Thursday, October 06, 2005

Strauss criticized for lying. City Council credibility damaged, members say

Strauss criticized for lying City Council credibility damaged, members say
David Jackson Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS (DAL)
Published: APRIL 4, 1991

Dallas City Council members said Wednesday that the credibility of government has been damaged by Mayor Annette Strauss' admitted lying and her allegation that U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer told her to do so. "I think the integrity of the process is very important, and it potentially could have been violated,' council member Charles Tandy said. "I think everybody was kind of appalled.' Council members also said the controversy demonstrates the need to resolve the minority voting rights lawsuit, which was the subject of the Nov. 27 conversation between the mayor and the judge. "This is just a very unfortunate situation on top of an already confused one,' council member Harriet Miers said. "We need to put this whole issue to rest. It poi nts out how badly we need some solutions.' In a sworn affidavit obtained Tuesday, Mrs. Strauss said Judge Buchmeyer told her to lie about a conversation they had 11 days before voters rejected the 14-1 election plan, on Dec. 8. Judge Buchmeyer told Mrs. Strauss that if voters rejected the plan, he would order a May election under 14-1. He issued that order Feb. 1.
During the referendum campaign, Mrs. Strauss spoke repeatedly about the judge's intentions, but she said she had not spoken directly to Judge Buchmeyer. She attributed her statements to attorneys who had spoken to the judge.

But in her affidavit, submitted as part of an investigation into a complaint against Judge Buchmeyer, Mrs. Strauss admitted lying about not speaking to the judge. She said the judge had told her to deny their conversation took place.

Opponents of the 14-1 plan lodged a complaint against Judge Buchmeyer, contending he had improper conversations with parties to the voting rights lawsuit before his ruling.

An appeals court judge who reviewed that complaint declined to censure the judge. But he did call the conversation "ill-advised.' In a letter responding to the complaint, Judge Buchmeyer said his conversation with the mayor was not improper.

He said in an interview Wednesday that he could not talk about - the matter because the voting rights case is pending. "As much as I would like to comment, I cannot do so,' Judge Buchmeyer said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the conversation did not affect the case and accused Judge Buchmeyer's critics and the media of "judge-bashing.' Mike Daniel, who represented plaintiffs Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams, said his clients were the only ones who could have been harmed by the conversations between the judge and the mayor. But Mr. Daniel said it was no problem. "The city is the one that wanted the contact. The party that stood to be prejudiced is us,' Mr. Daniel said . "Now the city is trying to use it to embarrass and harass the judge.' But Glenn Box, a council member who campaigned against 14-1, said the judge's conversation with the mayor prejudiced supporters of the competing 10-4-1 election plan.

Mr. Box said he was disappointed that the mayor had called the judge and said he was outraged that the judge told the mayor what he would do if voters rejected 14-1. "It lends further credence to our claim that he is a biased and a prejudiced judge,' Mr. Box said.

Critics also have accused Judge Buchmeyer of misleading the appeals judge who investigated the complaint by saying that he had contacted "all attorneys' in the case before speaking with Mrs. Strauss. City Attorney Analeslie Muncy, in another affidavit, said the judge never contacted her. She said it was improper for him to talk to the mayor about his intentions. Judge Buchmeyer said he contacted Mike McKool Jr., who now is the city's lead attorney in the lawsuit, even though Mr. McKool was n ot retained by the city until a week later. Mr. McKool declined to comment on any conversation he had with Judge Buchmeyer about a phone call from Mrs. Strauss.

Mr. McKool said the city retained him Dec 3. He said Ms. Muncy contacted him so he could start analyzing the city's options in case the referendum failed.

Tom Pauken, a 14-1 opponent who was a party to the complaint against Judge Buchmeyer, said he would continue to push for the judge's removal from the case. Mr. Pauken is running for the congressional seat vacated by Dallas mayoral candidate Steve Bartlett. "I don't believe the judge has told the truth in this matter from the beginning,' Mr. Pauken said.

He said he sympathized with the mayor. "She's not experienced in matters of law. She did not know she was doing anything improper when she called him,' Mr. Pauken said. "I think the principal responsibility lies with Judge Buchmeyer.' Mrs. Strauss refused to comment Wednesday.

During an interview Tuesday, the mayor said she acted in the best interest of the city.

On Feb. 1, Judge Buchmeyer ordered a council election May 4 under a 14-1 system, 14 single-member districts and the mayor elected citywide.

The city appealed the case on behalf of the 10-4-1 plan voters endorsed in 1989. That system, which many minorities oppose, calls for 10 single-member districts, four larger regional districts and the mayor elected citywide.

On March 15, an appeals court overturned Judge Buchmeyer's order, - giving the city time to pursue federal approval of the 10-4-1 system.

Council member Al Lipscomb said the controversy surrounding Mrs. Strauss and Judge Buchmeyer should not distract people from the real issue, minority voting rights. "That's the big picture,' Mr. Lipscomb said.

PHOTO(S): Annette Strauss.

PHOTO LOCATION: Strauss, Annette.

1991 Copyright The Dallas Morning News Company


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