Dallas Cowboys officials knew when they hired a company to build their practice facility that another big tentlike structure erected by the same firm had recently collapsed, shortly after opening.
Cowboys operations manager Bruce Mays called the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority in early 2003 to discuss the collapse of a port warehouse, authority official Greg Iannarelli said today.
Iannarelli said he first spoke to Mays two to four weeks after the collapse and continued communicating with him occasionally until 2006.
At the time of the first call, the port authority had come to no conclusions about why its warehouse fell down after a snowstorm, Iannarelli said.
But he said that a few weeks later, port officials concluded that design and construction flaws were to blame. He said he could not remember whether he communicated those beliefs to Mays before the Cowboys hired the designer-builder, Summit Structures, in mid-2003.
A Pennsylvania judge later endorsed those conclusions and ordered Canada-based Summit to pay about $3.5 million in damages.
Mays' voice mail greeting today says he is out of the office. Earlier, he declined to comment to the Associated Press.
Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple declined to comment on Mays' conversations with the Philadelphia official.
"As has been the case all along, I am not commenting on anything related to the accident," Dalrymple said in an e-mail. He was referring to the May 2 collapse of the Cowboys facility in Irving, which injured 12 people and left one team employee permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Dalrymple would not say why Mays was out of the office or whether he was on leave.
Iannarelli said that in one of his last phone calls with Mays, in 2006, he referred the Cowboys official to building-collapse expert Charles Timbie. Timbie was the witness whose conclusions the Pennsylvania judge adopted in ruling against Summit.
Mays said during the call that the Cowboys had concerns about the practice facility's roof, recalled Iannarelli, the port authority's general counsel.
Timbie later concluded that "the original [engineering] analysis of the structure was inaccurate," according to another expert who reviewed the Cowboys structure.
That expert, Jeffrey Galland, told The Dallas Morning News last month that Timbie's conclusions "were accurate but not important."
Galland said he recommended major structural reinforcements that the Cowboys carried out in large part. At the time, he was engineering director of a Las Vegas company called JCI, although he had no engineering license and previously served federal prison time for his role in a violent drug gang.
Timbie has declined interview requests.