Irving official expresses doubt about Cowboys' facility after collapse

IRVING, Texas -- A series of text messages from city officials after the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility collapsed reveal concerns about the structure's quality and suggest the team "pushes" things through and receives preferential treatment.

The day after the facility collapsed last month, Irving City Manager Tommy Gonzalez referred to it as "a big ole tent" that "probably never was structurally sound enough" to hold up against straight-line winds.

The Cowboys' tentlike practice facility collapsed May 2, paralyzing scouting assistant Rich Behm and injuring 11 others.

Gonzalez characterized the Cowboys as a team that "pushes" its projects through the city bureaucracy. He wrote in a text to another city official that "it was for 'the cowboys' ... that's just what my gut tells me," Gonzalez wrote in a text to another city official.

The Dallas Morning News reported the story in its Wednesday edition, using state open-records laws to obtain the text messages.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and a team spokesman declined to comment to the newspaper. Team spokesman Rich Dalrymple also declined to comment to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Gonzalez sent a text message to Brenda McDonald, the city's real estate and development director, saying he was confident proper permitting and inspection procedures were followed, but added that he also knows "how the D org pushes things thru."

McDonald responded: "We experienced that 'push' this spring on a stairway up to the new temporary observation booth that they constructed in Valley Ranch. It is a model of the suites at the new stadium."

City Council member Beth Van Duyne said there is a perception that the Cowboys and Jones get whatever they want and that the council's cooperation with the organization filters down to city employees.

"The council may have allowed their adoration of the Cowboys franchise impact their decision," Van Duyne said. "If we're willing to make those kinds of concessions at the council level, that's sending a solid and clear message to staff."

Irving Mayor Herbert Gears said the Cowboys don't receive preferential treatment.

"That's not something anybody would admit, but certainly it's not true, either," Gears said.

Gonzalez denied that his text messages show the team is treated differently from any other Irving business.

"Any organization we work with always wants to make sure that they can get their projects accomplished," Gonzalez said. "We treat every organization the same, and I was reinforcing that to the staff."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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