The family of Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway took a $20,000 loan from a Louisiana man who has pleaded guilty in the alleged influence peddling scheme that resulted in the dissolution of Dallas County Schools.
According to a story from KXAS, the NBC affiliate in the Metroplex, Caraway’s family took the loan from Elf Investments, a company owned by Slater Swartwood, who has pleaded guilty to a role in distributing millions of dollars in alleged kickbacks that flowed from a school bus camera company to the former top official at Dallas County Schools.
The 2014 loan was not repaid, Caraway told KXAS, and he has never been asked to do so by Swartwood.
Caraway was also paid as a consultant to Elf Investments, although disclosure rules do not require exact amounts to be divulged. Caraway said his memory of his payment is hazy, but it was “probably” over $50,000.
“Now this probably doesn’t look too good,” Caraway told the station. “But at the end of the day, that was not where I was going, that was not what I was about.”
Swartwood was a business partner of Robert Leonard, the CEO of the camera company, Force Multiplier Solutions. Federal agents in June raided Leonard’s home and offices. He has not been charged, although his attorney told The Texas Monitor this week that he expects his client will be indicted.
Voters in November voted to do away with Dallas County Schools, which for decades has provided school bus service to area districts. A major reason for the vote was the exposure by KXAS of dealings between Force Multiplier Solutions, which teamed up with Dallas County Schools, or DCS, in 2012 to sell technology that snaps a picture of motorists who pass stopped school buses in violation of state law.
A federal complaint issued in December naming Swartwood as a conspirator alleges a Texas company “sold cameras and related services for school buses…entered into various contracts and a licensing agreement with a Texas state agency acting through its superintendent…Under these contracts and the licensing agreement, the state agency purchased millions of dollars of camera equipment…”
Ticketing from the camera technology required the city of Dallas to contract with DCS for law enforcement and court services. Caraway was among the loudest of supporters at a May 2015 council meeting for extending the contract between the two parties for another 25 years, an unusually long term.
During the meeting, Rick Sorrels, then superintendent of DCS, took questions from the council. He said it cost $10,000 to outfit a single bus with the camera gear. They were put on all 1,600 DCS buses, a total outlay of $16 million.
“Have we recovered the cost, through fines, to pay for that yet?” council member Tennell Atkins asked Sorrels. “We have not,” Sorrels said.
It had been three years since the program was begun and the program was expected to generate millions in revenue for the DCS. KXAS this week asked Caraway if his support for the program that day amounted to a money for vote exchange.
“Absolutely not,” Caraway told the station. “Absolutely not. It was keeping the kids safe and a program that appeared not to have any problems.”
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected]