Developer's lawsuit accuses Irving City Manager of accepting favors

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on August 7, 2012 at 8:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 8 at 4:47 PM

IRVING - The drama surrounding the troubled Las Colinas Entertainment Center project developed a new element of intrigue Tuesday.

Project developers filed suit against the city, and at the same time, accuse the Irving City Manager of squeezing vendors for personal favors for family and friends.

The $250-million entertainment center project was still in the development phase in 2010, when News 8 began questioning more than $1 million in expenses. It was money given to mystery vendors, unknown even to the person in charge of project financing.

Over the past year, city council members, led by Mayor Beth Van Duyne, began doubting developers.

"We've paid millions and millions of dollars for something that we've never seen," Van Duyne said.

Irving City Council members Monday night voted to end the contract with the developers, the Las Colinas Group.

Tuesday, the developers filed suit against Irving for breach of contract, and something more.

"The City Manager, according to our lawsuit, wanted my clients to play ball with him and my clients wouldn't play ball,” said Larry Friedman, attorney for the Las Colinas Group.

The lawsuit accuses City Manager Tommy Gonzalez of "...using his position to show favoritism, of hiring friends and doling out patronage." The suit also accuses Gonzalez of helping a "personal friend... and asking the Las Colinas Group to hire her as a consultant."

The group did hire Gonzalez' friend, consultant Pam Brown, and paid her $6,000 when the project was being developed.

But according to the suit, the Las Colinas Group says it "refused to... contribute to the private school which Gonzalez's children attend."

The suit also accuses Gonzales of squeezing another vendor for favors. Specifically of "...soliciting and receiving free hotel suites and tickets to Texas Tech football games for his family and for his commander in the Army Reserves."

Gonzalez has not responded to the allegations in the lawsuit. Mayor Beth Van Duyne called the accusations a smear tactic.

What is certain, is that the controversy over the future of the entertainment center complex is far from over.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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