Politics & Government

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Park Board Member Robb Stewart

The deal to run Fair Park gets more and more curious.

Robb Stewart
Robb Stewart

Last week, before five members of the Park Board walked out of a meeting to prevent a vote on Walt Humann’s proposed contract to run Fair Park, board member Paul Sims proposed some revisions to that contract. Or, rather, he wanted to propose some revisions to that contract. He didn’t get to do that because the board voted with president Max Wells to quash any discussion of Sims’ revisions. One of the board members who sided with Wells is named Robb Stewart, a lawyer at the firm Locke Lord who was appointed to the board by District 10 Councilman Adam McGough. As it happens, another Locke Lord lawyer, R. Nathan Crow, working pro bono, is the guy who drafted that contract for Humann. As Wylie H. Dallas asked yesterday on Twitter, can one Locke Lord lawyer on the Park Board vote against public discussion of a contract drafted by another Locke Lord lawyer? That doesn’t seem right. A woman named Carol Bell-Walton doesn’t think it seems right. On Friday, she filed an ethics complaint. Below is the text of her complaint, including what she sees as code violations. I’ve called and emailed Stewart for comment but have yet to hear back from him.

UPDATE (5:38 p.m.) Stewart emailed to say: “At this point I have not been provided a copy of the actual complaint by the City Secretary’s office. When I officially receive the complaint I will review it and take appropriate action. Otherwise I can’t make any comment on the complaint at this time. I do not believe that I have violated Chapter 12A or that a conflict of interest has occurred under Chapter 12A.”

***

District 10 Park and Recreation Board Representative Robb Stewart is a partner at the law firm Locke Lord LLC. Nathan Crow, an attorney with Locke Lord LLC confirmed yesterday that he is providing Walt Humann’s Fair Park Texas Foundation (FPTF) with pro bono legal assistance by consulting on the Agreement between the Foundation and the City. The FPTF Agreement is to be voted upon at the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board at the August 4, 2016 Park and Recreation Board meeting. As Mr. Stewart’s firm Locke Lord LLC is representing Walt Humann and the Fair Park Texas Foundation, allowing Mr. Stewart to vote for the Fair Park Texas Foundation proposal would be grossly inappropriate and demonstrably unethical.

SEC. 12A-4. UNFAIR ADVANCEMENT OF PRIVATE INTERESTS – The private interests of the Fair Park Texas Foundation and Walt Humann are being advanced by D-10 Park Board Rep Mr. Robb Stewart’s law firm Locke Lord LLC. While the Foundation is to be a non-profit corporation, the interests are still private and the FPTF contract with the City of Dallas is worth over $500,000,000. and should only be voted upon by Park and Recreation Board Representatives whose firms do not or have not represented Walt Humann, his business and/or philanthropic interests, and most specifically not the Fair Park Texas Foundation. While Locke Lord’s R. Nathan Crow is representing Mr. Humann, Mr. Stewart is a “Partner” in the Locke Lord LLC firm and “Partnership” in a law firm is generally held to involve management and/or ownership. While not definitive, Wikipedia defines a “partner” as follows:

“A partner in a law firm, accounting firm, consulting firm, or financial firm is a highly ranked position, traditionally indicating co-ownership of a partnership in which the partners were entitled to a share of the profits as “equity partners.” [Wiki Emphasis]

Anyone who works for Locke Lord LLC should be recused from voting on Walt Humann’s Fair Park Texas Foundation Contract in order to prevent the Unfair Advancement of Private Interests.

Further sanctions on input into the contract negotiations may well be warranted in this case.

SEC. 12A-6. CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION – The private interests of the Fair Park Texas Foundation are being represented by Locke Lord LLC. Mr. Stewart is a partner at Locke Lord LLC. As partnership in a law firm is the equivalent of being in management and/or having ownership, anyone in a partner position at Locke Lord LLC and serving on the Park Board would be in a position to glean confidential information from the both the City of Dallas and the Fair Park Texas Foundation. Having one law firm representing both the city and the private interest in an agreement of this scope is shocking and likely warrants a more thorough investigation.

SEC. 12A-7. REPRESENTATION OF PRIVATE INTERESTS – The private interests of the Fair Park Texas Foundation are being represented by Mr. Stewart’s law firm Locke Lord LLC. The FPTF contract is worth over $500,000,000. and should only be voted upon by those whose firms that do not represent the private interests of Walt Humann or the FPTF. While Locke Lord LLC’s R. Nathan Crow is representing Mr. Humann, Mr. Stewart is a partner in the firm. Partnership in a law firm is the equivalent of being in management an/or having ownership. R. Nathan Crow of Locke Lord LLC attended the 7/21/2016 Park and Recreation Board Special Meeting as advisor to the Fair Park Texas Foundation and Walt Humann. While Mr. Crow made clear his work his legal work on behalf of the FPTX is pro bono, the Agreement involves hundreds of millions of dollars to be received by the private interests of the Fair Park Texas Foundation. Locke Lord LLC’s Partner Robb Stewart is serving on the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board and in that position he could benefit/represent/advance Locke Lord LLC’s client if he is not recused from voting on this matter.

SEC. 12A-8. CONFLICTING OUTSIDE EMPLOYMENT, SEC. 12A-12. PROHIBITED INTERESTS IN CONTRACTS – Locke Lord LLC attorneys represent both Walt Humann’s Fair Park Texas Foundation and, as a Park and Recreation Board Representative, the City of Dallas negotiating an Agreement that has a 25-year term over which some $500,000,000. of tax payer dollars will be given over to a private interest for management fees. Most certainly the contract could have been modified to safeguard the city’s irreplaceable Art Deco assets in Fair Park. Many provisions in the contract said that the FPTF “may” perform a requirement, rather than “will” perform a requirement. Despite Mr. Stewart’s extensive legal training and success in his field, he offered not one suggestion to modify the contract or tighten up the language on behalf of the City of Dallas unless first requested by another Park Board and Recreation Board Representative. Unfortunately, to have modified the contract on behalf of the city’s park interests he was to protect, Mr. Stewart would have been in the unenviable position of conflicting with his Outside Employment, as his firm is actively representing the Fair Park Texas Foundation. How the firm of Locke Lord LLC allowed this conflict is baffling, but the city should find that there is a conflict or sufficient appearance of a conflict and that Robb Stewart D-10 Park and Recreation Board Re should be recused from voting on the Fair Park Texas Foundation Contract.

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