Mary Suhm Tells City Council She Did Nothing Wrong in Park-Drilling Deal: A Live Blog

Categories: City Hall

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Photo by Sam Merten
On Friday, we told you about a memo Mary Suhm sent to the City Council, in which she insisted that she had "had the authority to sign a non-binding letter with Trinity East," the company which has been trying so very hard to drill in city-owned park land and floodplains for the last five years or so. Curiously, this letter never reached the light of day before our Jim Schutze wrote about it earlier this month. Also curious: A 22-acre tract of land, known as the Radio Tower Tract, somehow made it into the land that was leased to Trinity East, despite not being part of the original lease approved by City Council.

Today, as Suhm outlined in the memo, she and the City Attorney's Office will strenuously insist that she did nothing wrong and certainly did not overstep her authority by signing that letter. As for the Radio Tower Tract, it looks from the Powerpoint presentation she's giving that she'll say that that land wasn't included in the original lease "due to a lag, by outside sources, in updating real estate databases and inventory lists."

These assurances aside, some Council members -- most notably Angela Hunt and Scott Griggs -- seem pretty steamed about the whole thing. That sounds like fun. We'll be live blogging the whole thing in the comments section below. You go get that popcorn ready.


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187 comments
roo_ster
roo_ster

Late to the party, guys!  What's in the punch bowl?  It looks like Angela Hunt's head, frozen to keep the grog chilled.  I wonder why they did that?

====

FTR, I am a card-carrying member of the "drill baby drill" coalition.  [Considering the name: "Frack YES!"] 

But, wow, are those Dallas councilcritters clueless _and_ mendacious.  I see (or rather don't see) a deliberate policy of opacity in governance.  I am going to engage in totally wild speculation and suggest that lots of those councilcritters are not representing the voters who elected them, but rather the folks who financed their campaigns and side-opportunities for graft.  OK, now I'll stop with the crazy-talk.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

So the City leased land for the rights to explore, drill, test and complete gas wells on its property when the lessee had no chance of obtaining a drilling permit to drill, test and complete? 

For $19 Million? 

Yeah. That'll fly in front of a jury. 

We'll all have to just suffer through this fan dance again - under oath and in front of a judge and jury. 

Think about it. The explore part is worth $19 dollars. Any rational oil company would pay the rest (contingent) if they thought the drill permit could be UNREASONABLY WITHHELD.

This oil company did not get trickydicked. I refuse to believe they did not know what they were signing, or if she had the authority, 

Bottom line - the City took the money and never intended to issue a drill permit. 

We better give the money back, if they will take it.

"Hunt pressed Suhm on an Aug. 15, 2008, letter to Trinity East that the city manager signed. It said she was reasonably confident that the company could win the right to drill on the 22-acre tract. Five days later, under questioning from the council, Suhm said she had no intention of putting parkland at risk, and she sat silent as Duebner assured the council that there would be no drilling on city parkland."

Bad Faith at the time she executed the contract.  The City entered a land lease with no intention of allowing them drill, based upon her statement "she had no intention of putting parkland at risk, and she sat silent as Duebner assured the council that there would be no drilling on city parkland."

PeteLenovo
PeteLenovo

Something smells fishy. But I will not judge until I get all the facts. Meanwhile I will listen to music with the new disruptive music player. http://t.co/f1RJCwHC.

joecook
joecook

So what happens with the park land and refinery? They won't get away with this a second time; and, by the way, to figure out what really happened-you have to aim higher. Mary did truly have authority-from the higher ups.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

So Trinity East paid $19 Million for a land lease to drill and the City is not going to issue a permit to drill?

Is the City going to give the $19 Million back?

nascarluv1
nascarluv1

Jim, instead of calling Paul Dyer, call the person who was CFO at the time. He wasn't thrilled about using the $18M check to close the budget gap. Especially because Mark Duebner was the courier. Dyer knew damn well what was going on. Otherwise, why didn't he question Duebner's presence at the Park Board meetings for discussion of gas drilling?

Cue the bus that is picking up Duebner for a trip to the witness protection program so that he, too, can one day become City Manager.

And don't forget flow control. Rawlings and Suhm together misled everyone. Yes, Suhm needs to go but be careful, Dallas. There's only one honest person on the fourth floor at City Hall and she's not in the cue to become City Manager. Forrest Turner is salivating and out buying new bow ties with the current CFO who is shopping for handbags and shoes that are 500% more than the average worker's wage increase this year. We are screwed.

WylieH
WylieH

Has the burning in effigy of Hunt and Griggs on City Hall Plaza been scheduled yet?

mcdallas
mcdallas

Wonder if a future live blog on this will be held in a courthouse??

unsavedheathen
unsavedheathen

Theater, conceived and performed for the purpose of disguising Ms. Suhm's collusion with Trinity East to subvert the public will of the Council.  The only players off-script were Griggs and Hunt.


JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Eric, can I get one of those little blue badges next to my comments that says, "Immoderator?"

WylieH
WylieH

No more road improvements (or anything else) for District 14... lol.....

Maybe Suhm can have trash trucks start using the parks in District 14 as waste transfer stations.

cjbwalton
cjbwalton

My career involved extensive work with oil and gas leases. In my experience, tracks included in such leases are checked, cross checked, and triple checked every way imaginable. Suhm and her office knew which tracts were approved by the City Council and they knew which tracts were included in the lease. The two lists simply had to be cross checked. The city attorney's office knew as well, if they are worth their salt. Including park land that is "not really park land" is not a fall through the cracks item, it is a carefully constructed Dyer-esque scheme. The company that took the lease had to be well aware the inclusion of the non-approved tract as well. It simply could not have been missed during their due diligence. Oil companies do not have employees who are that inept. It stands to reason, THE $19,000,000 oil and gas lease for the Trinity River bottom lease taken by THE Trinity East Energy LLC would have received very specialized and individualized attention. This was not a contract prepared by flunkies. Can I emphasize enough that a $19,000,000 lease receives very special attention? Based on twenty years of working on oil and gas leases, the inadvertent inclusion of a 22-acre tract which had not have been approved by the necessary authority could not gone unnoticed by Trinity East or Keystone. So who prepared the lease? If it was Trinity East, whether they erred accidentally or committed fraud, the tract should be released from the lease. If it was the City Attorney and the City Manager who put the tract on the lease, they have far exceeded their authority and should be terminated immediately. 

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

That's it, y'all. Mary Suhm wins this one. I need to get the hell out of here before I freeze to death. 

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Rawlings addresses audience. "is this democracy in action? You're seeing it." Says you're seeing support of City Manager, and that people want to get on with it. Says he respects "minority who are passionate about gas drilling." Says we need to get on with being stewards of taxpayer money. 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

Very sad deal. Hunt and Griggs are courageous. But never do an enemy a small injury.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Rawlings has comments to make, then they'll recess and this will be over. Caraway has been gone the entire time. 

"I think this whole process should have been clearer. Dotting i's and crossing t's are important," as are dealing with techincal matters. Says he hopes "the system" has learned how to make sure this doesn't happen again. Asks if mistakes "change anything." Says he doesn't think so, "fundamentally." The bigger question is "not just to point out where we made technical errors. It's really why. Why did this happen."

Rawlings seems to reject idea there's "conspiracy, deception or even lying." Adds that we have to push for transparency, "but be careful when we attack someone's character." Says Suhm's integrity and character "couldn't be higher."

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Ann Margolin says she agrees strongly with Koop, Jasso and Hill as they support city manager. Wants to point out environment was different five or six years ago. 

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Angela Hunt says she "does not believe" that some of her colleagues have in fact read the documents. If the Radio Tower Tract info is in there, she says, "show me that."

"it is not rude to point out inconsistencies, errors that city staff made. That is what we are responsible for. We are not here simply to show favoritism to Ms. Suhm, with all due respect."

Hunt says "Our job is not to just circle the wagons," drops the mic, burns down the building. Just kidding. 

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Monica Alonzo says to Suhm that this is a tough situation  and that everyone is trying to work together. Says her other questions have been answered. Now there's another round of questions, two minutes apiece. 

Hunt is up first. "I can appreciate you don't have the same concerns" as she does "about the level of dishonesty" she says. But she takes offense at the suggestion that she's "misrepresented or failed to read" documents or transcripts. "During my eight years on the council, I've always done my homework and I've always read the documents." Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is "unwarranted and wrong." She hopes Vonciel hears that. Vonciel's sitting right there. I think she hears.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Allen says there's been an "overwhelming" consensus from Council to move forward with responsible drilling. "There have always been one or two who have disagreed."

He says he's "grown used to colleagues that just want to attack people.. The more you have a democracy, the more you see it." Says these attacks "drain our resources and take away quality of life."

"Guess what, citizens?" Allen adds. Having an "independent council" "costs money." 

He keeps repeating "wasted money, wasted money," then adds, "I'd like to see us put this to sleep, this gas drilling... Let's pass it and get it done." 


Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Allen says this is a lawyer move to "discredit the other side."

Carolyn Davis is now gone. Caraway still gone. 

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Jerry Allen: Gas drilling has been discussed for seven years over and over again. "There's nothing new... You're exactly right, Judge Hill, nothing new is being talked about." Meanwhile, Ft. Worth and Arlington have "taken decisive action, and they've reaped the benefits. People have better quality of life" because of drilling there. "Last time I checked, the world's still here." Says there's still clean water, adds "i havent see any three-headed babies." Wishes the "boogieman" in the closet would be shown by the "naysayers." 


Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

Kadane says the city has a contract with Trinity East that must be honored. Asks if Trinity River "even comes near" the properties in question. Some of it, yes, is the answer to that. 

Kadane adds that "any equipment" will be out of the floodland. Says Suhm did a great job with all the leases she had. "There's no way that I would say you've ever done anything wrong with these leases. I think what you did there was exactly right." Says we need to drill. "The way they're sitting now, they're worthless to us... You just brought funds into this city through those leases." 

schermbeck
schermbeck

@holmantx They paid for the time to drill those sites, not the land. They ran out of time without drilling and asked for an extension. They got it. Nothing more is promised.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

@darrd2010 No! I got here right after he left office, so I don't know him by sight. Yet. Can you describe him? 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@WylieH It's not like we have had that many road improvements in District 14 anyway and the parks that we have a pretty much trashed out anyway.


14 - 1: The worst of ward politics with none of the benefits.

EricCeleste
EricCeleste

@cjbwalton You, sir, make way too much sense. Please find another city.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Anna_Merlan yes, thanks for this, hadnt had this much fun since shutze daily live blog from the courthouse a few years back

helentrent
helentrent

I have heard that she has "talked in strong language" to Griggs.  Yes-- either go for the kill, the wounded bear is very dangerous. 

WylieH
WylieH

@JimSX Very true--- I wasn't expecting the City Council meeting to morph into a church service were they would be branded as sinners that should be condemned to the fiery depths of hell.

In all seriousness, I feel "dirty" just having witnessed this whole sad affair.

 

James080
James080

@JimSX  

This charade reminds me of an iceberg.  We're only seeing 10% of the issue.

I wonder why Ms. Hunt didn't ask about city staff's failure to timely comply with public information requests for the Trinity letter agreement?

WylieH
WylieH

@Anna_Merlan Yet he just orchestrated a farce in which Hunt and Griggs' characters were completely assassinated.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

@ScottsMerkin Yeah, we should do this more. I didn't have to fight to stay awake or count ceiling tiles or anything. It was marvelous. 

James080
James080

@WylieH @JimSX  

I got the impression all of the Suhm praise and worship was bought and paid for long before the session began. I also got the impression several counsel members are utterly clueless.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@James080 @JimSX 

You're right about the iceberg. The problem, as Hunt well knows, is that the city thumbs its nose at Public information Act requests every day. Suhm runs rogue against council wishes every day. This was one instance, one thread to pull. It wasn't strong enough to pull her down. That may have been a miscalculation in immediate terms. But that's just the inside baseball on it. The bigger picture may be that this whole imbroglio actually strengthens the hands of council candidates next May who run against the ruling paradigm. Suhm said no drilling in  parks. Then  she jumped in bed with the drillers. Reg'lar folks get what that amounts to.  

WylieH
WylieH

@James080 @WylieH @JimSX Yes, Hunt and Griggs walked into an ambush.  The folks who run this City didn't get to where they are by playing nice and fair.  They aren't about to let Dallas turn into anything remotely resembling a representative democracy.

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