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Fair Park

Rumor: New City Attorney Is Killing Walt Humann’s Fair Park Carte Blanche

Apparently Philip Kingston was right.
By Jason Heid |
The Hall of State at Fair Park. Photo by Josh Blaylock.

Schutze wrote in the wee hours of this morning that the issue that City Councilman Philip Kingston brought up last month during the Dallas City Council’s briefing on Walt Humann’s proposal to privatize Fair Park may indeed lead to the demise of the deal.

Kingston had questioned whether turning over management of the city-owned asset to a private entity without putting the opportunity out for bid through a request for proposals was legal. He said he didn’t think so, but the city attorney’s came up with a kinda-sort-maybe-if-you-squint-and-tilt-your-head justification for allowing it. As our Peter Simek wrote at the time:

City attorneys scrambled for a few moments before providing an answer. The management services themselves were the benefit to the city, they said. It was a less than satisfying answer, and the question seemed to linger in the air. Could the contract be challenged further on those terms? Could a legal challenge blow the whole thing out of the water or force an open bidding process? Opening the future of Fair Park to an open bidding process could get, well, really interesting.

Well, you may have heard that the city recently hired a new city attorney. That, according to rumors relayed by Schutze, is changing the official opinion on the matter:

Kingston said an inside giveaway like this would be legal under state law only if control of the park were being awarded to a longstanding friends group with a well-established track record of deep support.

Acting city attorney Chris Bowers provided Rawlings with a legal opinion saying Humann qualified for his no-bid deal under those terms because he had done a lot of pro bono work preparing his Fair Park take-over plan. The rumor I have been hearing is that the new city attorney, Larry Casto, has issued a rewrite saying Humann’s stuff doesn’t qualify and the park needs to be put out for a competitive “request for proposals.”

I asked Casto, Bowers and mayoral spokesman Scott Goldstein about the do-over rumor yesterday. Casto and Bowers did not respond. Goldstein said, “There has been no change in the City Attorney’s Office opinion from what was publicly stated at the Fair Park briefing meeting last month.”

I also asked Kingston. He had a different opinion about the rumor: “I think it is true, Jim,” he said. “It has all of the hallmarks of being true.”

Kingston thinks all the stuff Humann did was for his own benefit, not the park’s, and can’t be counted toward the exemption in the law: “The language under which Walt’s foundation could be exempted from the general requirement says you do not have to bid it out if you are assigning a management contract to a nonprofit management company that has provided — and that’s key language, ‘has provided’ — significant value to the park or asset to be managed.”

Competing Fair Park proposals are coming. Developing…

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