Art Hudman is a retired Dallas assistant city attorney, which, of course, gives him a special sort of insight into the VisitDallas kerfuffle. To catch you up: a city audit found that the nonprofit agency that the city contracts to promote it may have been violating state law in how it kept track of its public funds, didn’t have clear indices in place to gauge whether it was spending its money effectively, and had been spending above its own policies regarding expenses. There were some other things, too. But that’s the boilerplate.
Earlier this week, a City Council committee declined to recommend the termination of its contract, pending it fixes some of the things that the audit called out. Today, The Dallas Morning News published a piece written by Hudman. He does not paint a pretty picture of the operations inside City Hall over his 18 year career.
VisitDallas presents a glaring example of what happens when we overlook oversight. Yes, the City Auditor’s Office uncovered problems. Unfortunately, that is like an oncologist reporting inoperable colorectal cancer to a patient who has gone decades without a colonoscopy or prostate exam.
Ouch. He goes on to describe an endemic culture of not following up on monitoring city and city-adjacent agencies, which is how we get big headlines when city audits dig up problems. Here is a descriptive anecdote from Hudman about board makeups:
Interestingly, City Council members and city officials often sit on various boards of directors as ex officio voting and non-voting members ostensibly to perform oversight functions. This was the case with VisitDallas’ overly large board of directors. Perhaps no better example of oversight failure exists than the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Fund. For years while that leaky ship headed for the jagged shoals of insolvency, some council members sat comfortably in the wheelhouse apparently doing nothing and sounding no audible alarms. Such ex officio directorships are not honorifics. They are for the hard work of safeguarding represented constituencies.
I’ll stop copy and pasting and let you read the whole thing. It has some nice insight into the way City Hall has stumbled in the past by skimping on oversight.