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)