Facts need no embellishing in Arlington board races

Posted Thursday, May. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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campbell Facts often speak for themselves and don’t need commentary to tell powerful stories.

Take, for instance, the latest campaign finance reports for two candidates challenging incumbents John Hibbs and Jamie Sullins for their Arlington school board seats.

The following is information readily available to the public. I’m going to lay it out, and readers are free to draw whatever conclusions they might.

Hibbs and Sullins are both seeking second three-year terms on the board.

Alisa Simmons, marketing and communications manager for the Tarrant County 911 district, is running against Hibbs, western regional manager for Bausch & Lomb’s contact lens division.

Britine Burton, who teaches in the Grand Prairie district, is trying to unseat Sullins, a longtime community volunteer in Arlington.

Simmons and Burton showed no campaign contributions through the end of March, according to the first round of finance reports. In April, Simmons collected more than $15,000; Burton reported more than $16,000. Both outraised the incumbents for that month.

Simmons and Burton each reported receiving more than $10,500, including $2,961.10 worth of campaign mailers, from the Lone Star Good Government PAC, which lists a Fort Worth address.

The Lone Star Good Government PAC raised $43,635 through May 1, according to Texas Ethics Commission records, and $43,000 of it came from two donors: Stephen Meeks ($30,000 in four installments) and Glenn Lewis ($13,000 in three donations).

Meeks, who lives in Bedford, manages the Fort Worth office of the Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson law firm. Lewis, a Fort Worth resident, is a Linebarger partner.

During April, Simmons and Burton also received $4,150 apiece (in individual amounts between $250 and $500) from 10 common donors: lawyers across Texas who all are listed on Linebarger’s website.

In December 2009, before Hibbs and Sullins were elected, the Arlington school board dropped the Perdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins & Mott firm as its longtime delinquent tax collector and hired Linebarger. Last year, Arlington trustees dropped Linebarger and returned to Perdue to collect back taxes.

During the 2009 Arlington school board elections, months before trustees switched from Perdue to Linebarger, both firms made political contributions. Records show that Aaron Reich (who won) got $3,250 from Linebarger and its lawyers, and $550 from Perdue lawyers. Trustee Gloria Peña (also won) got $2,500 from Linebarger and $1,600 from Perdue lawyers.

In the 2011 election cycle, now-Trustee Tony Pompa got $1,000 from Linebarger.

Mario X. Perez, who was a Linebarger partner, then a firm consultant until 2012, is under criminal indictment, charged with making false entries on Reich’s campaign finance reports during the May 2009 election. Reich is not facing charges. Perez is trying to have the Tarrant County district attorney’s office removed from the case.

In October 2010, after the Arlington board hired Linebarger, Perez, Meeks and Lewis helped persuade the Fort Worth school board to switch from a Perdue affiliate to Linebarger for delinquent tax collections.

Less than a year later, Fort Worth trustees terminated that contract over concerns that Perez was in frequent contact with some board members during a no-lobbying period. In April, the Fort Worth board voted 6-3 to rehire Linebarger for three years.

Lawyers from Linebarger and Perdue, which compete all over Texas for municipal and school district tax collection contracts, don’t appear to be putting money into two intense races for the Fort Worth board.

However, Perez’s father, Juan Perez of Arlington, has given $5,000 each to incumbent Trustees Carlos Vasquez and Juan Rangel, those candidates’ most recent reports show.

As I said, voters can look at the facts see how the dots connect.

Linda P. Campbell is a Star-Telegram editorial writer. 817-390-7867 Twitter: @LindaPCampbell

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