Politics & Government

Mike Rawlings Issues Rebuke of Dallas Observer Coverage on 2015 Incident Involving Scott Griggs

The mayor finds Jim Schutze's coverage "false and inflammatory."

On Monday, Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze scolded the Dallas Morning News for what he sees as a “flagrant and malicious lie” about Scott Griggs. His piece homes in on a DMN editorial about City Council member missteps in the wake of Councilman Kevin Felder’s alleged encounter with a scooterist.

The editorial in question mentions councilman and mayoral candidate Griggs’ episode with then assistant city secretary Bilierae Johnson. If you don’t recall, Griggs allegedly threatened to break her fingers. But Johnson didn’t wish to press charges, and a grand jury declined to indict.

The DMN says the cops wanted a felony. Schutze, who has defended Griggs from the beginning and who seems to have pegged the Oak Cliff councilman as his guy for the 2019 mayor’s race, doesn’t see it that way:

The truth is that former Dallas police Chief David Brown, who was never enthusiastic about the accusation in the first place, ultimately declined to recommend charges of any kind after the principle witness and alleged victim signed a sworn affidavit saying it didn’t happen. If months later the Morning News was able to get her to say she was still haunted, it was probably because they were still haunting her.

That brings us to today and a statement from outgoing Mayor Mike Rawlings. He calls Schutze’s coverage “false and inflammatory.” He’s not happy with the insinuation that Johnson lied about the initial incident.

Rawlings’ statement in full:

In recent months, the Dallas Observer has attacked the integrity of a civil servant who I have come to respect as much as anyone I have worked with during my two terms as mayor. City Secretary Bilierae Johnson is an ethical, honest, diligent woman who epitomizes the best of what City Hall has to offer. The Observer has written things about her that are false and inflammatory. In my capacity as one of her 15 bosses, as well as an advocate against mistreatment of women, I cannot allow these attacks to continue without a response.

Ms. Johnson is a private person and, through no fault of her own, she was put in the middle of an awful and highly political situation that began with an incident between her and a councilmember in April of 2015. Specifically, the councilmember told Ms. Johnson, “You better not push those briefing materials out or I will break your f—ing fingers.” The Observer has written that Ms. Johnson signed an affidavit saying that the incident in question did not happen, essentially accusing her of initially lying. That is not correct. Ms. Johnson has always maintained the incident occurred, though she also made clear that she did not wish to pursue criminal charges against the councilmember because of the public attention it would bring upon her. I imagine the types of articles the Observer has written about her in recent months are exactly what she was hoping to avoid by declining to pursue charges.

This was one of the most regrettable episodes during my time as mayor and I wish that no media outlets published another word about it after 2015. Apparently, that is not happening. Politicians sign up for these kinds of nasty battles. Civil servants do not. Ms. Johnson does not deserve to relive this incident and she certainly does not deserve to be painted as a liar or political stooge as part of some half-baked and ever-evolving conspiracy theory. The Observer’s articles about this case send a terrible message to all women who have had the courage to speak up about mistreatment in the workplace.


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  • Mavdog

    What in the wide world of Dallas Politics is Rawlings doing? Schutze didn’t pen that Ms. Johnson was “lying” as Rawlings says, Schutze writes that other people put words in Ms. Johnson’s mouth which she wouldn’t support nor corroborate.
    I’ll wait to see what Schutze writes in response, as he sometimes comments, and if what I read in his piece is accurate…

    • PJCTX

      The Mayor seems to be correct. Schutze’s columns on the topic repeatedly claim that Johnson signed a sworn affidavit that the event didn’t occur (i.e., “The truth is that former Dallas police Chief David Brown, who was never enthusiastic about the accusation in the first place, ultimately declined to recommend charges of any kind after the principle witness and alleged victim signed a sworn affidavit saying it didn’t happen.“) (emphasis added).

      • Mavdog

        The quote you provided does not confirm what Rawlings is claiming, specifically that Schutze is placing the label if “lying” on Ms. Johnson. If anything Schutze has been positive about Ms. Johnson and her integrity.

    • OxbowIncedent

      Pretty simple. Schutze has always been a Griggs supporter and for some reason brought up an old dead issue about how his team treats city staff. Schutze, believing his guy never looks bad, thought this was a good idea during an election period, so Rawlings (who is not running for anything) is taking the opportunity to elaborate and remind everyone that Griggs, who wants to be mayor in his cowboy boots, really was/is kinda an a-hole to work with and treats city staff like crap. Basically Schutze’s cheerleading kinda backfired.

      • Ed Huff

        Except that by responding in this way, the current mayor (sort of) looks petulant himself and one wonders what is up with the reporting at the DMN.

        • OxbowIncedent

          True. I guess DMN did initiate it. Schutze then carried the old story more. Rawlings has nothing to lose now no matter what he looks like. Griggs does and he looks like an a-hole in all versions.

      • Mavdog

        You are correct about Schutze and his affinity for Griggs.
        Likewise, the comment by Rawlings is a reminder of how much he doesn’t like Griggs.
        Perhaps they both shot themselves in the foot.

  • topham

    Schutze’s story at the time said the police report says Johnson didn’t make a complaint, even though she was referred to as the Complainant, and that the “witnesses” to Griggs’ alleged threats didn’t actually arrive until after the threats were made (if they were made), so they weren’t really witnesses. But, as Schutze didn’t include a copy of the report with his story, we can’t assess whether his reading is reasonable. I’d like to see that police report.

    No, wait. Actually, I’d like to focus on stuff happening in 2019, not stuff that happened in 2015. And I wish the DMN would, too. Unfortunately, Schutze’s recent story is 2019 news, because the DMN brought the incident up again last week.

    If the Mayor wants to protect Johnson’s privacy, his real beef is with the DMN for reviving the controversy.

  • trek1red

    It is hard to give much credibility to the Mayor when he deliberately ignored the recommendations of the redistricting commission and put Council Griggs in the same district as Delia Jasso in hopes that Dallas would win. He did not do this public, he did it behind closed doors. The Mayor is an untrustworthy individual and has been dishonest repeatedly while in office about Scott Griggs, the Trinity Toll road and many other topics. Just like the boy who cried “Wolf”, it is hard to believe him on subject.

    • Happy Bennett

      So DMN is carrying his–(the mayor’s) water, why? Might it have something to do with current mayoral and city council races and the power structure’s preferred outcome?And/or past boondoggles such as “dead of night”statuary removal at half a million dollars (at least) per?

  • Charles Mann

    The funny thing to me about Ms. Johnson feeling “haunted” is that she sits right next to Mr. Griggs at every council meeting, because that’s where her city secretary seat happens to be located, and she doesn’t appear nervous or upset in the least by his presence. One would think that if she really felt “haunted” or intimidated by Mr. Griggs, she would ask the city manager, who sits in the seat on the other side of her, to move her spot to a different location.
    I also wonder if anyone has asked Ms. Johnson if she is planning to resign if Scott Griggs wins the race for mayor?