NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
IRVING -- He's one of the highest paid public officials in Texas, but now he's accused of using his influence to receive more benefits.
News 8 has obtained records which may support civil court allegations that Irving City Manager Tommy Gonzalez has been taking sports tickets and gratuities from vendors doing business with the City of Irving.
Since 2006, Tommy Gonzalez has navigated the city of Irving through turbulent times. City Council members showed their approval by making Gonzalez one of the highest-paid city managers in the nation, at an estimated $450,000 per year.
But e-mails obtained by News 8 indicate Gonzalez has been rewarded with more than his salary and benefits.
In April of 2008, the CEO of aircraft engine manufacturer Aviall, one of the largest employers in Irving, e-mailed Gonzalez, saying, "I didn't forget your desire to take your family to a [Texas] Rangers-[Boston Red] Sox Game... compliments of me."
Gonzalez responded, "Paul, great respect for a CEO that doesn't forget about the small details, am very impressed." Gonzalez took the tickets and attended the game.
Fast forward to an Irving City Council meeting Aug. 4, 2011. That’s when Gonzalez urged the Irving City Council to award Aviall economic incentives and a 40-percent tax break.
"These are economic incentives that we provide for some of our larger companies," Gonzalez said at the time.
Gonzalez has declined to comment on his receipt of free tickets from Aviall. Former Aviall CEO Paul Fulchino denies anything improper took place.
“I let Mr. Gonzalez go to a Texas Rangers game because he likes baseball and there was nothing else on the agenda. There's been no money received, one way or the other, by either party," Fulchino said.
Other e-mails obtained by News 8 appear to show Gonzalez "scoring free Sea World tickets" for his family courtesy of the Irving Convention Bureau.
In a 2008 e-mail, the Convention Bureau, which receives city tax dollars, solicits the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando to "see if there is anything you can do for our City Manager." In a later e-mail, Gonzalez is told the hotel will give him "a really, really good deal."
But the good deals for Gonzalez were allegedly about to get sweeter.
Allegations have surfaced in a civil lawsuit that Gonzalez solicited and accepted free luxury suite tickets to Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars games and other American Airlines Center events.
The allegations come from Irving NAACP founder Anthony Bond. At the time, Bond worked for the Burrell Group, which specializes in minority-hiring compliance and had contracted with the American Airlines Center.
"I was the middle man,” Bond said.
The Burrell Group also had a quarter-million dollar contract with Irving and its convention center. Bond said beginning in 2007, Gonzalez came to him asking the Burrell Group for free sports tickets. He said Gonzalez told him the tickets were for under privileged kids.
"He told me to put it under the mat at his home, and that's the way I did it,” Bond said. “I think I left them at his office one time at City Hall, and after that, he told me to not do that anymore."
In 2008, the City of Irving contracted with the Las Colinas Group to build an entertainment complex. The developers say Gonzalez and the city required them to hire his alleged ticket supplier, The Burrell Group. The value of the contract was $120,000. Developer Bill Beuck said he paid The Burrell Group the full $120,000 oversee minority hiring during the construction phase.
"That was determined by the city,” Beuck said. “That was not determined or negotiated by us."
The problem is, the project fell through before construction ever took place.
We asked Beuck if, in retrospect, he felt $120,000 worth of services were provided by the Burrell Group.
“No, I don't,” Beuck replied. “I think probably the value of service rendered were more in the $20,000 range.”
Beuck is now suing the City of Irving for breach of contract, saying he and his investors lost millions when the city failed to adequately fund the entertainment center project. His attorney, Larry Friedman, said the lawsuit has uncovered a pattern of behavior by Gonzalez that he felt he had no choice but to report.
"We saw evidence that there was an exchange of favors, we saw evidence of retaliation, and we saw evidence of request after request for benefits,” Friedman said. “We took what we saw, and we gave it to the District Attorney of Dallas County."
Friedman alleges Gonzales engaged in bribery and abuse of official capacity.
The Dallas County District Attorney said he cannot comment on the matter.
As for the allegations against the city manager, he has repeatedly declined to comment.
The city, in court records, has called the lawsuit frivolous and without merit.
The Burrell Group has yet to return our repeated phone calls for comment.