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Dallas City Manager Under Fire Over Natural Gas Drilling

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm answered direct questions – and criticisms – before the city council Wednesday over the issue of natural gas drilling in parks and on city-owned land, and whether she advised the council on one thing and did something else in a signed agreement with a gas drilling company.

“I don’t lie to you. It is not worth all this to lie to you about anything and I don’t do it,” Suhm summed up, after spending half an hour walking members through how she and an earlier council had sold leases for potential gas drilling sites near the L-B Houston Sports complex.

No one knew, she said, the city was about to inherit land in the park from a decades-old legal agreement where a radio tower once stood.

That land made its way into the lease despite promises to council there would be no drilling in park land.

Suhm explained more as something staff missed.

“We have done the best we could communicating with you about where those drill sites were,” she told council members.

“I don’t buy it; I don’t buy what you’re saying,” said councilwoman Angela Hunt, one of two members who took issue with the explanation.  “I believe we need an independent investigation of this, to look at all the facts.”

Some members of the public agreed, including Ed Meyer.  “I just want to say what the city manager did was wrong and may even be illegal.”

The Sierra Club’s Molly Rooke added, “Their excuses for the city manager’s deceptive statements and unauthorized actions do not withstand basic scrutiny.”

But the city attorney said Suhm did not exceed her authority to sign the deal, and other council members lashed out at her critics.

“I believe much of what has gone out in the public has been a misrepresentation,” said Vonciel Jones Hill.

Dwaine Caraway wondered why – if the issue was to be about Suhm’s job performance – it wasn’t done in executive session.

“To come out and do a character assassination in public is something mayor, I think should have been done in the back room.”

Though not mayor at the time, Mike Rawlings said Suhm could have been handled the oversight better.  “I think this whole process should have been clearer; dotting “i’s” and crossing “t’s” are important.”

He noted the council must still decide where to allow the drilling – if at all – and opponents fear they already know the answer.

Zac Trahan of the Campaign for the Environment told CBS 11 News, “The city council and the manager and the majority of the council seem to be supportive of drilling in these locations, so yes, we ARE more concerned about it today than we were yesterday.”

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