Dallas Council Member Wants City Manager Investigation; But Majority Backs Mary Suhm | KERA News

Dallas Council Member Wants City Manager Investigation; But Majority Backs Mary Suhm

Feb 27, 2013

One Dallas City Council member is calling for an independent investigation of the city manager’s handling of a 2008 gas drilling lease.  But a majority of the council is strongly in Mary Suhm’s corner.

At a special briefing at Dallas City Hall, Council member Angela Hunt wanted to know why parkland in northwest Dallas was added to the contract as a proposed drilling site without city council approval. And why City Manager Mary Suhm repeatedly said there would be no surface-drilling on parkland at the same time she signed a letter offering “reasonable confidence” to Trinity East Energy that the council would eventually approve it. Hunt wants an independent investigation and called Suhm dishonest.

“You had every opportunity to clear the air on this, Mary," Hunt said, clearly frustrated.  "And we’re having to wait five years to get the facts.”

Suhm told the council she did not hide any gas lease information. 

“No doubt in my mind when I look back at six years of work, there are places where I would have done it differently.  But I didn’t lie to you.”

Suhm says a provision in the drilling contract allowed the parkland to be added without a separate contract and council approval, and her letter offered the drilling company no guarantees, just assistance.

Two council members called the Suhm’s grilling a “public assassination” and expressed support for the city manager.  Council member Vonceil Jones Hill called it sour grapes by drilling opponents on the council, and likened it to tribulations of biblical figures like Esther and Jesus. Others praised Shum for her integrity and hard work.

Only two colleagues joined Hunt’s concern about the gas lease: Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson.

“The quality of our decisions is based on what we hear and what we get," Greyson observed. "And I think we need to get very clear, transparent information.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings called for the public discussion of what happened with the gas lease. He says things could have been made a lot clearer and hopes it’s a lesson learned. He then expressed his support for Suhm.  

“Today the majority is speaking that you were within your bounds,” Rawlings said wrapping up the two hour long briefing. 

Rawlings says the mistakes do not fundamentally change the city’s position on gas drilling. The council has the final say on whether any wells will be drilled, and where.