The Doughnut Man

Randall Lee Malone tends to fancy himself the Joan of Arc of the Austin Police Department. In his 25 years as a police officer, he has fought more battles in the department than he has out on the streets -- standing up, he says, for the little guys in blue.

At least that's Malone's explanation of why his employment record is thick with reprimands, suspensions, and grievances.

Perhaps the patrol officer's greatest claim to fame is the publication of his now defunct Doughnut Free Press newsletters, a gossip rag that levelled very bitter and personal attacks against former Police Chief Elizabeth Watson and leaders of the Austin Police Association (APA), which represents the majority of department officers.

His break from the APA is what led to his latest involvement, the Austin Police Benevolent Association (APBA), a local affiliate of the Fraternal Order of Police, the giant national police union that is trying to make inroads in Texas, and is relying heavily on funding that is generated from telephone solicitation campaigns.

The APA dispute stemmed from the association's well-publicized 1995 no-confidence vote of former Chief Elizabeth Watson. While Malone and other APBA members say they supported the measure itself, they were angry about APA's disorganized voting process, which left some members out.

Austin Police Benevolent Association president Mike King (above) supports "Doughnut Man" Randy Malone's attempts to recruit new members. (Malone would not consent to a photo.)
photograph by Jana Birchum

"That was not the first time something like that had happened," says Mike King, president of the APBA. "There were too many other instances where they just didn't follow the bylaws. It was like a little clique running the association. There was just so much infighting going on in the organization that I quit."

The incident also added fuel to Malone's weekly diatribes in his Doughnut newsletter against the APA leadership, which largely focused on the group's vice president, Mike Sheffield. And Sheffield likewise acknowledges he is no friend of Malone's. The two have had running battles with one another for years.

The turmoil growing out of the no-confidence vote was good news for the Fraternal Order of Police. While the group has a stronger presence in states where labor groups enjoy a fair amount of bargaining leverage, the FOP is trying another tack in the right-to-work state of Texas. The group is trying to woo members with a legal defense package -- a necessary tool for police officers -- that it claims is more comprehensive than the one offered by CLEAT (Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas), FOP's most formidable competitor.

It wasn't the legal plan but Malone's ill feelings toward the APA and CLEAT that prompted his agreement to sign on under the FOP umbrella. Malone now goes on recruiting jaunts across Texas to steer prospective members away from CLEAT -- the largest police organization in the state -- and onto the FOP membership roll.

Malone also holds a grudge against CLEAT, which used to employ his services part-time until his acrimonious departure in late 1995. While working for CLEAT, Malone continued to find fault with the Austin Police Association, a CLEAT affiliate, and wrote searing editorials against the group in the Doughnut Free Press. The APA, in turn, complained to CLEAT. This, of course, got Malone all the more riled and he continued his head-butting expeditions with the APA.

"It's true that the APA wanted him fired but they're not the ones that got him fired," says Ron DeLord, CLEAT's president. "I gave Randy three warnings to stop disrupting their organization, and each time he agreed to stop. But he didn't stop. He chose to keep raising hell, so I had no choice but to let him go. Randy brought it on himself."

Malone has a different story to tell. The December 1995 issue of the Doughnut describes his departure from CLEAT this way: "The Doughnut Man and CLEAT parted company this month due in part to the lies being told by certain APA leaders. The leaders like to lie. They do not want anyone to be able to put out the truth to anyone. The APA leaders did not like the fact that the Doughnut Man criticized them and pointed out the LIES they were telling their members."

His differences with APA and CLEAT aside, no one garnered more ink in Malone's newsletter than former Chief Watson, whom he named in a 1992 lawsuit against the city. Malone alleged he was retaliated against for run-ins he had with employees of John Johnson, a perennial mayoral candidate who runs a hot dog vending operation in the Sixth Street entertainment district. Malone disagreed with an order not to ticket Johnson's employees for pushing his hot dog cart in the street. The order came down after Johnson complained to city officials about being harassed by cops, so the city attorney agreed to temporarily suspend taking action against the hot dog vendor pending a legal opinion on the matter.

Years later, Malone is still bitter over the incident that he claims resulted in his transfer from the walking beat to a menial desk job, which he says exacerbated his existing back problems. "It's wrong to enforce laws for some people and not enforce them for others," Malone maintains. "What [Watson] did to me was obvious retaliation," he says. "So I started to use the law to offset what she was doing." Malone sued the city, but lost the case in a jury trial last year. "At least," he says, "I had my day in court."

Malone, with an even sharper axe to grind than before, continued spewing out angry editorials in his newsletter against Watson and her administration. Eventually, Malone was ordered to stop publishing the Doughnut and his civilian brother, Mike Malone, picked up where the younger Malone left off.

In February, shortly before Watson resigned from her post, the chief struck back and suspended Malone for 15 days. While Malone had agreed to stop publishing the Doughnut, his brother had continued to fight Malone's battles for him in the newsletter. That's when Malone's mother stepped in and asked Mike Malone to stop publishing the newsletter. He granted her request.

"This is something that runs in my family," Mike Malone explains. "We stand up for what we believe. We stand up for what is right."

Now, Randy Malone is appealing his suspension and his brother Mike is waiting to see if anything will come from the civil rights complaint he filed with the department over the whole affair.

Both Malone brothers have vowed to press ahead with this battle, and any others that might crop up along the way, until "justice is served." In the meantime, Randy Malone is frequently heard reciting the exact number of months, days, and hours remaining until his retirement in December, after 25 years on the force. By most indications, Malone isn't the only one counting. -- A.S.

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