Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm will tell the city council on Wednesday that she had every authority to lease a 22-acre parcel of parkland to Trinity East, the gas-drilling company that wants frack the Trinity River floodplain, despite that land not appearing in original lease approved by city council. She'll say the same thing about a side deal she quietly cut with Trinity East to help it secure the permits it needs to drill in parkland.
"The City Attorney's office has affirmed her authority" to make both deals, Suhm writes in a letter to council. The memo is part of a lengthy briefing, on display below, that Suhm will present on Wednesday at the behest of Mayor Mike Rawlings after the lease and the side deal came under scrutiny in recent weeks.
The lease with Trinity East netted the city $19 million, but the city plan commission and city council have both appeared reluctant to allow Trinity East follow through on its plans to drill. The briefing documents, which were uploaded to the city's web site tonight, are long and tedious, with a consistent theme echoed throughout by Suhm: I did nothing wrong.
On the matter of the magically appearing parkland: Suhm claims the land, 22 acres near Luna Vista Golf Course in North Dallas, wasn't included in the original lease because it had only recently become city property, and the property records weren't updated when the lease went before council. When it did become clear it was city property, she says, Trinity East asked for it to be included.
Suhm points out that city staff discussed it before the council in 2008, noting that it would be the only parkland where they would consider surface drilling. A transcript is included in the briefing below, and the city provided this audio excerpt from the meeting:
The transcript actually seems to indicate that the council should have signed a separate lease, with separate fees, for what's vaguely referred to as "this parcel that had the radio towers." But I suspect that will be debated at length on Wednesday.
On the matter of the side deal: Suhm maintains she was offering the same help she would any company looking to do business with the city. Specifically, she says, city staff offers this help when the city council "has determined a project is in the city's best interest."
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In this case, both council and city staff had been clear that the project Suhm quietly pledged to support -- drilling in parkland -- was very much not in the city's best interest. But again: I suspect someone will bring that up Wednesday. Maybe a few people, and probably loudly.
We'll bring the popcorn.