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Black officials in Dallas call subpoenas racially motivated

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DALLAS -- An investigation into federally funded low-income housing contracts has touched several black politicians and their aides, causing an uproar in this minority community.

One black City Council member blamed the FBI-led probe on Mayor Laura Miller, who is white, and warned of violent retaliation.

"They're going to make the Los Angeles riots look like a picnic," said James Fantroy. "Why is this all just black folks? Why is it when it comes to us, we're guilty the minute there are accusations?"

No charges have been filed, but Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, council members Leo Chaney Jr. and Maxine Thornton-Reese and City Plan Commission members D'Angelo Lee, Melvin Traylor and Carol Brandon have been named in subpoenas for records confiscated by the FBI. All of those named are black.

At the root of the investigation is the charge that Mr. Lee financially benefited from projects on which he voted as a member of the Plan Commission, and that he solicited other deals. He was appointed to the commission by Mr. Hill.

Yesterday, Mrs. Miller requested Mr. Lee's removal from the planning board. City Council rejected the move by a 9-6 vote.

"I'm asking all of you today to stand up for what you know is right and don't try to take the easy way out," Mr. Hill said.

Mr. Fantroy stared at the mayor and said: "I will not sit back and allow what's going on today. ... I did not sleep last night. I tossed and turned -- because this ain't Dallas."

Mrs. Miller, a former City Council member, called the scandal an embarrassment.

Before joining City Council, Mrs. Miller covered City Hall as an investigative reporter for several years. She wrote stories that harshly criticized the city's first black mayor, Ron Kirk, and City Council member Al Lipscomb, a longtime civil rights leader who was convicted of dozens of bribery charges.

Mrs. Miller tried to assure the council that her suggestion to remove Mr. Lee from the Plan Commission was not racially motivated, but she was greeted with scorn from the packed chamber.

Charles Stovall, a black minister, elicited cheers when he called the federal investigation "a modern public lynching."

The FBI has refused to comment, except to say that a new round of subpoenas served this week were not directed toward any person.

"This was a general subpoena served on the city's custodian of records," Special Agent Lori Bailey said.

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