OKC Zoo Vote Not OK

A scheduled vote to replace the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheatre’s longtime management company was delayed amid the threat of legal action.

Howard Pollack’s Facilities Management Group was on the verge of being replaced by 3Horse Productions, a company formed the day before bids were due on a new management contract.

The Oklahoma City Zoological Trust agreed June 20 to put off the vote when more than 60 employees and vendors of FMG showed up to the meeting to protest the scheduled vote, which was also attended by four prominent attorneys, three armed deputies and two reporters, according to The Oklahoman.

Pollack was there, too, to fight his expected replacement by 3Horse Productions, a company said to have ties to Global Gaming and Remington Park which themselves are affiliated with the Chickasaw Nation tribe.

The 9,500-capacity amphitheatre is the site of major national touring events this summer, including Sugarland, Phish, Def Leppard and Poison, Train, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

FMG and its attorneys are angry about the Trust’s alleged lack of transparency and failure to properly vet proposals.

Attorney Jerry Foshee threatened legal action, accusing trustees of violating “the spirit of Oklahoma’s open meetings regulations by discussing the contract in emails and in failing to do due diligence in the screening process.

A similar vote scheduled in May was delayed after zoo director Dwight Scott was challenged by The Oklahoman on the sealing of records requested under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. The ties between 3Horse Productions and the Chickasaws were disclosed when the records were released.

“We have said since the beginning of this very odd procedure that we will gladly put our 10 years of hard work making the Zoo Amphitheatre a nationally recognized entertainment venue against any potential bidder,” Pollack was quoted saying at the time. The trust is now considering an independent review of the contract award process.

Foshee alleged some concerts claimed by 3Horse Productions actually were booked by Pollack’s company, according to The Oklahoman.

“Who are you even dealing with?” Foshee reportedly asked during the meeting. “Global showed up at the prebid process, not 3Horse. Is this going to be run by the racetrack across the street or by 3Horse?”

City Manager Jim Couch defended the process and said Pollack’s contract, originally five years with a five-year extension, “needs to get out and see the light of day.”

He also deflected suggestions of collusion between the trust and the tribe, according to the paper.

Pollack thanked the trust for the vote deferral, but continued to insist the request for proposal process was flawed and needs to be started over.

“If there are winners and losers in a fair process I accept that and I will walk away. But let’s make the playing ground even by having the mayor choose an independent committee. That would be impartial.”