- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

DALLAS — A year ago, the FBI raided the offices of two Dallas City Council members, subpoenaed records and documents from several others, and confiscated thousands of pages of contracts, e-mails and telephone records of companies dealing with the city.

No public accusations surfaced from the raid conducted June 20, 2005, but the subpoenas indicated that the investigation centered on bribery and money laundering.

A year later, there have been no indictments, and the FBI refuses to comment on the case that generated a citywide uproar, especially within the black community because the 10 city leaders being investigated are black.

Those affected — including Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, whose City Hall office, home office and car were ransacked — remain angry, if somewhat subdued.

Mr. Hill, council member James Fantroy and others called the probe “a witch hunt” when it began.

Today, they complain that the public humiliation has cost them dearly and, in Mr. Hill’s case, possibly the chance to run for mayor.

“It just hangs there,” Mr. Hill said. “You have to take it seriously.”

Mr. Fantroy, who has kidney cancer and has been hospitalized several times since the raids, resents the implications of guilt without any distinct evidence or charge.

“I haven’t heard a thing in the world,” Mr. Fantroy told the Dallas Morning News last week. “It’s affecting my family. This is hanging over my head like I’ve done something wrong. I wish somebody would just come in and say something already.”

Within weeks of the raid, investigators had confiscated additional records of City Council members Leo Chaney and Maxine Thornton-Reese, state Sen. Royce West, state Rep. Terri Hodge, Dallas Plan Commissioners Carol Brandon and Melvin Traylor, and a leading school board member, Ron Price.

Southwest Housing Development Co., a prominent developer associated with low-income tax-credit projects, and contractors and developers closely aligned with Mr. Fantroy and Mr. Hill, soon were served with subpoenas for massive records caches.

Mayor Laura Miller said the original thrust by the FBI hit “like a lightning bolt.”

“I feel like it’s still hanging over us,” she said.

FBI spokeswoman Lori Bailey has said repeatedly that the bureau cannot comment on the investigation.

Mr. Hill — even with no charges against him — might turn out to be the big loser.

He has told intimates that he plans to run for mayor against Mrs. Miller next year, but some in the black community — still mindful of what happened to Al Lipscomb in 1999 — seem to be disinclined to jump on his bandwagon.

Mr. Lipscomb, perhaps the city’s most famous civil rights activist and a longtime council member, was charged by federal officials with 65 counts of bribery, extortion and campaign-finance violations.

After the indictments, Mr. Lipscomb won a landslide re-election bid — then was convicted and given a 41-month sentence. His conviction was overturned on a technicality.

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