Scholarship recipient's mom denies favors from Rep. Johnson

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by CRAIG CIVALE

WFAA

Posted on October 13, 2010 at 7:32 PM

DALLAS — "We did nothing wrong."

Those are the words Wednesday from the family of a college student who received a scholarship from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas). Some believe the funds were awarded to help gain favor for Johnson's businesses at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

News 8 was first to break the story on Tuesday.

Donna O'Bannon, the mother of Danielle O'Bannon, maintains that her daughter legitimately received a $1,000 scholarship from the Congressional Black Caucus. O'Bannon said Danielle lived in the congresswoman's district and met the requirements, denying any favors or behind-the-scene deals.

Donna O'Bannon said her ex-husband Don knew nothing about the scholarship award. "He had no role. I was solely responsible with Danielle working that application as well as others," she said.

O'Bannon said her daughter learned about Congressional Black Caucus scholarship from a friend at school, and filled out the application, the required essay, and submitted her transcript.

She said they were thinking about college, not conflicts.

"I can see if you had all the facts that we have now that that might be a problem, but I didn't have those facts," O'Bannon said. "There was nothing on the application — nor was I given any other information from any source — that there would be a source of contention."

Rep. Johnson is part owner of two of newsstands at D/FW Airport under contracts overseen by Don O'Bannon, who works with minority businesses at the airport.

Donna O'Bannon claims she didn't know what the congresswoman owned, nor was she aware of any favor gained by her daughter getting the scholarship.

"I have no evidence of that, I have no thought of that, and I don't think I believe that was the case," O'Bannon said. "That means Danielle was not qualified, and Danielle was preeminently qualified."

Airport officials are investigating to see what Don O'Bannon knew and what his involvement was.

Stephen Broden, Johnson's Republican opponent for her congressional seat, continues to take his shots.

"She was not thinking of avoiding all appearances of evil in this case, and it looks like there's something evil that took place," Broden said.

It is a perception that continues to haunt Johnson leading up to Election Day, and an issue that could cost Don O'Bannon his job.

A spokesperson for Johnson said she is no longer commenting on the scholarship issue.

As for the internal investigation at D/FW Airport, officials there say it will likely take a few weeks before the board considers Don O'Bannon's fate.

E-mail ccivale@wfaa.com

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