem Hill’s district. It’s called Rosemont at Scyene. Potashnik, a large-scale affordable housing developer, is considered a target of the FBI’s bribery, extortion and money laundering investigation.

Commissioner Lee recommended to Southwest Housing that they hire James “Mac” Fulbright and his organization, Bright Three, to provide Social Services for residents the project. Commissioner Lee set up a meeting between a Southwest Housing representative and Fulbright, who eventually won the contract.

It remains unclear whether Lee collected a commission for his role as broker in the deal, as CBS-11 reported in June that he did in another Potashnik development in Hill’s district. In that case, Commissioner Lee arranged a social services contract for the Dallas Urban League. That non-profit organization told CBS-11 that it paid Lee $5,000 for his services and that the FBI has collected records relating to the transaction.

Fulbright has declined to discuss the case. But he denies that he had to pay any fee to the Commissioner.

Records show that Fulbright shared an office with another key subject of the FBI’s interest, Sheila Farrington, a political consultant to the mayor pro-tem – and to Southwest Housing. The FBI raided her apartment in June. She has declined comment.

No one has been charged wtih crime.

Records show that Hill moved to approve a resolution giving Rosemont at Scyene tax credits last October. And in January, he wrote the state a letter supporting Southwest Housing’s bid for tax credit funding of the project, a legal prerequisite for such government subsidies.

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