Ex-Dallas City Council Member Pleads Guilty to Taking Bribes

(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

A former Dallas City Council member has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from a real estate developer in exchange for supporting an affordable housing project, according to court documents unsealed Friday.

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Carolyn Davis, a former chair of the council’s Housing Committee, took tens of thousands of dollars from the developer between November 2013 and June 2015, according to her plea agreement.

The developer, Ruel Hamilton, is accused of paying Davis at least $40,000 in bribes and promising her future consulting work. In return, Davis lobbied and voted for more than $2.5 million in city “funds and obligations” for Hamilton’s development in southern Dallas, according to a separate indictment.

The charges come as the latest out of a series of public corruption probes federal prosecutors have brought against government officials and elected leaders in the North Texas city.

“Today the reckoning continues,” Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said Friday at a news conference.

Davis, who served four terms on the City Council from 2007 to 2015, is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs using federal funds. She faces a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Her attorney did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Hamilton, the owner of AmeriSouth Realty Group, is charged with two counts of bribery concerning a local government receiving federal benefits.

Lawyers for the developer said he was the victim of a federal “set-up” and the charges result from a “misdirected trap.” ”Mr. Hamilton will plead not guilty because he is not guilty,” said attorney Jim Burnham.

Hamilton’s indictment also states that he paid a $7,000 bribe to a person identified only as “Council Person A” in the summer of 2018. Prosecutors say “Person A” left the city council on Aug. 9, 2018 — the day Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway resigned from the Council when it was revealed he had pleaded guilty to taking bribes and kickbacks in a federal public corruption case.

Caraway’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Friday that he has asked the city manager to review all housing projects connected to the charges against Hamilton and Davis.

“I join my fellow Dallas residents today in a shared sense of despair over a former councilmember’s betrayal of the public trust,” Rawlings said in a statement. “I’m also sick and tired of the vultures who lurk around City Hall in search of corruptible public officials.”


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