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From the Dallas Morning News online:
Garland City Council selects new DART representative
By EMILY FOX
Published 03 May 2011 11:41 PM
It took only two rounds of voting to select Garland’s new representative to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board of directors.
City Council members picked Michael Cheney, a current board member of the Garland Housing Finance Corp., to fill the vacant position through June 2012.
The position was left empty after the resignation of Tracey Whitaker, who became an account services manager for Iron Mountain in December. DART has paid the company about $525,000 over the last seven years.
Whitaker originally sought a waiver of ethics rules prohibiting members from taking jobs with contractors. But he reconsidered and tendered his resignation just days before the City Council and DART board members were to take up the issue.
Garland council members scheduled interviews with all seven applicants for the position Monday night.
During his interview, Cheney said he was well aware of DART’s revenue troubles. The licensed CPA and former investment counselor said that he knew the organization had already found creative ways to cut expenses but that continued efforts were needed.
“It’s not the duty of a member of the board to do cost-cutting,” he said. “But it certainly is the duty of a member of the board to insist that it be done.”
Mayor Ron Jones said Cheney, who was not at Tuesday night’s meeting, would be informed and briefed on his new duties as soon as possible.
In an unusual show of strength, literally all the candidates were well qualified and each would have been more than capable of representing the city. Of the seven applicants, three were from District 1.
Three former DART Board representatives, and the executive director, live in District 1. Michael Cheney, who was chosen Tuesday night, does not but perhaps we can work on him....
The article references that Tracey Whitaker, a District 1 resident, resigned but had first requested a waiver of the ethics rules. While true in a literal sense, it doesn't reflect the sequence of events and I'm afraid the several articles that appeared in the Dallas Morning News could taint Mr Whitaker's service in some eyes. Everyone on the Council has been highly complimentary of Tracey's service and rightly so: He did an outstanding job representing Garland.
Tracey accepted a new job with a company that, unknown to Tracey, had one division with a relatively minor contract with DART for document storage and handling. After a series of genuine ethical lapses by some former DART Board members, the ethics rules were tightened and strictly enforced. Mr Whitaker was told he had a conflict. Of course it came as surprise to him. He was advised he could ask for a waiver but it was uncharted waters, the rules were too new and no one had yet done so. He approached one or two Garland officials to ask for advice. He was told that there were no rules within the city that governed the situation, that basically we didn't have an opinion.
There aren't any such rules but I think that was bad advice. Personally, I think he should have been told that, as a Council appointee and since it dealt with a question of ethics, he should seek advice from the Council. The Council may (or may not) have said that we didn't see a problem and that we wished him to remain. It might have meant he lost some committee assignments but that might have been the end of it from our perspective.
If it was a similar situation for a Council member, that person would have recused himself from any decision dealing with that particular vendor, stepped out of the room for three minutes or so as to not even inadvertently influence the rest of the Council, and then been back in his seat for the next case.
No matter the advice from Council, it would have avoided any appearance that Garland didn't care about ethics, which we very much do, and the Council wouldn't have first learned about the situation by reading the morning paper.
I think the nearly OMG! tone of some of the articles were inaccurate and unfair characterizations.
Ever a man of honor, Tracey resigned rather than allow any poor light to fall on Garland and I very much respect his decision. He served the city well and I'm adamant that we should recognize that service and clearly state the respect we all have for him and his service, and that at no time did he do anything improper to any degree.
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