By Joe Farkus, NDG Special Contributor
An exchange between Dallas City Council members Phillip Kingston and Dwaine Caraway on Aug. 16 erupted in fireworks during the council briefing held at City Hall. The confrontation occurred as a result of a disagreement between Kingston and the rest of the council regarding Robert “Bobby” Abtahi’s reappointment to his current position as Dallas Park & Recreation Board President.
Kingston objected to the reappointment, slamming Abtahi’s job performance and record as “abominable.” As Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway attempted to respond in defense of the Dallas Park President, Kingston could be heard laughing and making hand motions in an attempt to mock Caraway. This unusual behavior did not go unnoticed as the District 4 City Councilman was forced to pause twice during his response due to Kingston’s heckling.
“Bobby Abtahi has done a great job on the Park Board,” claimed Caraway. He continued to defend the Park Board President, claiming none of Abtahi’s fellow board members or peers have come to him with complaints about poor job performance.
Fellow Council members Adam McGough, Rickey Callahan, Jennifer Gates, and Tennell Atkins also came to the defense of Abtahi during the exchange. Mayor Mike Rawlings also took issue with Kingston’s negative assessment of Abtahi’s job performance, calling the Park Board President “smart” and “one of the hardest working people I know.”
The debate became personal when Councilman Caraway suggested Kingston’s targeting of Abtahi was due to the board appointee’s ethnicity and referenced Abtahi and Kingston’s 2013 City Council contest for District 14’s City Council seat as another possible reason for Kingston’s objections.
Kingston’s anger resurfaced later in the briefing when he attempted to vote absent on a property tax rate vote for which he was technically present. When told he must either vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’, he stormed out in protest.
After the tense exchange between the two council members, Caraway would later blame Kingston’s vocal objections to Abtahi’s reappointment on heightened partisanship and called for the council to come together and “move the city forward.”