Gary Griffith: Mayor Candidate. Truth? Ethics? Or Not?

Dallas mayoral candidate Gary Griffith has long touted himself as a champion of strong morals, truth and ethics. "It's how I live my life," Griffith once told us at a campaign rally when he first ran for the City Council.

But does Griffith, the self-proclaimed "Mr. Ethics," have ethics problems of his own? More important: does Gary Griffith tell the truth (see the DISD emails, below)?

Full DisclosureGriffith's website touts a section titled "Full disclosure. (If he changes his website, a copy of the original front page can be viewed here)

"Here's something you won't see from other mayoral candidates: financial reports," the website touts.

Texas campaign laws (enforced by the Texas Ethics Commission) mandates that all candidates for mayor file financial reports (Form C/OH) of the kind Griffith tells you that "you won't see from other mayoral candidates."

In fact, all mayoral candidates' financial disclosures can be viewed here on the City of Dallas website.

But it doesn't stop there.


The Campaign Mailer

In late February, Griffith mailed a campaign flyer to many Dallas County Republicans. The flyer made several claims. Among them:

  • "As your mayor I will [...] give principals the authority to hire and fire teachers based on student performance"
  • "Since becoming a City Councilman, my aggressive plan to reduce crime resulted in a 45% decrease in crime in my City Council District alone"
  • "I initiated a city-wide program to stop panhandling which hurts our neighborhoods and small businesses"

Hiring and firing Dallas' teachers, according to State Law, is under the sole authority of the Dallas Independent School District. Nothing we could find in Texas law, nor anyone we spoke to, could tell us how Griffith, as mayor, could give principals the authority to hire or fire teachers--or anyone else in DISD for that matter.

As far as initiating a city-wide program to stop panhandling, we were able to find this link to a Pegasus News Story where Griffith claims a Lakewood shopping center "Apple sign" campaign as his brainchild.

As far as a city-wide initiative to stop panhandling, we were unable to find anything attributable to Griffith.

As far as Griffith's claim that he reduced crime by almost half, in his council district, we were unable to confirm this and Griffith's website, as with his other claims, gives no details. Though one city official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, had this to say: "he did what?"

Griffith, according to city records, promoted and ultimately voted for a law ("verified response") which curtailed police response to business burglar alarms. One security industry trade magazine observed a 17.9% rise in business burglaries in March 2006, compared with March 2005. "Is verified response to blame," the article asks.

We wrote Griffith requesting clarification of his claims. A campaign spokesman wrote us an email back, but declined to provide details.


Wick Allison comments on Frontburner:

Allen Gwinn is doing a public service by examining the mayoral candidates' claims. But on one point, Griffith is right:

"Since becoming a City Councilman, my aggressive plan
to reduce crime resulted in a 45% decrease in crime in
my City Council District alone"

From his first day on the council, Griffith has quietly and effectively corralled his fellow council members into setting priorities for the city and sticking with them, and he has led in putting police and enforcement at the top of the list. I've talked to him many times about this from his earliest days on the council, and I've been impressed with his perseverence on the issue. Give the man his due.

[Ed Note: Duly noted, thanks Wick. But where are the stats? I couldn't find them. Perhaps someone else can direct me to them.]



DISD School Board Election Emails

Perhaps the biggest question is: does Gary Griffith tell the truth?

Griffith's biggest kicker may be a series of e-mails exchanged during last year's Dallas Independent School District's school board elections.

[Editor's note regarding personal email: I generally do not post personal email without permission--with one exception: if you lie to me! If you do that, all bets are off because, then, the content of the electronic mail is not at issue, it is the dishonesty.]

So let's be direct: does Griffith tell the truth, or does he (like so many in political office) tell people what they want to hear? To answer this, I'm going to share some snippets of emails sent back-and-forth with Griffith during the 2006 DISD Board Election season.

Neighbors in DISD District 3 had, for been represented for many years by former school board member Lois Parrott. We'll be the first to admit that Parrott did many good things during her tenure on the School Board.

However, like many other politicians, Parrott had developed a "can't see the forest for the trees" syndrome. Late in her career, Parrott became increasingly unpredictable, and it quickly became clear to many parents that an alternative was needed.

So, as a DISD parent, I wrote Griffith the following e-mail:


From: Allen Gwinn
To: Gary Griffith
Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 9:31:42

Gary,

I would like to enlist your help in gently urging Lois to step down from the School Board. I'd like to see her step down with dignity and name an "annointed" replacement (NOT me -- I am not interested in or capable of competently running or holding a political office).

But I think the time is right for her to leave with dignity. I hope you'll help.

Later that afternoon, Griffith replied:


From: Gary Griffith
To: Allen Gwinn

The last time I talked with her she seemed very interested in running for reelection. What has happened that would cause her to rethink that? I have not heard anyone indicate interest in the position.It is critical that we have excellent leadership from our community on the school board.

I am always happy in doing what is in the best interest of our students, parents and becoming the finest urban school system in America.

I exchanged a couple of other emails with Griffith suggesting that if Parrott stepped down, a "good pool of candidates would step forward." I closed one email to Griffith saying:


I also think that if Lois stepped down gracefully, it would enhance her stature with [her colleagues] and take a great load off of her shoulders. She could go out in style, and not be thought of as a quitter. She would always be remembered and revered in the District. We could all pitch in and throw her a great shindig!

I hope you'll help.

Griffith followed up with an email echoing my concerns for good leadership, indicating that no one else "had come to mind."

Being familiar with one interested prospect, I replied with the following email:


From: Allen Gwinn
To: Gary Griffith
Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2006 5:37PM

Why don't you have a quick chat with Lee Ann Ellis? She helped out in Lois' campaign and might be a natural. Her daughter has graduated and she does have some time on her hands.

To which Griffith replied:


From: Gary Griffith
To: Allen Gwinn
Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2006 6:51PM

I will do that. I like her a lot and know her well. She is one of the few hard core Roxan people who responded to my efforts to reach out. She has treated me with respect, which I appreciate.

Leigh Ann Ellis, for those who didn't (don't) know her is a successful small business owner. She has a Masters Degree in Urban Affairs writing her thesis focusing on Hispanic issues in education. A single mother, actively involved in DISD for years, she was (and is) professional to the core. More important, she agreed to run for the seat if Parrott would step down.

So Griffith sent her an email indicating he had heard of her interest in running for Parrott's seat and asked her what her ideas were. Leigh Ann responded with a concise list (titled "Leigh Ann Ellis' 2 Cents Worth") of things she wanted to change about the District.

Griffith responded (from his Dallas City Hall email account):


From: Gary Griffith [gary.griffith@dallascityhall.com]
To: Leigh Ann Ellis
Date: Thursday, February 16, 2006 9:44PM
Subject: Re: Leigh Ann Ellis' 2 Cents Worth

I would say it's a $1,000 worth.I would like you to be a part of our City-DISD Town Hall Meeting representing the Advisory Board and DNCC.

Your issues are the ones I have been talking about so you and I are on the same page.

To impact public education you do not need to be a Trustee. In fact, you probably can get more done. Leadership is not tied to public office.

I will call the secret number if you are not at home.
I need your help.
G

So in case you missed it, let's translate: "Leigh Ann don't run for trustee. You'll get more done if you aren't a trustee."

Pete Oppel was on the Board of the Dallas North Chamber of Commerce and had been pushing Griffith to set up the "City-DISD Town Hall Meeting" referred to in his email to Leigh Ann.

We asked Oppel, who left the Board in November, if Griffith's Town Hall Meeting ever took place. "Not to my knowledge," replied Oppel.

But here's the kicker! Griffith's letter to Leigh Ann was sent on Thursday, February 16.

Three days later on February 19, after urging Leigh Ann not to run for DISD school board, Griffith sent me the following email:


From: Gary Griffith
To: Allen Gwinn
Date: February 19, 2006 6:14PM

I have had no luck so far with LAE. We are scheduled to visit again this week.

Let's recap this: Griffith, first, tries to talk Leigh Ann out of running for School Board, then turns around 3 days later and sends me an email telling me he's having no luck getting her to run for the school board!

I worked hard, as did many DISD parents, to bring about change and the rest is history.

Leigh Ann ran for the School Board, despite Griffith's urging and defeated Parrott by almost a 60% to 40% split.

On the evening of the election, I just couldn't resist sending Griffith the following email (snipping a couple of apropos quotes):


From: Allen Gwinn
To: Gary Griffith
Date: May 13, 2006 10:37PM
Subject: Re: Leigh Ann Ellis

Hi Gary,

My luck was a little bit better, but thanks again for trying.

Allen Gwinn

Gary Griffith wrote:
> I have had no luck so far with LAE. We are scheduled to visit again this week.
>
--------------------------
Gary Griffith wrote:

I would say it's a $1,000 worth.I would like you to be a part of our City-DISD
Town Hall Meeting representing the Advisory Board and DNCC.

Your issues are the ones I have been talking about so you and I are on the same page.
To impact public education you do not need to be a Trustee. In fact, you probably can
get more done. Leadership is not tied to public office.

I will call the secret number if you are not at home. I need your help.
G

Griffith never replied.

So we're back to the original question: is Gary Griffith the man of honor, dignity and ethics he claims to be, or is he a person who simply tells people what they want to hear at the time?

When Griffith says he is for something, is he really for it?

When he takes credit for city-wide initiatives, and claims to have cut crime in his district almost in half, did he really do it?

Or would Griffith say anything, do anything, or promise anything to get elected Mayor?

Ironically, one thing Griffith said (in his emails) may ring totally true: "Leadership is not tied to public office."

Perhaps, there's an opportunity, in May, for Griffith to lead by example.


Griffith Discovers "Cheese"

The Dallas Observer has an interesting take (along with Griffith's YouTube campaign video) on Gary Griffith's new fascination with "cheese" -- a form of heroin that Griffith has, apparently, just heard about.

Dallas Observer mega-blogger and reporter Robert Wilonsky observes: "wow, really going out on a limb there, hunh, coming out against drugs."


But Is There More?

Back when Griffith initially ran for City Council, there was a blurb about someone defacing one of his yard signs with something along the lines of "pension fund raider." Was this an opponent's cheap shot, or is there a story here of Epic proportions?

DEVELOPING