In Leading Off this morning, Tim noted that VisitDallas will finally face the City Council after a disastrous audit found that the city has no earthly idea about whether the $30 million it annually delivers to the tourism agency is being spent wisely. The audit found that VisitDallas spent just shy of $150 million in hotel occupancy taxes over a five year period ending in 2017. Except it’s not just hotel occupancy taxes—VisitDallas takes other public monies it earns through its Public Improvement District and commingles it with the taxes. That is against state law, which requires nonprofits to keep those things in separate accounts.
Tim had a nice breakdown in January about all the problems the audit uncovered, including expenses that sailed well above its own policies, maintaining unreliable performance reports, and slacking on the money it is contractually obligated to reinvest in our aging convention center. The agency has also lent hundreds of thousands of dollars against the performance raises of its $700,000-a-year CEO Phillip Jones. Nonprofits are only supposed to loan money to its executives if it’s for a purpose related to the operations of said nonprofit; Jones has said he was using the loaned money to help pay for medical treatment for his son’s Lyme disease. That about catches you up.
Today, the Council will be briefed on all the corrective actions that VisitDallas is promising. Like setting up a separate bank account for the public funds, per state law. And having a third party analyze performance metrics against their spending. And making annual payments for improvements to the convention center. And some other things. VisitDallas’ contract is up with the city in 2020.
But the damage may be done. I point you to this statement from Councilman and mayoral candidate Scott Griggs.
Termination and new bid process is the answer. https://t.co/zui1t9DaTT
— Scott Griggs (@griggsfordallas) February 18, 2019
The meeting is at 2 p.m. today. You can stream it here.