Until recently Arlington maintained easygoing, smalltown politics. But the times, they are a changin’.
Darrell Jordan, a partner in a Dallas law firm and a former assistant district attorney, has been called by the council to investigate a veritable snake pit of allegations against former Arlington chief warrant officer and 23-year city employee Jeff Gann.
And Municipal Judge Luther Strange, who has been telling the council things it hasn’t wanted to hear since July, when he fired Gann for insubordination and misuse of office, has himself been fired after continuing his investigation of Gann against the wishes of the City Council. Arlington Mayor S.J. Stovall credits Strange’s termination to a “mutual loss of confidence.”
Strange says he was terminated for doing, “in my view, what an honest city employee should do.” He waged his investigation campaign through a barrage of memoranda sent to the city council concerning Gann’s activities: receiving a stolen backhoe and trailer; warning a suspect of a search-and-arrest warrant pending service; avoiding a ticket for public intoxication; and, on three separate occasions, showing favoritism to a business associate’s son arrested on drug charges. Gann also, according to Strange, had illegal aliens released from custody so they could work for him.
But the city council, aware of all these charges, did nothing. Strange claimed Gann was being protected because of his close association with Arlington police Chief Herman Perry and City Manager Ross Calhoun. As it turns out, Gann, Perry, Calhoun and several other city administrators are involved in a land investment deal.
The city council continued to ignore the judge’s charges until the media learned of the memos in November. One council member said members chose not to act on the situation before the April 1981 council elections for fear of muddying the issues.
The council finally began to investigate Gann after learning that he was the subject of investigations being conducted by the FBI and the state comptroller’s office. Strange says he was fed “erroneous information” in order to make him look bad; he calls the situation that led to his firing a “set-up.”
The word from investigator Jordan is due February 1. That Gann is guilty of an assortment of wrongdoings seems probable. That Strange overstepped the bounds of a city-employed administrator seems likely. But that Arlington city leaders are guilty of cronyism or worse -of shutting their eyes to improper activities for self-serving reasons-is apparent.