If you haven’t been following along to this point, you’ve got some catching up to do. VisitDallas, the nonprofit convention and visitors bureau for Dallas, did not fare well in a recent audit. Commingling taxpayer funds, slipshod accounting of expenses, spendthrift CEO, violating state law — that sort of thing. I began a week ago drilling down into a $35,000 loan made by the nonprofit to that CEO, Phillip Jones. It has been difficult, because VisitDallas’ media guy, Frank Librio, won’t return my phone calls and emails. I tried him again this morning. No luck. But Librio did tell real estate blogger Candy Evans that the loan, made in 2015, was “tied to a private family issue” with the Joneses’ adult son, who is disabled either because he has Lyme disease or in addition to having Lyme disease, an illness that Jones feels so passionate about curing that he traveled to Hawaii to compete in the Ironman World Championship, presented by GoPro.
It’s exhausting. Not the Ironman World Championship. I mean, I’m sure that is exhausting. But I’m talking about trying to figure out what’s going on over at VisitDallas without help from Frank Librio. And I’m not done yet. Yesterday I got some new information.
Every year nonprofits have to file this thing called a 990. These forms lay out compensation for top executives, how much money the organization brought in, how much it spent, and so on. The best place to find these 990s is something called GuideStar. That’s where I got the 2015 filing that showed Jones, whose compensation that year was $670,000, got a $35,000 “pay advance” from VisitDallas, bringing the total amount he owed the organization to $135,000. No idea what the other $100,000 was about. Frank Librio might know. Not sure. Anyway, that is the most recent 990 that GuideStar has in its database.
So yesterday I tracked down a copy of VisitDallas’ 2016 filing. It covers the tax year that runs from October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017. It says the amount Jones owes the organization had ballooned to $225,000. It’s not clear to me why the amount increased by $95,000 over the previous year. Did Jones get another loan? Does VisitDallas charge crazy interest? Did his family encounter another private issue that only more cash could solve? Has the loan (or loans) directly or indirectly benefitted VisitDallas, as state law requires (Sec. 22.055)?
Maybe Frank Librio knows. Or maybe Matthew Jones knows. He’s the CFO and COO of VisitDallas. I asked him, too.
UPDATE (1:40 p.m.) Librio responded to questions from The Texas Monitor. Apparently that $225,000 was used for medical treatments for Jones’ son, whose condition is not entirely covered by insurance. Jones says he has repaid the loans. They were made against a $400,000 retention bonus that Jones was promised in 2013 if he stayed at VisitDallas for another five years. I guess that means Jones’ compensation in 2018, including that bonus, was close to $1 million. I still don’t see how medical treatments directly or indirectly benefit VisitDallas, as required by state law.