City Misses Samuell Trust Reports Deadlines; Texas AG Threatens Dallas With Legal Action

Long story short: Since March 2008, the Texas Attorney General's Office has been investigating precisely how well the city of Dallas is taking care of the park properties and money left to the city by physician and philanthropist W.W. Samuell. In March of '09, we first caught wind of the specifics of the investigation, which included a long look-see at the much-fought-over Samuell Farm -- which, as you can see from the photo above, looks abandoned despite one city official's claim that Dallas has spent "$200,000 or more in unexpected expenses" to get it in shape. Then came word that the city and Attorney General's Office were close to an agreement; after that, on April 10, we received a summary of that agreement, which said city officials must turn over to Greg Abbott's office reports from Park and Recreation Department detailing "current operations of all Samuell Park Properties [and] a future plan for the Samuell Park Property known as Samuell Farm."

The city had till July 15 to file the reports with the Attorney General's Office. But Unfair Park has obtained a sharply worded two-page letter from Abbott's office that says the city had done no such thing. Instead, the city last week submitted a bare-bones PowerPoint presentation that does not satisfy the terms of the memorandum of agreement. City officials have offered myriad excuses for the delay -- chief among them, the Park and Rec board didn't meet during the summer, though it clearly did.

Abbott's office has had enough stalling: The letter, from the chief of the Consumer Protection and Public Health Division to Dallas City Attorney Tom Perkins and First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers, says the city has till 5 p.m. September 11 to turn in its homework. If it does not, "the OAG is left with no choice but to take legal action to enforce" the agreement. Among the potential remedies: removing the Park Board as trustee of the Samuell Trust.

After the jump, Chris Bowers responds. And, as always, the full text of Office of the Attorney General's letter to the city.

Bowers tells Unfair Park the city received the letter yesterday at 5 p.m. and that the City Attorney's Office "takes issue with much of it." He says "it will take a few days for us to respond, but we certainly will respond to the Attorney General and attempt to persuade them we're doing a good job of managing the Samuell properties."

As for why the city did not file the reports per the agreement, he says

it was simply a matter of it getting lost in the shuffle as the City Attorney's Office worked with City Manager Mary Suhm to cut the budget in the wake of the $190-million shortfall.

"Our department staff was very busy and just apparently did not calendar the deadline," he says. "Those guys have been putting in many 80-hour weeks trying to figure out how they were going to cut their budget and their staff in order to satisfy the city's need to have a balanced budget. That has really been their focus, and they were so wrapped up with that they did not calendar that deadline. They regret that. That does not mean the city is being a bad steward of those properties."Letter From Office of the Attorney General to City of Dallas