Council Briefing: Proposed Removal of D’Angelo Lee

Today we considered whether to remove Councilmember Don Hill’s appointee to the City Plan Commission, D’Angelo Lee.

There was a lengthy discussion and debate. Those supporting Mr. Lee’s removal (including myself) argued that Mr. Lee’s conduct on the Plan Commission violated Dallas’ Code of Ethics. Other councilmembers were concerned that Mr. Lee was being tried in the press, that he was innocent until proven guilty in the FBI investigation, and that this matter should have gone first to the Ethics Commission.

I supported Mr. Lee’s removal for several reasons.

First, l strongly believe that we at City Hall must keep our own house in order and hold ourselves to the highest ethical standard. My support for Mr. Lee’s removal is not based on the fact that he is being investigated by the FBI. That is a separate matter that will be dealt with on the federal level. The City Council’s responsibility is to enforce our Code of Ethics. Facts have come to light recently that Mr. Lee violated our Code of Ethics by accepting money from, and working for, a non-profit that was a direct beneficiary of a zoning case he then voted on. The facts are not in dispute. The only question is whether Mr. Lee’s actions violate our Code of Ethics. Our Code of Ethics prohibits a city official from taking any official action on a matter affecting the economic interest of his employer or client. In my opinion, Mr. Lee’s actions violate our Ethics Code and we have a responsibility to enforce it.

Second, as to the argument that this matter should have first gone before the Ethics Commission: Our Charter (Ch. XXIV, Sec. 17) states that the City Council may remove board and commission members “for any cause deemed by the city council sufficient for their removal in the interest of the public.” The Ethics Commission may investigate ethics violations, but the City Council also has the power, and responsibility, to remove board and commission members when it’s deemed in the public interest.

Third, our Charter provides due process to the removed commissioner. If requested within ten days, the commissioner may have a public hearing to respond to the City Council.

ACTION: The Mayor moved to remove Mr. Lee from the Plan Commission. FAILED 9-6 (AH voting to remove). Councilmember Oakley moved to delay the issue for three weeks. PASSED 9-6 (AH voting not to delay)

City Plan Commission Meeting on the Arts District

I spoke at the City Plan Commission hearing this afternoon to expand the Arts District from Routh Street all the way to Central Expressway. The expansion will provide specific zoning requirements for the area to create a more pedestrian-friendly, arts-oriented environment.

Having served as a Cultural Affair Commissioner, as well as being a board member of Dallas Black Dance Theatre and a presidential advisory member of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, I have seen firsthand the incredible commitment of our arts organizations and patrons. It is essential that our city meet that commitment.

This was my second time to speak to the CPC on expanding the Arts District, and I pointed out that we have a golden opportunity to improve this area of downtown. The undeveloped land in the northeastern corner downtown will not remain that way. Through this proposed zoning, we can guide the development of this area to provide a home for future arts groups, mixed-use development, retail, and residential. Over the next decade, this can become a vibrant urban neighborhood, as long as the city provides the right support.

I was very pleased that the CPC voted unanimously to support the expansion of the Arts District.