Space restraints prevented us from including our interview with Richard Allen, CEO of The Allen Group, in this week's look at departing Dallas County Judge Jim Foster -- available wherever paper versions of Unfair Park are given away tomorrow. Of course, TAG is developing the Dallas Logistics Hub, which Schutze wrote several eye-opening columns about at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. The 6,000-acre development highlights the International Inland Port of Dallas, a massive warehousing and shipping center that's expected to bring more than 60,000 jobs to southern Dallas County.
Allen says Foster was the "swing vote" on October 21, 2008, when the vote on the controversial 18-month master plan was taken because of the expectation by those Allen refers to as "the opposition" to his company that Foster would vote with them.
"It was a big shock that he didn't vote with [Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley] Price," Allen says.
After Foster voted against the plan, which would have stalled the project, Foster says he was forced to adjourn court because Price nearly punched him. "He threw back his fist. He was getting ready to hit me."
Dallas lawyer John Barr, who served on Foster's transition team and is representing former FBI Agent Danny Defenbaugh in matters related to the investigation of Constables Jaime Cortes and Derick Evans, considers Price a friend and contributed to his first campaign, but he understands how his temper and physique can be threatening.
"I could see how John Price getting into one of his anger bursts could frighten or intimidate someone," Barr says. "He's put as much effort into working out as any Dallas Cowboy; I'll put it to you that way."
After Foster and Price met during the recess, Commissioner Ken Mayfield says Foster emerged from Price's office as white as a ghost. "I happened to be walking by and he said, 'Has he ever threatened to physically assault you?' And I said, 'All the time.'"
One week after the vote, Price positioned a professionally made placard in front of himself with the name "Judge Foster Gump," vowing to display it at all future commissioners court meetings until Foster left office. Shortly after the incident, the placard disappeared from Price's office, and Foster says Price burst into his office in a rage shouting profanities and demanding for the placard to be returned. "He was on the verge of assaulting me. He would have, I believe, had there not been people present."
Allen says he's saddened that Foster will be leaving office because he tried to facilitate job growth and economic development in Price's district while Price served as an obstructionist.
"He was a stand-up guy and it's amazing to me that the community didn't recognize that and chose to replace him," he says. "Whoever his replacement ends up being, we'll see whether they'll be motivated by what's right for the residents of South Dallas County. That remains to be seen, but I can certainly tell you that Judge Foster was trying to do the right thing."
Allen's company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, and we wanted to know how much blame Allen was willing to put at the feet of Price for repeated attempts to allegedly stall the project. But, to our surprise, he didn't hold Price responsible at all. In fact, he notes that TAG sold approximately 700 acres during Price's meddling, and Foster, along with Commissioners Mayfield and Maurine Dickey, kept the project moving forward. Allen says the tanking economy is the culprit, and changes in capital markets combined with TAG facing maturing debt made it necessary for the company to restructure its debt, which he assures us is underway.
"The project isn't failed. We're not leaving it," he says. "All we need is some breathing room in terms of our debt."
We also asked Allen to describe Mayor Tom Leppert's reasoning behind his support of the master plan that was killed by Foster, Mayfield and Dickey.
"I guess I never understood why he was advocating for it," he tells Unfair Park, despite meeting with Leppert several times about the plan. Allen says he's unaware of the political alliances between Leppert, Price and State Senator Royce West, if any, so he can't speculate on whether that was a factor.
Schutze's columns exposed Price's efforts to stall Allen's project after Allen refused to sign a contract with the Service and Leadership Team, a consulting group led by former Dallas Cowboys football player and local businessman Pettis Norman, radio personality and political consultant Willis Johnson and developer Jon Edmonds. SALT had asked Allen for $500,000 per year for three years and 15 percent equity in the project. Allen was never able to explain what SALT was offering in return other than the promise that he'd be introduced to influential people in the community.
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So would Allen attribute Price's actions to Allen's refusal to sign the SALT agreement?
"I would rather not draw conclusions, but anyone who has read all the articles in your newspaper can draw their own conclusions," he says.
And even though it didn't lead to TAG's bankruptcy, has there ever been a time that he wished he had just signed the SALT contract to make life easier?
"Not at all. Absolutely not," Allen says. "If I had it to do all over again, I still wouldn't sign the contract."