DALLAS –– On Wednesday, City Manager Mary Suhm endured some of the sharpest criticism of her eight years in office as she faced a barrage of questions from the City Council on whether she was honest and within her power to make a deal with a gas drilling company nearly five years ago.
In 2008, Suhm signed a gas drilling lease that included park land in northwest Dallas that the City Council was clear it didn't want.
And, as was recently learned, Suhm made a non-binding side deal with the drilling company, Trinity East Energy, within days of the lease to try and get the Council to change its policy.
Now, Trinity East has paid $19 million to the city and wants a permit to drill.
Council members Scott Griggs and Sandy Greyson expressed concern about the lease, but colleague Angela Hunt didn't hold back.
"I'm disappointed in your professionalism and how you represented the facts to the Council because you didn't tell us everything," she said. "I distrust you. I think this was dishonest."
Suhm defended her decisions, explaining that the Council gave her authority to sign a lease. Besides, the City Council would still have to vote on whether to drill.
"But I didn't lie to you. I don't lie to you. It is not worth all this to lie to you about anything, and I don't do it," Suhm said.
A majority of the Council rallied behind the city manager.
"I just don't think that this character assassination on Mary was needed," said Delia Jasso.
Although Mayor Mike Rawlings told Suhm her process could have been clearer, he still stood behind her.
"Your credibility, your integrity couldn't be higher," he said. "I think the competency of the city staff is high."
But Hunt didn't back down, saying: "And by criticizing? Yes, that is part of our job. Our job is not to just circle the wagons."
Dallas has yet to approve drilling on any city land. Following a contentious public hearing last month, the Dallas City Plan Commission tabled the hearing until March 21.