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GP Week : Issue 122
F1 NEWS >> THE proposed United States Grand Prix was plunged into controversy this week when it emerged that a group of Texas taxpayers have sued Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, over funds used to secure the race for Austin. Combs agreed to use the state’s Major Events Trust Fund to pay the race sanctioning free, and the claimants feel that this is a misappropriation of public funds, as the decision did not undergo a “highly competitive selection process” before being made. As a result, they argue, the payment is illegal. According to the claimants’ lawyer, the cause of the suit is “the unlawful plunder of public funds for promoters of a Formula 1 race at a time when the State of Texas claims it cannot afford to adequately fund essential services, such as its public education system.” Combs’ office deny any charges of misappropriation of funds, and say that the decision to use METF cash to secure the race was entirely above board. “All applicable state rules and regulations were followed,” a spokesperson for the comptroller’s office said. “ The comptroller’s office has followed the law as it is laid out in statute and administrative rules.” In other Austin news, a decision this week by the city council to delay a vote that would formally approve the grand prix could put the race in jeopardy. While the city council broadly supports the plans to hold a Formula One World Championship event on the outskirts of Austin, there were concerns that contracts covering the event and its funding had not been properly vetted before final approval was sought. Those opposed to approving the event were worried about possible loopholes in a number of contracts governing the event. The contracts under question cover a range of aspects, from a promise that taxpayers would not be asked to subsidise the race to the basic environmental requirements to host the event. Councillor Laura Morrison, who proposed the delay to the vote, told the Austin Statesman: “It doesn’t make any sense to do this wrong, and there are serious issues. I think it’s the responsible thing on our part to take the time to do this right.” Councillor Bill Spelman agreed, although he was keen to assert that the city council was not opposed to the race itself. “Our quarrel is not against F1 or doing the race,” Spelman told the Statesman. “It’s not the basic terms of the agreement but to be sure the words in this contract are such that they’re properly implemented.” Race organisers Full Throttle Productions Ltd. had already agreed to pay $4 million per year into the Major Events Trust Fund for the duration of the Formula 1 contract, but councilors wanted to ensure that the agreement was water-tight before pressing ahead with formal approval. Richard Suttle, attorney for Full Throttle, voiced his concern that the delay to the vote could affect the race. “It throws the project into a very bad position if you postpone today,” he told the council. “It is a major concern to the project.” Texas battles local issues Click here to enter now Win a weekend trip for two to the Italian Grand Prix Hilton Hotels & Resorts are proud sponsors of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 11