The city of Fort Worth is conducting an internal audit of a parking contract, and it all ties back to the ongoing legal battle surrounding the firing of former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald.
The subject came up during a court-ordered deposition of Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke regarding Fitzgerald's firing.
Attorney Stephen Kennedy represents Fitzgerald and, while questioning Cooke, brought up the city's bidding process for parking management around the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
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The deposition revealed a now-former employee complained the process was unfair and said he felt pressured by another city employee to award the contract to Trail Drive Management, the nonprofit that runs Dickies Arena.
When pressed on what Cooke did with this information, he stated in the deposition it was an internal matter.
"Wasn't it a criminal allegation?" questioned Kennedy.
"When the allegation came to me I turned it right over," Cooke said. "I didn't see it as a criminal one. I turned it over to Patrice to investigate the allegation."
In a statement, the city of Fort Worth said the city attorney found nothing wrong with the bid process, but city auditor Patrice Randle was looking into it, and though, not finished, any information remained confidential.
Kennedy said it's another issue in the ongoing litigation involving Fitzgerald's firing, and his client would have handled the parking lot matter differently.
"This does not bode well for Fort Worth," Kennedy said. "If Dr. Fitzgerald was still police chief, he would be taking this investigation to the district attorney's office or to the FBI."
Another hearing involving Fitzgerald's firing is set for Tuesday. A judge is set to review whether Fort Worth violated the city charter in firing Fitzgerald.
The city of Fort Worth issued the following statement Monday.
“The City Attorney’s Office reviewed the steps that were involved in the award of a parking management agreement to Multipurpose Arena Fort Worth d/b/a Trail Drive Management Corp. and concluded that all legally-required procedures were properly followed.
After the contract was signed, a now-former employee asserted that he felt pressured to ensure that the contract was awarded to Trail Drive. Attorneys who were present in meetings involving the contract award process have stated that the directive given to the panel was that they should follow only the published ranking criteria in the Request for Proposals issued by the City, and that they should not give any weight to the identity of the specific entities bidding on the contract. However, upon receipt of this allegation, City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider requested that City Auditor Patrice Randle look into the matter. The City Auditor’s report is not final, and any information related to the investigation at this point remains confidential.
It is well-known that the Mayor’s son-in-law is an employee of Fine Line Diversified Realty, Inc. and has been very involved in the development of the Dickie’s Arena project. Mayor Price consistently has abstained from voting on matters involving Fine Line. Because her son-in-law does not receive any income from Trail Drive, the City Attorney’s Office concluded that the Mayor had no conflict in voting on the contract award.”
Trail Drive Management Corp. issued the following statement Monday.
“In the spring of 2018, Trail Drive Management Corp., the not for profit 501c3 organization that manages the City owned Dickies Arena, responded to an RFP from the City of Fort Worth for management of the Will Rogers Memorial Center Parking. The City subsequently informed Trail Drive that our response was selected as the best proposal, and Trail Drive entered into an agreement with the City of Fort Worth to manage the Will Rogers Memorial Center parking.”