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At Media Day, Mavs Players’ Optimism Undermined By Organization’s Failed Corporate Culture

| 9 hours ago

As the press conferences for the Dallas Mavericks’ annual media day were set to begin on Friday afternoon, CEOs and leaders of local companies and nonprofits and universities were scattered among members of the press. They represented the newly formed, 27-person Dallas Mavericks Advisory Council, co-chaired by former Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Katie Edwards, the Mavericks’ senior director of communications.

Most of them sat patiently, seemingly excited to be in an unfamiliar environment, almost as if gifted tickets to a Hollywood movie premier. They include folks like Bob Mong, the president of UNT Dallas, and Jan Langbein, the CEO of the Genesis Women’s Shelter.

The makeup of the council itself was a reminder of the ethical and institutional failures in the organization’s recent past, factors which beget its creation. “We are here to observe,” Edwards said to the media and her fellow board members just before the press conferences started.

The Mavericks are recovering from a disgraceful public scandal at the exact moment when their on-court product is likely on the verge of an exciting turning point. Those are two vastly different dynamics that have almost nothing in common with each other, but media day was a reminder that they exist on not-so-distant planes. This is a professional sports organization with a lot to reckon with and a professional sports team with a lot of promise. Those aren’t equally important, but they are equally true.

Two days before media day, the results of the team’s harassment investigation was made public. It substantiated numerous allegations of workplace misconduct that took place over the past two decades, the vast majority of which happened through Mark Cuban’s tenure as owner. (Cuban said he was unaware that Ussery was investigated by the team for sexual harassment in 1998.)

Terdema Ussery. Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

The 43-page report cited incidents of grossly inappropriate behavior toward women ranging from comments to forceful, unwanted kissing to watching pornography in plain sight. The former president and CEO of the Mavericks, Terdema Ussery, was a serial harasser; the report found evidence that he harassed at least 15 employees. The team’s in-house writer, Earl K. Sneed, was not fired despite two incidences of attacking two of his significant others, one of whom was also a Mavericks’ employee. A top-performing salesman often watched pornography on his work computer and once allowed a used condom to slip out of his pantleg and onto the floor. This behavior was protected by a human resources head named Buddy Pittman, who bullied employees who reported the misconduct.

The NBA chose not to apply a basketball-related penalty like draft picks, as almost everything found in the investigation occurred on the business side. On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban announced a $10 million donation to various women’s organizations, four times the maximum amount the NBA can fine an owner.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle began his press conference with a statement about the scandal. “I am in awe of the women that have worked in this organization over the past twenty years,” Carlisle said. “I’m inspired by the victims who have had the courage to come forward and tell their stories to ensure an accurate investigation.”

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Media

Former Observer Writer Anna Merlan Has a Book Coming Out

| 10 hours ago
This is the cover of Anna’s book. If you skipped the post and the headline, you might say, “Who’s Anna? What’s this book?” And I would say that you need to go a little slower. Quit rushing. Don’t just click on something. Read it. OK? OK.

Do you remember Anna Merlan from the Dallas Observer, back when the staff was big enough to need two elevators? Sure you do. Her presence is missed around here although I guess the internet makes everywhere “around here.” I only met her once, I believe, at Lee Harvey’s, and since I follow her on various social media sites, it feels a bit — to me, anyway — like she never left. Would I like to see her dropkick folks around here in the jeans? Obviously. But she is doing it somewhere and that’s good enough for me.

ANYWAY, Anna has a book coming out in April. It is titled Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power, and I am very interested to read it and go insane. Maybe less interested in going insane because I have a lot of good things happening currently, personally, but I guess we all run that risk every day by simply going out into this bonkers world. So, OK. Go pre-order the book and then tell me your favorite gloomy-day pick-me-up in the comments, which are still active for whatever reason.

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Local News

Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger Has Been Fired

| 13 hours ago

Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger, who shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean in his apartment earlier this month, has been fired after an internal investigation found she “engaged in adverse conduct.”

Guyger was charged with manslaughter in the killing; she is currently free on $300,000 bond. During a community meeting, Chief U. Reneé Hall had said that she could not fire Guyger because of “federal, state, and local laws … civil service laws,” although WFAA found that department policy appeared to contradict that statement. According to DPD’s general rules, “The Chief of Police may circumvent all formal disciplinary procedures to render an immediate decision when it deems it necessary to preserve the integrity of the department.” Hall also argued that firing Guyger could impact the criminal investigation.

Guyger can appeal her firing through the city’s civil service rules. In a statement, the department says she was fired during a hearing Monday morning. It’s one of the many things that protestors have called for. Guyger was allowed to remain free for nearly four days after the shooting, a detail viewed by many as hypocritical.

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Local Government

Atmos Energy Says 3-Year Infrastructure Replacement Plan May Be Feasible

| 14 hours ago

I received an email on Friday with the Dallas City Council’s agenda for Wednesday, along with a memo to Council from City Manager T.C. Broadnax about the requested acceleration of Atmos Energy’s Infrastructure replacement. Back in April, weeks after a natural gas explosion killed 12-year-old Linda Rogers, Atmos indicated that it could replace all cast-iron pipes in five years, by 2023. Council members objected to the timeframe, but company leaders would not commit to a quicker replacement plan.

Apparently Atmos now says it can replace the pipes in three years if they are able to increase the number of crews 40 percent by the end of next year. But it remains to be seen if that volume of qualified crews is a realistic option. Given the fact that one of the contributing factors to the string of February leaks was heavy rainfall, our current weather patterns seem to make haste a top priority. Given the Dallas Morning News‘ investigative report yesterday, outlining how more than two dozen homes in North and Central Texas have blown up since 2006, while Atmos was earning billions in profits, the question remains why they didn’t start hiring and training crews sooner. Here’s the memo in full:

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Local News

Leading Off (9/24/18)

| 18 hours ago

23-Year-Old Doctoral Student Drowns Near UTA Campus. Alan Amaya was swept into a creek on Friday night.

Cowboys Lose in Seattle. They didn’t look good but at least they did look boring. Zeke Elliott had one touchdown called back because he went out of bounds before catching a Dak Prescott pass and then fumbled on his best run of the game. Season is looking like an 8-8 Jason Garrett Special.

Wettest September Since 1932 Set to Continue. We’ve already gotten more than four times the normal amount of [extremely Axl Rose in statement mode voice] cold September rain and guess what? It’s going to basically rain the rest of the month, too.

Security Guard Foils Wing Stop Robbery. Not sure if rumors are true that security guards are required to say “Wing stop and put your hands up” like I’ve heard. Anyway, two are in custody.

McAllen Mayor Says Best Tacos ‘Definitely Not in Dallas.’ Thank you guys for promoting our issue so hard. Next feature I write, I’m definitely going to start some business with various Texas mayors. Also, this is a little strange for me, as I am a former (very briefly) resident of McAllen.

FC Dallas Wins on the Road in Vancouver. At least one Dallas team left the Pacific Northwest happy. Matt Hedges got an unmarked header late late late in the match and FCD goes back atop the Western Conference standings.

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Local News

It’s Been a Long Week. Here Is It Takes Two.

| 4 days ago

Five years ago, Tim assigned me to write about It Takes Two, a not-really-that-great movie filmed in Dallas and released in 1988. I’ve seen it dozens of times, because it was an HBO staple around then. It’s pretty ridiculous so I can’t say why I’ve seen it so often, other than it was on and I sort of like ridiculous things. I didn’t write the feature I’d planned — I had to go write something that was pretty much the exact opposite, tone-wise — but I did write this. (I actually interviewed star George Newbern while sitting in an un-air-conditioned car outside of the West Auction Barn.) And, yeah, I missed the actual anniversary this time. It was in July. It’s been a long summer. Cut me some slack.

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Local News

Federal Judge Orders Dallas County To Cease Its Cash Bail System

| 4 days ago

On Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Judge David Godbey issued a temporary ruling that enjoins Dallas County from using a predetermined bail schedule without considering an arrestee’s ability to pay. While this decision is temporary as the lawsuit winds its way through the court, it does indicate that the federal judge thinks the plaintiffs – several individuals, including Shannon Daves, whom I wrote about here – are likely to win at trial.

Prior to this decision, arrestees in Dallas County appeared before a judge for a bail hearing that took less time than it does to order a drink at Starbucks. A video produced as part of the discovery from the lawsuit shows the assembly-line justice that the lawsuit argues is unconstitutional. While the bail hearings are closed to the public—including faith groups and community leaders who have asked to observe the procedure—I was able to get permissions to observe a few rounds of bail hearings in the Lew Sterrett Justice Center.

Held in a basement next to the room where arrestees are searched and examined by medical professionals, the hearings, which are supposed to occur relatively quickly after arrest, basically give the judge a chance to tell each arrestee the charges and the preset bail amount. Most of the time, arrestees don’t even speak. Sometimes, people don’t know what the arrest is for since the action could have been weeks or months earlier. No one was allowed to argue that their bail amount was set beyond their ability to pay, even for those arrested for minor misdemeanors like fare evasion or loitering.

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History

How Playboy Made Its Mark in Dallas

| 4 days ago

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away on September 27, 2017. He was 91 years old. I combed through the D Magazine archives the following day and discovered, in the January 1977 issue, on page 11, a story exploring whether Dallas would be getting a Playboy Club. The publishing brand’s first franchised nightclub had opened in downtown Chicago in 1960, and, according to the article, real estate developer Lenny Licht was awaiting approval to bring the club to Dallas. This was a big operation for Playboy. At its peak, there were clubs in 23 American cities, as well as in Canada, Japan, and Jamaica.

Licht eventually received the green light. This would be the first, and only, location in Texas.

The Dallas Playboy Club opened in 1977 on the second floor of Expressway Tower, at North Central Expressway and what is now SMU Boulevard, in the same building that housed the Dallas Cowboys headquarters. It was a celebrity-studded, members-only playground. And the cocktail waitresses—known as Playboy Bunnies—were a main draw. The women, in satin suits with fluffy white tails and rabbit ears perched atop their maintained locks, were the embodiment of Hugh Hefner’s vision of beauty and charm.

I reached out to a handful of the Bunnies the day after Hef passed away, to hear their stories of what it was like to work within his empire, and more specifically, in the Dallas club. Would their encounters be similar to those in “A Bunny’s Tale,” Gloria Steinem’s 1963 essay for Show magazine in which the journalist worked in the Manhattan club under the alias Marie Catherine Ochs, and exposed what she considered to be a dark foible of the sexual revolution? Would these women feel similarly about their experiences? Would their stories be even more salacious? Not quite.

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Leading Off

Leading Off (9/21/18)

| 4 days ago

Dallas County Ordered to Change Bail System. U.S. District Judge David Godbey ruled yesterday that bail must account for a defendant’s ability to pay. A magistrate judge will have to assess an individual’s bail.

Dallas County Sheriff’s Association Endorses Abbott. The group endorsed Gov. Greg Abbott for re-election instead of former sheriff Lupe Valdez. “We are extremely thankful for the support he’s shown over the years for law enforcement both as attorney general and as governor,” Sgt. Chris Dyer said.

North Texas Giving Day Rakes It In. The record was smashed with a total of $47 million yesterday for the 10th annual event. However, I’m sure Tim is a little salty that Cistercian lost the title to Westlake Academy. There’s always next year.

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