Emails show Griggs found design flaws in Dream Team Trinity plan

Pending felony charges against Dallas Councilman Scott Griggs stem from allegations that he threatened a city employee over releasing emails concerning the proposed Trinity toll road project and timely posting of the city council agenda. Attorneys for Griggs said this weekend that the pending charges are politically motivated because of Griggs’ opposition to the toll road.

Dallas Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez released this written statement concerning the situation:

“The Dallas Police Department has conducted an investigation into allegations that Dallas City Councilmember Scott Griggs improperly influenced or attempted to influence Assistant City Secretary Bilirae Johnson in the performance of her official duties.

“After concluding the investigation, Chief David Brown believes that the nature of these allegations warrants further action, and has referred all testimony and other evidence to a Dallas County Grand Jury.

“Any allegations of this nature are taken seriously at the city of Dallas, and I want all city employees to know that their safety and security is my highest priority. I have the utmost confidence in Chief Brown and the Dallas Police Department and the manner in which they have handled this investigation. Because the matter is now in the hands of the Grand Jury, it is inappropriate for me to comment any further at this time.”

Chief Brown released this statement: “Due to the serious nature of the allegation, the testimony provided, and the fact that the alleged victim and witnesses work for the Mayor and City Council, the investigation of Councilmember Scott Griggs was referred to the Dallas County Grand Jury to ensure an independent and impartial review.”

A statement from the police department noted that on Friday, May 1, “Dallas Police Department submitted a grand jury referral regarding the criminal offense of coercion of public servant, felony 3, identifying Councilmember Scott Griggs as the suspect. It is alleged that Councilmember Griggs influenced or attempted to influence Assistant City Secretary Bilirae Johnson in the performance of her official duties.”

Griggs’ attorney supplied Dallas Voice with copies of some of the emails eventually released to Griggs, which they say back up the councilman’s claim that design flaws make the so-called “Dream Team” proposal for the road dangerous.

Here’s one email released to Dallas Voice:

“The SARS team raised the concern of differential settlement in the main lanes of the parkway as a result of the current cross sections, see attached. The parkway geotechnical report specifically identified settlement as an issue for parkway construction. At the time of ultimate construction it is felt that if the Lake Project progresses with the current proposed cross sections, uneven settlement would most likely lead to undesirable longitudinal cracking in the area where the parkway main lanes are over new fill placed over and next to lake fill. NTTA’s consultant concurs with this assessment.”

More than 100 people attended an impromptu rally held to support Griggs on Saturday, May 2 at City Hall Plaza.

—  David Taffet

Attorneys call charges against Scott Griggs ‘trumped up’


Philip Kingston addresses rally outside Dallas City Hall

More than 100 people gathered at City Hall Plaza in downtown Dallas today (Saturday, May 2) to support Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs who was charged on Friday with coercion by an elected official, a third degree felony that carries a punishment of 2 to 10 years in the state pen. Attorneys and supporters called the charges “ridiculous” and “trumped-up.”

Among the elected officials at City Hall to support Griggs were Councilmen Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano, former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt and County School Board member Omar Narvaez and County School Board President Larry Duncan. Griggs was not in attendance because he can’t speak about the case.

Griggs’ attorneys said Griggs passed a lie detector test this morning with “high” flying colors.

Griggs was asked if he ever threatened physical harm, if he ever said, “I’ll break your fucking fingers,” or if he received certain papers before a 1 p.m. deadline. He answered “No” to each question and the lie detector agreed he was telling the truth. His attorneys said that evidence and more will be turned over to District Attorney Susan Hawk this week and they will ask her to dismiss the case.

Larry Friedman, one of Griggs’ attorneys, said it was unprecedented for the mayor, police chief and city manager to each release a statement  about the allegations even before any charges were filed. He called the investigation “one-sided” and said he was told the charges were going to be misdemeanor, but the police chief told the press they would be felony.

Friedman said “the powers that be” were trying to silence Griggs on the toll road issue in the final week before the election. Griggs is running unopposed, but the mayor has an opponent and a number of races across south Dallas and East Dallas will be decided on the issue of the toll road.

Griggs is accused of yelling at the assistant city secretary, who apparently didn’t remember that he yelled at her for eight days. Two other witnesses still don’t remember him using threatening language. Only the assistant city secretary seems to remember being threatened.

Kingston and others at the rally said they have never heard the mild-mannered Griggs use “the f word” or ever use abusive or threatening language. Signs at the rally called Griggs “dedicated to integrity, transparency and anti-corruption.” Chants of “Stand with Scott” erupted through the event.

“The charges are a laugher,” Kingston said, “except the stakes are too high. I’m not laughing.”

Hunt said Griggs is being charged because he exposed the dangers of fracking, has stopped the toll road and is an opponent to the status quo.

More on this story on Monday, along with some of the emails Griggs demanded be released including those that showed the “Dream Team” design for the Trinity floodplain, recently passed by the City Council, has serious flaws.

—  David Taffet

Angela Hunt is among the pall bearers for Trinity Tollway

Trinity Tollroad

The proposed Trinity Toll Road

A funeral for the Trinity Toll Road is planned for Sunday and former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt is one of the pallbearers.

The obituary lists former Mayor Tom Leppert as the road’s closest survivor and asks mourners to please send $1.5 billion for actual improvements for the city in lieu of flowers.

For her first few years on the council, Hunt was the only council member to call the plan to pave the Trinity River stupid. OK, so she actually used stronger language than that and Leppert refused to talk to her for four years.

And they actually weren’t going to pave the river. They were going to build a parkway in the river bottoms that flood severely once or twice every decade.

Then when costs began to soar, they turned the “parkway” into a “tollroad.”

When everyone questioned whether the road was going to flood, they decided to put the toll road on an elevated levee. Except no one would answer Hunt’s question: How do you put a road on an elevated levee and make it go under the Angela Hunt Hill Bridge and over the other historic bridges crossing the river? And if the river already floods to the top of the levees, won’t they flood over the top when part of the river bottom displaces the flood area? Where will the water go?

When the levee idea became too ridiculous to actually consider, they decided to put up a wall between the river and the levee and put the road in a trench. No one answered what happens if there’s ever a crack in the wall and the water comes pouring through during a flood. We all know the answer, though. Put a finger in the dyke. Yeah, that’ll work.

When Scott Griggs joined the council, he shared Hunt’s opinion that the tollroad-in-the-river was a hare-brained scheme.

Councilman Philip Kingston, who replaced Hunt on the Council, shared his predecessor’s opinion of the road. Councilman Adam Medrano also isn’t in favor of throwing out billions of dollars and others have joined the opposition.

That leaves the mayor and his biggest ally on the council — Vonceil Jones Hill — as the biggest remaining cheerleaders for this stupid plan.

The funeral for the toll road takes place in Bishop Arts on Sunday at 5 p.m. The procession begins at Oddfellows, where they’ll be serving a special drink called a Flooded Parkway.

—  David Taffet

What city council member IS that?!?

KingstonAsHuntAt the Dia de los Muertos festival at the Latino Cultural Center Saturday, the stars turned out, including former city council member Angela Hunt, pictured on the right … only that’s not Hunt. That’s her council replacement, Philip Kingston in drag.

Now, we know straight guys do drag for Halloween … but Day of the Dead? News to us.

Today is Philip’s birthday. It looks like he got his wish: To be the new Angela … we just thought that happened last spring.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Turtle Creek Chorale performs at Dallas City Council swearing-in ceremony


Outgoing council members sat in front of the incoming Dallas City Council as members of the Turtle Creek Chorale in the Choral Terrace sang the national anthem.

The predominantly gay Turtle Creek Chorale opened the swearing-in ceremony for the Dallas City Council this morning at the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center. About 50 members of the Chorale participated.

A number of out officials and former officials, including Sheriff Lupe Valdez and former District 2 Councilman John Loza, attended. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance were well represented. Among family members attending was Cowboys hall-of-famer Roger Staubach, whose daughter Jennifer Staubach Gates was sworn in as District 13 councilwoman.

Mayor Mike Rawlings paid tribute to five members leaving the council. The outgoing council had more women than any other council in the city’s history. All five members leaving are women.

Among those leaving, Rawlings cited Delia Jasso for her work on the LGBT Task Force and growth of business in her district, especially in Bishop Arts. He mentioned her recognition by the National Diversity Council in April as the most powerful and influential woman in Texas. He credited her with educating him on domestic violence issues. Rawlings made no mention of Jasso’s stunning recent betrayal of the LGBT community when she withdrew her support for an equality resolution, which effectively killed the measure.

The mayor called Angela Hunt a good friend. As the youngest person ever elected to Dallas City Council, he said she brought a new vitality to the horseshoe.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Philip Kingston, Rick Callahan win Dallas City Council seats


Dallas City Councilman-elect Philip Kingston, right, hugs outgoing Councilwoman Angela Hunt at his watch party Saturday at the Pour House. Kingston will replace Hunt, who endorsed him. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Philip Kingston narrowly defeated fellow attorney Bobby Abtahi on Saturday in a runoff between two LGBT allies for the District 14 Dallas City Council seat.

With 39 of 41 precincts reporting, Kingston has 2,339 votes, or 55 percent, to Abtahi’s 1,946 votes, or 45 percent.

Kingston will replace Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a staunch LGBT supporter who was term limited and endorsed Kingston in the race. District 14 is among the most heavily LGBT in the city and covers parts of Oak Lawn, East Dallas and downtown.

Kingston and his supporters gathered at the Pour House on Skillman. In his victory speech, Kingston thanked his all-volunteer staff and supporters for running a clean and positive race.

“Our message was issues-driven and relentlessly positive,” Kingston told Dallas Voice. “That resonated with voters in District 14.”

Abtahi and several dozen supporters waited for results at The Mason Bar in Uptown. He called Kingston after it was clear he’d lost before thanking his supporters for their hard work and faith in him throughout a long campaign.

“We started this campaign at 1 percent. That was our name ID. That’s how much of the vote we were going to get, 1 percent,” Abtahi said. “And we came back and we showed people that you could have someone from the outside, you could have someone who wasn’t endorsed by the incumbent make a run for it and we did a great job. And I appreciate all your support and now it’s time to relax.”

Kingston and Abtahi expressed strong support for the LGBT community during the campaign, with both saying they’d back a council resolution endorsing marriage equality and statewide LGBT job protections.

Kingston was criticized for his mostly Republican primary voting history and for financial contributions to conservative causes, including a PAC now affiliated with Sen. Ted Cruz and the campaign of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. However, Kingston also gave money to the campaign to defeat Texas’ marriage amendment in 2005.

Abtahi, who has a lesbian sister, was endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, while Kingston had the backing of the nonpartisan Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

In the other City Council runoff, Rick Callahan defeated Jesse Diaz in the newly created District 5, which covers Pleasant Grove in southeast Dallas. Diaz was endorsed by Stonewall Democrats. In response to a Dallas Voice questionnaire, Callahan said he supports civil unions but not marriage equality, but his campaign manager later said he would support the council marriage equality resolution.


Bobby Abtahi shakes hands with gay former Councilman Craig Holcomb at his watch party at the Mason Bar on Guillot Street in State-Thomas. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

—  John Wright

LGBT advocates clash with City Council members over equality resolution

LGBT activists turn their backs and walk out a Dallas City Council meeting Wednesday during remarks from Councilman Dwaine caraway about the equality resolution. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

LGBT activists turn their backs and walk out of a Dallas City Council meeting Wednesday during remarks from Councilman Dwaine Caraway about the equality resolution. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)


Activist Cd Kirven yells at Councilman Dwaine Caraway before leaving the meeting. (Patrick Hoffman/Dallas Voice)

LGBT advocates expressed their frustration over the lack of support for an equality resolution Wednesday morning at a Dallas City Council meeting.

Mayor Mike Rawlings was absent during the meeting, though he was not considered absent while in South America last week, preventing Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano from using her power as acting mayor to place the equality resolution on the agenda.

The resolution supporting marriage equality and statewide LGBT-inclusive workplace protections, authored by Councilman Scott Griggs, was slated to be voted on Wednesday but never made the agenda after Councilmember Delia Jasso surprisingly withdrew her signature from a memo last month to require a vote. Jasso remained silent during the meeting. During the accusations from council members that the method of bringing the measure forward was misguided, Griggs also remained silent.

Tensions ran high after speakers addressed the council, resulting in several audience members walking out, turning their backs on Councilman Dwaine Caraway and even shouting at council members during the meeting.

Lesbian activist Cd Kirven said she expected more from council members and that they should support civil rights.

“You, as a municipal representative, should always represent those ideals and are a critical part of freedom’s foundation,” Kirven told council members. “Again the LGBT community is disappointed by officials who claim to be allies.”

—  Dallasvoice

Flip-flopper Delia Jasso withdraws support for marriage equality resolution


Councilwoman Delia Jasso

Lame-duck Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jasso, defeated in the May 11 election, has abruptly withdrawn her support for an LGBT equality resolution, meaning Mayor Mike Rawlings is no longer required to place the resolution on the council agenda.

According to an email from the city secretary to council members on Tuesday, Jasso has pulled her signature from a memo in support of the equality resolution that she signed in April. Jasso was one of five council members who signed the memo, the required number to force Rawlings to place the resolution on the agenda under the city charter.

When she signed the memo, Jasso was running against fellow incumbent Scott Griggs, who authored the resolution, in District 1. Griggs handiy defeated Jasso May 11 after they were both placed in the same district when council maps were redrawn in 2011.

In response to Jasso’s decision to pull her signature from the memo, Griggs noted that Rawlings publicly came out in support of the resolution for the first time only hours before — in today’s Dallas Morning News. Griggs said he’s hoping that even though he’s not required to and once called the resolution a “misuse” of the council’s time, Rawlings will still place it on the agenda.

Griggs has said he has the eight votes needed to pass the resolution — but the current council leaves office at the end of June. Before Jasso pulled her signature, the resolution was scheduled for a vote June 12.

“I’d still like it to move forward, and I think we’ve got the votes, and I’m enthusiastic about the mayor’s support,” Griggs said. “I think it would send a great message.”

Rawlings chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said Wednesday morning that the mayor does not plan to place the resolution on the agenda.

—  John Wright

Dallas City Council candidates to screen for Stonewall Democrats on Saturday


Twelve candidates or their surrogates from six Dallas City Council races will appear at Resource Center Dallas on Saturday as they vie for endorsements from Stonewall Democrats.

Everyone is invited to attend the candidate screening sessions, but only those who have been members of Stonewall Democrats for more than 30 days may vote on the endorsement recommendations, which will be ratified at the group’s next general meeting on March 19.

Opening remarks and instructions begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, and candidates will appear by district. Oak Cliff-area races will be covered in the morning, with Oak Lawn-area races in the afternoon.

Stonewall political chair Jeff Strater is organizing the screenings. He said each candidate will be given three minutes to make a statement and then members can ask questions for seven minutes.

Under Stonewall’s bylaws, the organization may endorse only Democrats, even though the races are nonpartisan.

Of the seven people running in District 14, five have predominantly Republican voting histories, according to Strater. Phillip Kingston signed a pledge affiliating with the Democratic Party to qualify for the Stonewall endorsement. Bobby Abtahi’s most recent voting is in Democratic primaries, which qualifies him without signing a pledge, Strater said. Only Jim Rogers has a record of voting exclusively in Democratic primaries.

The full schedule for Saturday’s screenings is below.

—  David Taffet

Aerial spraying begins tonight, includes most of Oak Lawn and Uptown

Updated map, 4:50 p.m.

Aerial spraying for mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus begins tonight from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. The area of Dallas, Highland Park and University Park to be sprayed are bound by LBJ Freeway, the North Dallas Tollway and I-30.

Uptown and most of Oak Lawn are included in the spraying area. The only area bounded by those highways that is not included is Mesquite.

Another 20,000 acres may be added later today, according to a mid-morning release from the city of Dallas.

In Oak Lawn, there have been three human cases of West Nile Virus in the 75219 zip code and one case in 75235. In Uptown’s 74204 zip code, one human case has been reported. The 75235 zip code west of the Tollway is not included in tonight’s announced spraying area.

One case has been reported in each of North Oak Cliff’s two zip codes — 75208 and 75211 — but Oak Cliff, south of I-30, is not included in the spraying area.

—  David Taffet