Fort Worth

Fort Worth investigating whether bid process for Will Rogers parking contract was fair

An internal auditor for the city of Fort Worth is investigating whether the bid process was fair when the parking management contract for the Will Rogers Memorial Center was awarded, according to a deposition in another legal proceeding.

The allegation was discussed during a deposition Sept. 12 for a hearing concerning the termination of former Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. City Manager David Cooke was asked by Fitzgerald’s attorney, Stephen Kennedy of Dallas, about an allegation that undue influence was used by a former assistant city manager to affect the bid process.

Cooke said the complaint came from Kirk Slaughter, who was the former head of the public events department, according to the deposition. The contract was awarded to Trail Drive Management Corp., the nonprofit that runs the city-owned Dickies Arena.

Cooke did not reveal details about the allegation or the investigation during the deposition. He said he did not see the investigation as a criminal matter.

“So once Kirk made that allegation, I turned that over to the — our internal auditor — to do an investigation,” Cooke said, according to the deposition.

Matt Homan, president of Trail Drive Management Corp., could not be reached for comment, but the nonprofit issued a statement saying it responded to a request for proposal from the city in the spring of 2018.

“The City subsequently informed Trail Drive that our response was selected as the best proposal, and Trail Drive entered into an agreement with the City of Fort Worth to manage the Will Rogers Memorial Center parking,” the statement read.

The city attorney’s office reviewed the bid process and found that all legally required procedures were followed, the city said in a statement. After the contract was signed, a now-former employee said he felt pressured to ensure that the contract was awarded to Trail Drive.

Attorneys who were present in meetings involving the contract award process told those who evaluated the proposals that they should not give any weight to the identity of the bidders, according to the city’s statement.

When the city received the employee complaint, City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider requested that Patrice Randle, city auditor, look into the matter. The auditor’s report is not final, and any information related to the investigation is confidential, the city said.

The contract between Trail Drive and the city was signed in December and is scheduled to run until February 2029.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.