Here is a fascinating peek behind the scenes as the Resolution Trust Corporation's $140 million civil suit against Governor J. Fife Symington III grinds slowly forward.

When you look closely at the background of the cast of characters, the picture begins to clear.

After a report was issued June 12, 1991, that alleged blatant self-dealing" by Symington on the Esplanade loan, several things happened.

Alfred Byrne, the FDIC general counsel, promised a decision in one month. Byrne is a lawyer who formerly worked in Phoenix for the law firm of O'Connor Cavanagh. It was O'Connor Cavanagh that represented Southwest Savings and Loan Association. Byrne has described himself as a longtime friend" of Symington's.

For three months, Byrne sat on the memo that castigated Symington, then ordered that it be rewritten to delete the charges that Symington converted funds to his own use. The diluted memo was under review by three people for an additional three months.

The usual length of time between an RTC staff lawyer's recommendation to sue and the FDIC's decision usually takes 60 to 90 days.

In Symington's case, it took six months.
Three men involved in this are from Phoenix. They are William Seidman, Byrne and RTC general counsel Gerald Jacobs. Jacobs has been described by Symington as one of his old friends.

Byrne and Jacobs both worked in Phoenix for O'Connor Cavanagh before going to Washington, D.C. Jacobs worked for O'Connor Cavanagh since 1963.

In 1989, Seidman appointed Byrne as FDIC general counsel. Byrne then hired Jacobs to oversee the legal affairs at RTC.

Now, it all falls into place.
On Sunday, the Mesa Tribune reported that Symington's personal attorney was granted a meeting in Washington last September to discuss the Southwest case.

Jim Vieh, Symington's lawyer, met with Byrne to discuss the lawsuit. Although Vieh denied there was such a meeting, the Tribune learned through a Freedom of Information request that a meeting had taken place. Symington, according to the Tribune, now refuses to comment on the meeting.

During a press conference following the filing of the lawsuit against him, Symington had claimed he had never had a chance to sit down to discuss the problem before the suit was filed.

But this record shows the meeting had taken place months before and that the meeting was held with Byrne, a man whom Symington regards as an old friend.

Doesn't it seem strange that Seidman, Byrne and Jacobs, all with heavy Phoenix connections, are so closely involved in this case?

I'm no longer worried about the governor getting an even playing field. The field seems to be tilting against the rest of us.