Thursday, October 06, 2005

$150,000 allocated to pursue 10-4-1 fight. But city shuns controversial ex-rights official

$150,000 allocated to pursue 10-4-1 fight But city shuns controversial ex-rights official
Published: MARCH 28, 1991

The Dallas City Council voted Wednesday to pay attorneys up to $150,000 more to fight for the 10-4-1 election plan but agreed that William Bradford Reynolds will not be among them. The vote came after more than 50 speakers decried the former U.S. assistant attorney general's track record on civil rights.

The council voted 6-5 to continue paying the attorneys.

Mayor Annette Strauss drew a round of applause after assuring the audience even before the public testimony began that the council already had decided not to hire Mr. Reynolds.

But the brief show of appreciation quickly gave way to a litany of complaints about the city's willingness to consider hiring the former U.S. Justice Department official.

As speaker after speaker stepped to the podium, council members were asked to defend spending $150,000 more on legal fees in the redistricting case while other pressing problems need attention.

Speakers told stories of living in neighborhoods with unpaved roads and of people being evicted from their homes because applications for small housing loans from the city were rejected. "How do we have the audacity to call ourselves an international city?' asked Cheryl Wattley, a lawyer who unfurled a scroll that she said contained more than 1,000 signatures on a petition calling for the council to reject Mr. Reynolds.

The former head of the federal government's civil rights division during the Reagan administration has been criticized for his opposition to affirmative action programs and school busing. Mr. Reynolds, now in private practice, has said he has an excellent civil rights record. On Wednesday night, the council first voted 7-4 against a measure offered by council member Diane Ragsdale, a 10-4-1 opponent, to stop paying all outside lawyers representing the city in the case. The second, and decisive, vote was on a plan offered by Mrs. Strauss to pay $150,000 to Johnson & Gibbs, the local law firm hired by the city, but with the caveat that "no additional outside attorneys will be hired.' Mrs. Strauss said she objected to Mr. Reynolds' involvement because it amounted to lobbying. By contrast, the additional $150,000 merely permits local attorneys to continue trying to get - Justice Department clearance of the election plan, she said. "There's nothing new happening today -- it's just a continuation of the legal test (of 10-4-1),' Mrs. Strauss said. "It's taken a heck of a lot of moral courage to do that.' Mrs. Strauss and council member Harriet Miers have been asked repeatedly to withdraw their support for 10-4-1 because they have said they person ally oppose it. But both have said they believe it deserves a legal test because voters approved it in an August 1989 referendum.

Ms. Miers voted against the mayor's plan Wednesday because, she said, she wanted to be consistent with earlier votes against hiring outside attorneys to do city work.

Council members Glenn Box, Charles Tandy, Max Wells, John Evans and Jerry Bartos voted for the measure with Mrs. Strauss.

Mr. Box, the leading council proponent of 10-4-1, said the council was wrong to ignore the advice of lead attorney Mike McKool. Mr. McKool, a lawyer in private practice, told the council in a closed session that he needed Mr. Reynolds' expertise to help counter a lobbying campaign waged by 10-4-1 opponents to try to sway the Justice Department. "I hope they (city attorneys) can continue to pull the rabbit out of the hat and work miracles for 10-4-1,' Mr. Box said.

But several members who voted against spending the additional $150,000 said they were worried that Mr. McKool still would find a way to lobby the Justice Department.

Several also chided City Attorney Analeslie Muncy for hiring Mr. Reynolds to do preliminary work with money from her own budget. Ms. Muncy told the council that Mr. Reynolds had written one letter and made several calls on the city's behalf. Council member Lori Palmer, who voted against spending any more money on the suit, said the request to hire Mr. Reynolds represented "a significant miscalculation and misjudgment.' "The extent of that has made me question the overall judgment of our attorneys,' Ms. Palmer said. Ms. Muncy also told the council that the city has already spent more than $1 million on the redistricting case. The total bill will probably rise by at least $1 million more if plaintiffs attorneys ask for more money, as anti cipated, she said. A year ago, U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer ruled that the current council system, with three at-large seats, discriminates against minorities. He ordered May 4 elections under the 14-1 system. The city appealed, and on March 15, t he 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside Judge Buchmeyer's ruling and canceled the elections. The appeals court judges said they wanted to give the Justice Department time to review the 10-4-1 plan.

The U.S. Supreme Court later this week is expected to review a request to lift the stay of the May 4 election and may make a decision early next week.

PHOTO(S): William Bradford Reynolds . . . has been criticized for his opposition to affirmative action programs and school busing.

PHOTO LOCATION: Reynolds, William Bradford.

1991 Copyright The Dallas Morning News Company


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