County judge hired law firm to look into contract with Horseshoe Hospitality

Bizar Male

Midland County Judge Terry Johnson, who has frequently criticized operations at the Horseshoe complex, used an outside law firm several times over the past year to evaluate the county’s contract with Horseshoe Hospitality and recommend changes.

Some of the changes the Amarillo-based Sprouse Shrader Smith law firm recommended were related to percentages the county receives on items like concessions, Johnson said. He said the firm also recommended rewriting the contract to be less ambiguous regarding which party is responsible for certain expenses.

Johnson’s use of the firm became a point of contention last Monday when Commissioner Scott Ramsey asked the Commissioners’ Court to end an agreement with the firm. The court voted 3-1 to end that agreement, with Johnson voting against the motion and Commissioner Luis Sanchez abstaining.

The court had approved an agreement to use the firm in August of 2020, and at that time, commissioners believed it was a “one time deal,” Ramsey said. He said he brought the item up Monday after he learned Johnson had continued to seek counsel from the firm without bringing it before the Commissioners’ Court.

“He just overstepped his bounds as far as I’m concerned, and apparently as far as the court was concerned,” Ramsey said.

He said invoices from the firm show the county was charged $8,000.

“There’s nothing this law firm could ethically and professionally provide that our county attorney was not fully capable of providing at no extra cost to the county taxpayers,” Ramsey said.

Johnson said he hired an outside law firm because County Attorney Russell Malm has a full plate as the county’s only legal representation.

“The man is busy. He has no help,” he said. “So, I decided to go find me somebody who could devote some focused attention to the concerns I have.”

The initial agreement with the law firm was approved three months after Johnson began using it. He said he had intended for the funds to come out of the budget allotted to the county judge’s office, but was told by the county auditor that a contract needed to be approved by the Commissioners’ Court before any invoices could be paid.

Ramsey said one of the invoices with the firm that concerned him was for the use of a private investigator’s services. Johnson said he couldn’t comment on what was being investigated but would present a report at a later date.


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