"We don't want our top elected officials using taxpayer dollars to work on a political campaign."
September 27, 2007
Brooke Richie Reporting
CBS 11 News (Dallas-Fort Worth)
There are allegations of ethical misconduct by the Dallas mayor and city manager.
On November 6, voters will decide on the Trinity River Project. The plan calls for a 4-or-6 lane toll way in the river bottoms west of Downtown Dallas.
A group of Trinity River activists wants to block the planned toll road for the Trinity River Corridor. Others are ready to see the project move forward.
Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt said the battle over the Trinity River Project is inside city hall. She claims tax dollars are going to one side of the campaign.
The allegations are based on e-mails sent to City of Dallas employees from the activists fighting against the plan.
"I was very disappointed to see some of these e-mails between city staffers, including our city manager and our mayor, seeming to indicate that they're working very closely with the other side on developing the message for the vote no campaign," said Hunt.
The e-mails include a draft of a phone poll on the referendum, and they ask Suhm for her "comments on the content."
"That seems to indicate an active participation in a political campaign and actively assisting the other side," said Hunt.
The subject line of another e-mail from Mayor Tom Leppert to Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm reads, "as discussed."
While the mayor is allowed to take a stance on a topic like this, he cannot work with city staff on a political campaign. Hunt, who supports the referendum, says the paper trail is troubling.
"Certainly we don't want taxpayer dollars being spent on a political campaign," said Hunt. "We don't want our top elected officials using taxpayer dollars to work on a political campaign."
Mayor Leppert said he supports the "Vote No" effort, but has never crossed the line.
"We've been very careful to make a distinction of my role leading in the effort as opposed to working with city staff," he said.
Suhm says she was simply asked to check the poll for accuracy. She also says that is what she and Leppert discussed.
"The discussion was two sentences or three sentences. These people would like for you to look at this and be sure that the facts are right in their poll. Be sure you do that," said Suhm.
She says she has never been involved in the referendum campaign.
"We're not allowed to do that," she said. "It's a really critical line to walk."
Hunt said she will not initiate any legal recourse over the documents.
She says she's too busy worrying about the campaign.
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