Surprise, surprise. Yet another exhaustive national search for a high ranking official at City Hall has found that the most qualified candidate was already in City Hall. Over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News reported that the City Council will vote Wednesday on naming Larry Casto its new city attorney. If that name isn’t familiar, that isn’t because Casto hasn’t been around for a while. For the past 24 years, Casto has served as Dallas’ legislative director, i.e. the guy who lobbies Austin on behalf of City Hall. For example, he was the guy who helped the state buy into the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel.
Here’s what Mayor Mike Rawlings had to say about the appointment:
“Thanks to his experience in our capital, he is one of the most politically savvy city employees I’ve had the pleasure of knowing,” Rawlings said. “Those skills will come in handy as he navigates the challenges of reporting to me and my 14 colleagues.”
You might think that considering the kinds of controversies that surrounded former city attorney Warren Ernst’s departure last year, the most sought-after qualities in a new city attorney would include transparency and accountability, and not political savvy. Ernst, you may remember, was caught up in a number of scandals, including trumped-up felony charges against council member Scott Griggs and a promise to an oil company for the right to drill in Dallas parks. But it seems that what we’re looking for downtown are still the homegrown, savvy bureaucrats who know how to navigate the inner workings of Dallas City Hall and can bob and weave with those pesky politicians who are trying to protect the public interest.
In spite of some hope that the departure of Ernst marked the early stages of a sea change at City Hall, it looks like it is business as usual downtown. Now I imagine the Las Vegas bookies will narrow the odds that the next city manager is also found inside City Hall.