Dallas City Council Allows Felons on Appointed Boards and Commissions

Change comes after an ex-con was removed from Dallas Park Board

Convicted felons are no longer forbidden as appointees on Dallas city boards and commissions after a nearly unanimous city council vote Wednesday.

The issue arose from the removal of Marlon Rollins from the Dallas Park Board last year.

In November, Rollins declined to answer questions from NBC 5 when public records showed he voted in Tarrant County and registered a car in his name at an Arlington address while serving on the Dallas Park Board.

Then in December, the acting Dallas city secretary removed him from the park board after a new check of criminal history records uncovered felony robbery and forgery convictions against Rollins from the 1990s in Tarrant County.

Councilman Philip Kingston praised Rollins as the city council considered removing the prohibition on felons.

"One of the best park board members we've had in recent memory," Kingston said. "He had two felonies from a long time ago."

The city council decided felons should not automatically be excluded from serving in appointed positions overseeing city programs and spending.

"We cannot continue to penalize people that have paid their time," Councilman Kevin Felder said.

Initial background information provided when Rollins was appointed did not include his criminal convictions, but in the future the city council expects to receive such information.

"So even one will come to us for the council to be discussed, regardless of how many they may have," Councilman Dwaine Caraway said.

Mayor Mike Rawlings and most of the city council members agreed with the new procedure.

"This council has discretion and good enough judgment to decide who belongs on boards and commissions," Kingston said.

Only Councilman Rickey Callahan voted against removing the prohibition on felons for appointed positions, even though he said he supports giving ex-cons a second chance to earn living.

"Going back to work, a sanitation department or construction job, removing that 'check the box,' that's one thing," Callahan said. "But having a position of respect and honor, responsibility representing our city I think that's an entirely different matter."

Despite the new rules, Rollins will not return to the park board. Councilman Casey Thomas, who originally nominated Rollins, has already appointed a new member who received city council approval.

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