Cowboys reinforced practice facility last year based on advice from ex-con

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by By BROOKS EGERTON / The Dallas Morning News Staff researcher Molly Motley Blythe contributed to this report.

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Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:47 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 12:34 PM

The Dallas Cowboys made major structural reinforcements to their practice facility last year using advice from a man who has falsified his educational credentials and served federal prison time for his role in a violent drug trafficking ring, a Dallas Morning News investigation shows.

The consultant, Jeffrey Lawrence Galland, was engineering director of a Las Vegas company called JCI, although he had no engineering license. He acknowledged The News' findings and said his background had no bearing on his ability to help clients.

Galland, 42, now runs his own consulting firm. He said he is playing no role in investigating the catastrophic collapse May 2 of the giant tentlike facility, which left one Cowboys employee with a broken neck and another with permanent paralysis.

Galland said his Cowboys work was done under the supervision of JCI president Scott Jacobs, a licensed engineer.

Jacobs did not respond to interview requests. His company has teamed up extensively in recent years with Canada-based Summit Structures, which built the Cowboys facility in 2003 and oversaw last year's reinforcements.

The Cowboys declined to comment after receiving detailed questions based on The News' findings. Summit said Canadian privacy law prevented it from commenting on people involved in the work.

"It is Summit's belief that all employees who worked on this project were qualified to perform the task he or she performed" and were properly licensed, company president Nathan Stobbe said in a written statement Saturday.

"We remain confident in the soundness, strength and durability of Summit Structures' permanent, steel-framed, engineered fabric buildings - of which more than 30,000 similar buildings are in use worldwide. We intend to thoroughly research every aspect of this event as a part of the diligence that we put into everything we do."

Galland said in an e-mail Saturday that many of his clients know of his criminal history.

"It does not affect my ability to deliver the services they require," he said. "However, it is not something I am proud of."

On Friday, Galland supplied The News with a written summary of his credentials that says he has a bachelor's degree in physics from Eastern Washington University. The school said he pursued that degree but never graduated.

The summary also says he has been working toward a master's degree in structural engineering at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. School records show no sign he ever attended, officials said.

Galland said Saturday that he completed all required credits for the physics degree but did not receive it after Eastern Washington officials wanted him to take a class that "I felt was unnecessary."

"As for UNLV, it was my intention to enroll when the bio was written. I have not had the opportunity to start any follow-up education at UNLV because I typically work 100 hours a week developing systems for the analysis of structures."

An aide said Saturday that the summary was being corrected.

Plan for improvements

Galland told The News that he laid out a plan last year to add "a significant amount of steel" to the Cowboys facility's roof arches and wall framing. The goal was to improve its ability to withstand pressure from wind, rain and other forces.

Summit followed the plan in large part, Galland said.

"There were some things that weren't done that we hoped would be done," he said, declining to elaborate. Asked if any of those things made him particularly nervous, he hesitated for a moment and said, "I don't recall."

Galland said Summit was doing the job under warranty and didn't want to pay for some work.

He came to Texas to consult with the Cowboys not long after the team hired a Pennsylvania building-collapse expert named Charles Timbie to evaluate the practice facility's soundness.

Timbie, who has declined interview requests, has a fiercely adversarial relationship with Summit. He previously concluded that design flaws brought down another of its big tents - a 6-week-old Philadelphia warehouse that caved in after a snowstorm in early 2003.

A Pennsylvania state judge endorsed his conclusion and ordered the company to pay about $3.5 million in damages.

Timbie told the Cowboys he had concerns about their facility, too, according to Galland and others familiar with the situation. The Cowboys facility was built later in 2003, and its design was overseen by the same Summit engineering boss implicated in the Philadelphia failure.

No one has been willing to say publicly whether Cowboys officials knew about the Philadelphia collapse when they hired Summit.

The Cowboys asked Summit to respond to Timbie, and the company turned to JCI for help.

Timbie believed that "the original [engineering] analysis of the structure was inaccurate," Galland recalled. He said he had no copy of Timbie's report to the Cowboys and did not recall its conclusions in detail.

Generally speaking, Timbie's conclusions "were accurate but not important," he said. "He's not an expert in this style of buildings."

In his e-mail Saturday, Galland said he was "interested in the science behind engineering. Engineering in itself is of little interest to me as it tends to simplify that which is not."

He stressed that the tentlike structures he analyzes are nonlinear, making his physics skills more useful than a "static engineering approach. In general, engineers do not excel in physics or mathematics."

Upgraded in 2008

Galland said JCI did not certify the original design of the Cowboys facility in 2003. City of Irving records should say who did, according to state officials, but don't. Summit and others involved won't identify the final certifying engineer.

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers is investigating city officials' conduct. The officials have said they didn't think they had to retain the records.

Neither JCI nor Summit had a Texas license when doing Cowboys work in 2008, the engineering board said. Such a license is generally but not always required.

The Cowboys told Irving that the work was simply a matter of replacing the flame-resistant fabric roof, a building permit application shows. There is no mention of a structural engineer.

Such an engineer should certify the type of reinforcement work Galland described, engineering board spokesman Lance Kinney said. He spoke in hypothetical terms and did not address any specifics of the Cowboys disaster.

Summit president Stobbe acknowledged earlier this month that in addition to the reroofing, "the building was upgraded" in 2008. He would not elaborate.

Irving officials say they never inspected the work because the Cowboys failed to tell them it was complete.

Galland said he did not know how to explain the collapse, which remains under federal review. One issue in question is weather, he said. The disaster occurred during a thunderstorm and accompanying microburst - a downdraft of 70 mph or more.

"The fabric cannot be ruled out," Galland said. Its failure could damage the building's structural integrity. And there had been reports on occasion before the storm that it was too loose and flapped against the wall framing.

Galland has a history of helping defend clients facing "claims that their product was under-designed and had failed due to error," his personal summary says. "Jeff has been instrumental in demonstrating that the cause of the failure was likely one that was not the liability of the client or was within the current minimum design requirements of the governing code."

The summary says Galland joined forces with Jacobs in 2001, a year after he was released from federal prison.

Nevada records say the two incorporated a business called JCSSD in 2003. At that point, Galland was still on probation for his crimes.

He was arrested in 1994 after breaking into a home and pointing a gun at a woman in Great Falls, Mont., police there said. Charges included burglary and assault.

Galland was convicted of burglary in state court the following year and sentenced to probation. He later pleaded guilty in federal court to using a firearm during a violent crime and conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana, court records show.

The records describe him as a member of a group that moved drugs from Washington state to Montana. Galland and a fellow conspirator once used a shotgun and a semiautomatic rifle in an effort to collect a drug debt, the records say.

As a reward for cooperating with prosecutors, Galland was sentenced to about 4 years in prison, followed by four years of probation.

Staff researcher Molly Motley Blythe contributed to this report.

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