The Truth About Kanter, Part 1 “There are a lot of politics surrounding my work”

The Truth About Kanter, Part 1
“There are a lot of politics
surrounding my work”
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

In a meeting held on November 21, 2014, Addison employees Chris Terry and Cheryl Delaney expressed concern to accountant Larry Kanter that he was not treating Addison’s staff respectfully, and that Kanter “often failed to present all the facts or left out pertinent information which resulted in casting staff inappropriately and unfairly in an unfavorable light.” Kanter’s response was that his hiring was “a very political process” and that “THEY SHOULD BE AWARE THAT a lot of politics [were] going ON surrounding his work.”

This confirms – IN KANTER’S OWN WORDS — what we’ve said all along: Kanter’s work was politically motivated. It also confirms that KANTER KNEW that his work was politically motivated.

But these words – and Kanter’s damning acknowledgement of the political nature of his work – were actively concealed from Addison voters by Addison’s council, led by Todd Meier. The concealment of Lea Dunn’s January 4, 2015 memo, quoted above, made it possible for Meier to run a shameful campaign of misinformation and lies in an effort to influence the May election.  The whole thing was premised on Kanter’s now-demonstrably-false claims of non-cooperation by Addison’s staff, as well as Kanter’s inflammatory, baseless and politically-motivated claims about supposedly untraceable “millions.”

It was all a big lie. A charade. A performance. And no part of it would have been possible if Addison had obeyed the Open Records Act, and produced Lea Dunn’s memo in response to my February 25, 2016 request.  The public was DENIED the chance to know the truth by the wrongful withholding of this document.

Let’s start there. Lea Dunn’s memo was withheld because Addison claimed that it contained attorney-client privileged information.  It doesn’t.  It’s not a close call.  I’ve practiced law for 33 years, and I’ve prepared privilege logs in countless lawsuits.  Lea Dunn’s memo isn’t privileged.  There isn’t a phrase – not a word – that would justify a claim of privilege. This document was withheld for political reasons.  It would have exposed Meier’s campaign of misinformation and lies.  And here’s the thing: this is exactly the scenario that the Open Records Act exists to prevent.  But it happened, and the truth is that this document would have remained hidden if Meier’s campaign had succeeded.  Meier has made countless claims regarding “transparency,” but the concealment of this document is the reality of his regime.

Of course, as the inevitability of the release of Lea Dunn’s memo became apparent, Meier employed another favored tactic: revisionist history. Meier began to tell people that he actually favored releasing Lea Dunn’s memo, always adding that this is why he had directed the staff and Addison’s attorney to submit the matter to the AG.

I hope no one was fooled by these utterly misleading claims. It’s this simple: you don’t go to the AG to produce documents, you go to the AG to WITHHOLD documents.  Addison asked the AG to bless WITHHOLDING Lea Dunn’s memo. The direction to go to the AG was a direction to the staff to WITHHOLD Lea Dunn’s memo.

And of course, we know that the AG signed off on – well – something.  This flawed process allows Addison to submit “examples” of withheld documents, and then use an AG ruling to withhold other documents.  The problem is that neither the “examples” nor the other withheld documents are identified.  In this case, I don’t know what Addison submitted to the AG and claimed was an “example” of documents being withheld, nor do I know what other documents Addison is withholding based on this “example.” It is a fundamentally flawed system. Municipalities who will wrongfully withhold documents, as I believe Addison certainly did with respect to Lea Dunn’s memo, can easily manipulate the process.  Think: fox guarding hen house.

For his part, our illustrious AG seems willing to rubber-stamp anything. In allowing the WITHHOLDING of Lea Dunn’s memo and apparently other documents, the AG accepted Addison’s representations that Lea Dunn’s memo to the Finance Committee was actually a communication “exchanged between the town’s attorney and the town’s consultant,” even though the face of the document reflects that it was Lea Dunn sending it to the Finance Committee.  The Kanter memo quoted in Lea Dunn’s memo was likewise sent to the Finance Committee.  In fact, I have yet to see any document “exchanged between the town’s attorney and the town’s consultant,” the description and representation made to the AG.

So it looks like the AG suspended reality to approve Addison’s withholding of Lea Dunn’s memo, and other undefined documents. Think of it this way: Addison sent the AG a pig and represented that it was a horse. The AG looked at what was obviously a pig, but still wrote back and accepted Addison’s representation that the pig was a horse.  Then, since horses could be hidden, the AG approved Addison’s withholding of the pig, apparently because Addison was willing to falsely claim that the pig was a horse.  If it sounds ridiculous, it is.

The Open Records Act is a very serious matter. It is a critical element of the public’s ability to demand accountability from its elected officials.  And in this case, the system failed Addison’s residents in a very significant way.  The system allowed Meier and his cadre to lie to the public and to conceal Kanter’s wrongful conduct. No matter who they supported, all Addison residents should be deeply concerned about a “tone at the top” that seems determined to ignore the Open Records Act.

Because of this lack of transparency, we witnessed our own mayor disparaging Addison with no fear that the truth would come out. Meier embarrassed Addison in front of the entire Metroplex.  And he mercilessly – AND UNJUSTIFIABLY – attacked prior staff and management.  All for perceived political gain.  It was no less than an effort to steal an election based on a platform built of lies: lies made possible by concealment and secrecy.

The current council must take steps to ensure that nothing like this happens again, including by taking steps to end the aggressive and misguided resistance of many legitimate Open Records Act requests.

As well, everyone in Addison should be interested in understanding how Kanter’s work was allowed to be conducted in secrecy. The answer is somewhat complicated, and best addressed in parts.  So stay tuned.  You won’t want to miss this.