Ethics panel finds Dallas city councilman in violation

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Philip Kingston

Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston’s Facebook ad didn’t get him many ‘likes’ from the city’s Ethics Advisory Commission.

Tristan Hallman of the Dallas Morning News reported that the commission found that Kingston’s recording the ad in his city council office was in violation of an ethics rule that explicitly forbids council members from using city facilities for political advertising and campaign communication.

The ad promoted a campaign fundraiser at Dallas restaurant Urbano Cafe.

Kingston was on an out-of-state trip during the Friday hearing, so attorney Sean Kelly made Kingston’s case for him. The attorney argued that if Kingston did break the rule that it was “a technical violation” and that the rule is vague.

“To accuse someone of being unethical for filming a Facebook video at their desk is a stretch,” Kelly said, according to the News. Kelly also said that the rules are “very broad” restrictions on speech that raise chilling First Amendment concerns.

Also from the story:

Barry Jacobs, a retired lawyer, filed the complaint. He said Kingston’s response was “a waste of everybody’s time.”

“This is not just a distraction, this is an insult to our intelligence,” he said.

Jacobs, a supporter of Kingston’s May political opponent Matt Wood, said his decision to pursue the complaint was “really about having the rules Mr. Kingston made apply to him.”

“He can hardly stand up and make laws for the rest of us if he’s not going to abide by them,” he said.

The city’s five-member Ethics Advisory Commission recommended a letter of reprimand, which amounts to an official slap on the wrist.

See Kingston’s Facebook ad here.

See the Dallas Observer version of the story here.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.

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Trent is an award-winning editor and reporter, who has previously worked The Denver Post, The (Nashville) Tennessean, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Most recently, he was the investigative producer for Houston’s KTRK-TV ABC-13. He was also the editor and founder of Texas Watchdog, a ground-breaking news group that paved the way for this project. Trent is a teacher of journalism skills, and has shown hundreds of reporters and citizen-journalists how to use public records, databases and journalism tools to keep a watchful eye on their own local government.

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