The City Council excoriated, admonished, supported, and back-patted city manager Mary Suhm this morning for her role in the controversial Trinity East drilling contract, before later turning the excoriation and admonishment on each other.
During a three-hour hearing, councilmembers Angela Hunt and Scott Griggs stood alone in their inquisition of Suhm and later found themselves more the target of the Council than the city manager. Both questioned the timeline and wording of city action and documents, taking Suhm to task for not being abundantly clear regarding her agreement with Trinity East.
“I’ve never distrusted you, but I distrust you,” Hunt said. “I think this is dishonest…I think month after month you told this Council there’s not going to be drilling on park land, and you knew there was going to be.”
The hearing was to determine how 22 acres of city park land found its way to a gas-drilling agreement Suhm signed with Trinity East in 2008, even though the Council had not yet approved its inclusion. In return, Trinity East paid the city $19 million. The agreement between the city and Trinity East was not binding, according to a memo Suhm wrote to Council: “The City Attorney’s Office has also affirmed that the City Manager had the authority to sign a non-binding letter with Trinity East – making no guarantees – to assist in moving the process forward through several different approvals and Council actions.”
Suhm consistently deflected Hunt and Griggs’ questions, either repeating the question back to them or giving short responses. Hunt and Griggs were the first two councilmembers to question Suhm, after which the hearing turned to questioning of the pair’s motives.
“They’re great headlines to grab, and that to me is pandering,” said Councilwoman Delia Jasso, who is running against Griggs in a realigned district. “I just don’t think this character assassination on Mary was needed.”
Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill’s response — after claiming Hunt and Griggs were distorting and misrepresenting the truth — was biblical.
“Those who said of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, ‘Well, he’s done, he’s done, we’ve got him now’: wait three days because Easter will come and there will be the resurrection and those who pierced him on Good Friday are no longer known and not around,” she said. “Miss Suhm this is a Good Friday morning, but I guarantee your Easter is coming and you will sail forth.”
Hunt later responded: “Any insinuation or statement by a colleague of mine that I am misrepresenting anything is unwarranted and wrong. And I hope she hears that because she is absolutely mistaken.”
There was no resolution at the close of the meeting; no votes were taken, none were suggested. Mayor Mike Rawlings summed up the Council’s view the best: “The majority is speaking that you were within your bounds.”