Barnyard stench

City auditor believes something stinks at Samuell Farm Parkand it's not just the cow manure

Pon, who now lives in Odessa, could not be reached for comment. Doug Melton did not return phone calls from the Observer. Bob Melton has since turned over this information to the Dallas Police Department's Public Integrity Division, which is investigating the matter.

This case is not the first time Samuell Farm has caught the DPD's attention. Late last year, police arrested John King, currently the assistant farm manager, on charges of tampering with a government document. For years, Samuell Farm has been a court-approved location for petty criminals seeking to work off community-service hours. And for years, farm staff has had a reputation of signing off on community-service hours without them being performed in exchange for goods, services, and possibly even cash. King was accused of trading hours for computer equipment, and the Dallas County District Attorney's Office says his case will go to trial later this year.

Park department director Dyer had previously denied these allegations. "According to the Dallas Police Department," he said, "there was no reason to pursue any charges. The computer equipment was for the farm, so there was no intent to defraud the city." In the past, Dyer has been a strong defender of farm management, but in light of the auditor's recent report, even he is being forced to re-evaluate his position.

"Anytime there are deficiencies in the system, it's always disturbing," Dyer says. "There are some legitimate concerns in there."

The city auditor's memo on Samuell Farm follows an audit released earlier this month on Tenison Park--a report that has found gross inadequacies in accounting procedures that are employed there as well. Both these properties, along with Samuell Grand Park and several others, fall within the purview of the Samuell Trust, which was set up when the land was willed to the city by the late Dr. W.W. Samuell. A fund was also established to provide for the parks' upkeep with a strict provision stating that money generated on these properties could be used only for parks donated by Dr. Samuell.

Since 1981, however, the park department has funneled these revenues into the city's general fund. At least one park board member finds this troubling. "I feel like Dr. Samuell didn't intend for his money to go to the general fund," says Rob Parks, who represents the White Rock Lake area. "He intended for it to go directly to his parks to help offset the expenses, and that's not happening."

The city auditor may not be delving into whether the park department is properly administering the Samuell Trust, but his inquiry is far from over. "We still are actively doing work at Samuell Farm," says Bob Melton, who will release his final report in May. "It's our job to look into these situations fully. I can't really comment on anything else now until we get to the end of our investigation.

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