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

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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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This is actually kind of funny. The News today carries an obit of John A. Hardman, the puppeteer and voice behind NorthPark’s Scrooge. That's not the funny part. Hardman was great at what he did. I have always enjoyed his cantankerous, insulting Scrooge. His passing is a sad event, and he'll be missed. No, the funny part is that an individual named Will Schutze, an acolyte of Hardman's, is quoted in the story. The paper IDs Schutze thusly: "son of the Dallas Morning News’ former gardening editor Mariana Greene." Okay, but that name. Schutze. It doesn't match his mother's last name. It sounds so familiar. Schutze. Hmm. Schutze, Schutze -- ah, yes! Will is also the son of Jim Schutze, the Dallas Observer’s bearded, laconic gadfly. No offense to the former gardening editor of the paper, but of Will's two parents, Jim is the one who belongs in the ID. Or who also belongs in the ID. If anyone else has a nit, I'm happy to pick it.