FRIENDSWOOD

A soccer field in Friendswood will bear the name of former Mayor David Smith, but some residents called the move ironic.

Several Friendswood residents spoke at the Monday meeting to protest the dedication because Smith was mayor when a land deal to build sports fields wound up in court.

City officials said they got bad advice at the time of the sports field controversy. Also, they said it wasn’t unusual to name things in the city after former mayors.

For example, the city named a road after former Mayor Ralph Lowe in 2001. That was controversial because Lowe owned property on Dixie Farm Road that was a chemical recycling plant and is now known as the Brio Superfund site.

Even though the land deal for the sports fields happened almost 10 years ago when Smith was mayor, residents such as Evelyn Timmons and Linda Richard have not forgotten. Both women spoke at Monday’s meeting to protest honoring Smith.

DEAD DEAL

In 2008, Friendswood officials entered into the agreement to buy land for sports fields that was in Alvin and Brazoria County. The city tried to annex the land, but Alvin declined to let that happen. The land deal died after a group of residents won a lawsuit barring the issuance of $11 million in certificates of obligation.

Such certificates are mechanisms for governmental entities to take on debt without the voter approval typically seen in bond issues.

However, Friendswood voters had approved a charter amendment in 1997 that required voter approval for the city to issue debt that it could not support from its own revenues, except in cases of emergency.

SETTLED LAWSUITS

Prospective seller David Wight sued the city for backing out of the $2.6 million deal.

At the time, Olson & Olson served as the city attorney. The city sued the Houston law firm claiming it was negligent in its duties by allowing the city to proceed with what proved to be an unlawful land deal.

Although the city’s opposition to Wight’s lawsuit asserted that Friendswood’s contract with him was void upon finding that the deal would not have been lawful, the city’s lawsuit against Olson & Olson asserts that it settled with Wight for $500,000.

The city settled with Olson & Olson for $225,000 in July.

PRAISE FOR SMITH

Council members Carl Gustafson, Sally Branson and Steve Rockey all praised Smith’s work in the community.

Rockey was in the city’s emergency operations center during Hurricane Harvey in August and saw Smith there during the storm and the flooding, he said.

“He was out on boats rescuing people,” Rockey said. “He deserves recognition.”

Branson also witnessed Smith in action during the disaster, she said.

“I think he organized the Friendswood Navy,” she said.

If anyone had a reason to be against Smith, it would be Carl Gustafson. Smith campaigned against Gustafson’s first run for city council, Gustafson said.

But he was not opposed to honoring Smith.

“David Smith is a quality guy,” Gustafson said Thursday.

The council voted to name the soccer field for Smith in a 4-2 vote with council members John Scott and Jim Hill voting no.

Mayor Kevin Holland was the fourth vote in favor of honoring Smith. Councilman Mike Foreman was absent.

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246; valerie.wells@galvnews.com

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