Anti-Convention Center Hotel Group Files Temporary Restraining Order Against City

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Sam Merten
We've been hearing for some time that the Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel would be seeking a temporary restraining order sooner than later to keep the city from proceeding with the convention center hotel without a proper vote. Turns out, sooner was yesterday: Citizens Against the Taxpayer Owned Hotel, et. al. v. The City of Dallas, Texas and Dallas Convention Center Hotel Development Corporation showed up Monday in the 160th District Court; Unfair Park received the petition for a TRO this afternoon. CATOH officials also told Unfair Park today that the filing yesterday was a legal maneuver to wrestle documents away from reluctant city officials.

The petition and attached affidavits, totaling 32 pages, are available in full after the jump, but this opening paragraph by way of introduction:
This is an action to vindicate the fundamental constitutional and statutory right of the voters of the City of Dallas to amend the Dallas City Charter to prohibit the direct or indirect participation by the City in the essentially private enterprise of owning, financing, constructing or operating a hotel or other lodging facility. The City, through its mayor and City Council and other agents, is actively engaging in an ongoing, systematic, deliberate and unrepentant effort to thwart that right.
CATOH wants to stop the city from entering into a binding agreement with developer Matthews Southwest -- a vote on which is scheduled for tomorrow, along with one that would finally seal Omni Hotels' deal to operate the $525 million hotel. As far as CATOH's concerned, the city should stop its hotel dealings -- including a scheduled April start date on construction -- till the May 9 referendum. "The City's planned actions ... would disenfranchise voters without due process of law," says the petition.

Attorney Michael Jung, with Strasburger & Price, filed the petition for the TRO and was unavailable for comment this afternoon. (Update: Judge Sheryl McFarlin denied the TRO Tuesday evening.) But after the jump, Anne Raymond, an executive with Crow Holdings and spokeswoman for Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel, explains the motivations behind yesterday's legal action.

Raymond says the petition for the temporary restraining order was filed when it became clear that the city council was making preparations to vote on the operator and development agreements at tomorrow's meeting. She requested documentation from city officials to make sure the council's actions would not neutralize the May 9 referendum on the hotel.

"We tried in a very businesslike way so we could review them and make that determination, but they refused to share them with us," Raymond tells Unfair Park. "So we filed seeking a TRO to prevent them from voting on the items since we couldn't make a determination as to whether it would bind the taxpayers."

Those documents were ultimately provided, although Raymond says it's unfortunate that they had to go through legal channels to force the city to comply.

"Based on a review of the documents, we've concluded that approving these documents wouldn't neutralize the vote in May, so we're not pursuing a TRO at this time."

Raymond says she'll continue to monitor the steps that the council takes to make sure the referendum isn't affected, but she stresses that CATOH won't file an injunction simply to stop construction on the hotel.

"I think them puffing out their chest and saying they're going to start not withstanding the vote is a bit of bravado," she says while noting that most hotel construction projects have been put on hold or canceled. "It's folly. It's really just folly with the taxpayers' money. Very frustrating."

She'll have plenty of opportunities to spread her message to citizens throughout the city, including debates already planned with council members Ron Natinsky and Jerry Allen. We'll post her schedule soon, but so far, no match-up with Mayor Tom Leppert. So what gives? Raymond says it would have to be something set up by an organization, but "I'd love it."Citizens Against the Taxpayer Owned Hotel


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