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Suhm Briefing Questions

Suhm Briefing Questions

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Suhm Briefing Questions
Suhm Briefing Questions

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Published by: cityhallblog on Feb 26, 2013
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07/10/2013

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Questions Raised by “Trinity East Gas Lease Briefing”

Prepared by Dallas Residents at Risk The briefing that the City Manager's Office and City Attorney's Office have prepared and released fails to sufficiently answer several critical questions about how the Trinity East gas lease was executed. This presentation offers thin excuses for Ms. Suhm's deceptive statements and unauthorized actions—excuses that do not withstand basic scrutiny and that lead only to more questions. The faulty conclusions reached in this briefing have been formed by those same city officials who have already perpetrated numerous misrepresentations regarding the Trinity East leases. We believe that an independent investigation is the only way to find the real truth and come to the correct decisions moving forward. Here are just a few of the questions that Ms. Suhm's briefing fails to explain: 1. Why wasn't the “radio tower tract” brought back before Council for authorization? Because it would have exposed a fundamental deception behind this proposal. According to the attached transcript of the City Council meeting (June 25th, 2008) Ms. Suhm's staff told Council that the “radio tower tract” (the drilling site proposed at L.B. Houston Golf Course) was not included in the proposed lease. The Park Director indicated that Trinity East wanted to use this site for surface-level drilling, but that it would need to be added as a separate agreement that would be brought back before Council for authorization. All briefing and background materials that Ms. Suhm provided for Council members stated that no surface-level drilling would be allowed on park land under this lease agreement. That was why the questions surrounding the “radio tower tract” created so much discussion at the Council meeting—it was the only drilling site on park land that had been explicitly identified and requested by Trinity East. The Mayor and Council were abundantly clear in public meetings and votes: They were only authorizing off-site, subsurface mineral extraction, not surface-level drilling on park lands. Ms. Suhm is now claiming that the tract was added later for unrelated clerical and administrative reasons. But since its inclusion completely changed the fundamental nature of the lease agreement—allowing drilling on our public park lands, not just under them—this is a fraudulent claim. The reason Ms. Suhm did not bring this tract back before Council for their authorization is that she needed to preserve her misrepresentation of the lease agreement. A proposal to drill on park lands, not just under them, would have led to far more scrutiny and dissent from Council members, the Park Board and the public. So she chose to make this decision unilaterally, outside the democratic process. In doing so, she exceeded her authority as City Manager. 2. Why wasn't the “gun club site” identified as another potential surface-level drilling site on park land? Because this also would have exposed the truth about the drilling proposal. As we know now, there are actually two proposed surface-level drilling sites on public park land. The second is at Elm Fork Shooting Sports. This has generated less scrutiny than the golf course site, but it raises many of the same questions. Again, all briefing and background materials that Ms. Suhm provided for Council members and the Park Board stated that no surface-level drilling would be allowed on cityowned park land under this lease agreement. Several potential drilling sites were identified in presentations for the Council, but neither the golf course site not the gun club site were ever included in any public briefing. The Park Director did not identify this as a proposed drilling site, nor did Mary Suhm or

her staff. And yet now Ms. Suhm and the City Attorney's Office claim that the lease agreement did in fact give Trinity East surface-level drilling rights for this park land as well. If this is true, such information should have been given to the Mayor and Council, the Park Board and the public prior to their votes to authorize the lease. Again, Ms. Suhm and her staff misrepresented the fundamental nature of this proposal, only gaining approval by openly deceiving everyone involved. 3. Did the Park Department Director, Paul Dyer, take actions against the will of the Park Board? His public statements before City Council directly contradicted a prior Park Board vote. The Park Board voted on June 5th, 2008 to prohibit surface-level drilling on all park land. Once again, they were told repeatedly by city staff that only subsurface, off-site drilling would be allowed under this lease. According to Ms. Suhm's presentation, Trinity East met with city staff after this vote specifically to discuss the addition of more surface-level drilling sites in their lease agreement. The gas company suggested the golf course site. City staff then “checked with” the Park Department Director, Paul Dyer, about this site. Mr. Dyer told the Dallas Morning News that he was approached by Trinity East about this site as well. Then at the June 25th City Council meeting, Mr. Dyer stated that surface-level drilling on this site would have no impact on the golf course itself. One Council member immediately disagreed with this claim, and then began to ask whether the proposal would allow surface-level drilling on park land, not just under it. Mr. Dyer deflected this scrutiny by stating that the golf course site was not included in the lease anyway and that it would need to be added in a separate agreement that would come back before Council for approval. Ms. Suhm's staff interjected that the hearing was only covering subsurface rights, not surface-level drilling. The very next day, Trinity East submitted a formal request to add this site to the lease agreement. Mr. Dyer's statement—that drilling on this site “would not in any way impact the park system or the park use”—seems to indicate that he had decided to support surface-level drilling on park land. Indeed, Ms. Suhm is now citing this statement as proof of his support. However, the Park Board had taken the opposite position just three weeks earlier. In a recent letter to the City Plan Commission, Trinity East claimed that the current drilling proposal was “developed in concert with, and with the support of, the Park Department.” More evidence must be gathered, but it seems possible that Mr. Dyer worked with the gas company to develop a drilling plan that was opposed to the stated will of the Park Board. 4. Is the lease for the “radio tower tract” even valid? If so, what are the limits of Ms. Suhm's authority? For whatever reasons she claims, Ms. Suhm acknowledges that she entered into an agreement involving land that she did not have authorization to lease. Regardless of her excuses, the bottom line is that she did not have permission to lease the golf course site, and she did not have permission to move forward with surface-level drilling on public park lands. The City Council explicitly stated that both of those actions would require further authorization, and Ms. Suhm's staff agreed. She chose to ignore this direction. If this is allowed to stand, she would in theory be able to lease any city-owned land for any purpose she desires, with or without authorization from Council. How can the current Mayor and Council decide how best to proceed now? Trusting the conclusions contained in Ms. Suhm's presentation means putting faith in the exact same city officials who have already attempted to mislead us all. At this point, the City Attorney's Office is no more objective than the City Manager's Office. Only an independent investigation and outside legal counsel can lead us in the right direction now.

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