EL PASO, Texas - An email thread in which one El Paso City Representative asked the City Manager not to disclose all of the details of a baseball stadium deal to another City Rep., has gone viral.
The email thread is a conversation between City Rep. Cortney Niland and City Manager Joyce Wilson that took place between June 5, 2012 and the next day. It's part of a massive open records request filed by residents behind chucoleaks.org.
In the email, Wilson advised Niland that City Rep. Susie Byrd had requested to postpone for a week the discussions and vote on approving the baseball stadium contract with MountainStar Sports Group.
City Council was slated to discuss the issue on June 19. Byrd was going to be absent so she requested the discussion be delayed until June 26, according to Niland.
Niland's response to Wilson asked the City Manager not to disclose all of the details with Byrd. "Yes; we have to!! It's a done deal. They've got an appointment with the league they can't change. It's got to go forward on the 19th. We will be fine without her. But don't tell her all the details; partners don't want it leaked to media," the emails stated.
Niland said she did not have time for an on-camera interview and told ABC-7 by phone she had met with MountainStar Sports prior to the email to Wilson. She said that while briefing her on the progress of the project - the MountainStar investors had asked her to keep the details of the negotiations to herself as making it public could hurt their negotiations with the league. She said she didn't know if Byrd had the same information because the Texas Open Meeting Act forbids council members from discussing pending votes in private.
Niland said she was trying to keep the information out of the public scope until the public council meeting.
"I was not aware of whom else they told, obviously. I had been asked not to discuss this information because they didn't want it leaked it to the media," Niland said.
The city rep. added Wilson advised Niland Byrd was asking the meeting be delayed because it's "her duty to make sure there's going to be a quorum."
Byrd said the city manager's office did fully brief her before the crucial vote. She said she met with Deputy City Manager Bill Studer before the meeting.
"I went to the meeting on the 26th fully prepared, fully informed of all the details I needed to know to make a good decision," Byrd said.
ABC-7 filed an open records request - asking the City if any city rep. or employee had signed confidentiality agreement with MountainStar Sports, leading up to the vote. A City spokeswoman said they had no responsive documents to the request.
Byrd said she had met with MountainStar about two months before the vote.
"They didn't tell me I had to be hush hush about it," Byrd said. "But I know they were being tight lipped because they wanted to make sure that they secured the deal."
MountainStar Sports bought the AAA Affiliate of the Tucson Padres to bring to El Paso. City Council, on June 26, voted to demolish City Hall and construct a baseball stadium on that site, which could cost about $50 million. Voters, last week, approved to increase the Hotel Occupancy Tax, so visitors could pay for about 70 percent of the construction of the stadium.