Saturday, April 20, 2024 Apr 20, 2024
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Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax Has Announced His Resignation

The joint Council announcement cited the frayed relationship between the city manager and Mayor Eric Johnson as a reason to support his departure.
t c broadnax dallas city manager
City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who was hired to run Dallas in 2017. Jonathan Zizzo

City Manager T.C. Broadnax will resign June 3 at the behest of a majority of the City Council, which cited the broken relationship with Mayor Eric Johnson as a primary factor in their decision. Six council members drafted an announcement that, in part, says “the dynamic between these key citywide figures has unfortunately hindered the realization of our city’s full potential.”

“It is imperative that we address this issue head-on in order to move forward,” the release says. “It is essential to recognize that effective governance requires collective effort and a shared commitment to the well-being of our community.”

Council members Jaime Resendez, Jaynie Schultz, Omar Narvaez, Adam Bazaldua, Zarin Gracey, and Gay Donnell Willis worked together to draft the release. Council Member Paula Blackmon also said in an interview with D Magazine that she would support the city manager’s firing but did not help with the announcement.

“In order to have a successful city, the mayor and the city manager have to work together,” said Blackmon, who served as chief of staff under Mayor Mike Rawlings and deputy chief of staff in Mayor Tom Leppert’s office. She cited what she said were successful partnerships between former City Manager John Ware and Mayor Ron Kirk, as well as former City Manager Mary Suhm and mayors Laura Miller, Leppert, and Rawlings.

“When you have a dysfunctional relationship, you get chaos,” Blackmon said.

Johnson and Broadnax have spent years waging private and public battles over the direction of the city and their responsibilities. In Dallas’ form of government, the city manager is essentially the chief executive. He plans and oversees a $4.3 billion budget and more than 14,000 employees. The mayor creates and assigns committees and runs Council meetings, in addition to organizing volunteer-led task forces and other adjacent initiatives. But he is one vote of 15, and the city manager follows the will of the Council as a whole.

The mayor and city manager rarely meet together, instead choosing to communicate through memos. Johnson quietly led an attempt to fire Broadnax in 2022, which ultimately failed. But the push progressed far enough that three council members privately offered Broadnax the opportunity to resign, Willis said at the time.

“We thought that was the best course of action,” she said then.

That appears to be the same process a majority of the Council took this month, which avoids a discussion over the city manager’s performance. The first attempt to remove him came after the collapse of the city’s permitting system, which caused monthslong delays to new commercial and residential construction projects. There was also a widely publicized I.T. failure in which millions of pieces of police data were deleted during a server migration; the Council was not notified for over a year.

Many of the calamities, particularly permitting, were lying in wait. But the city manager’s relationship with the mayor often made it more difficult to align on solutions. Even recent planning for the $1.25 billion bond was marred by their inability to communicate. The mayor created a volunteer-led task force to make recommendations on how to spend the money it planned to borrow, but the city manager prioritized the analysis of his staff. The mayor was absent when the community task force presented its report, which caused more confusion about what set of numbers the City Council should be working from.

“We have no North Star as a Council. I can only hope that this deep loss to our city results in leadership that we have been lacking,” read a statement from Bazaldua.

If their relationship is truly holding city governance back, the Council has only so many levers it can pull. And one of those, per the city charter, is assembling eight votes to support firing the city manager. Johnson’s second term will last through 2027.

“Our priority needs to be effective governance instead of personal ambitions; we need to be focused on running a government that serves its people and unites us as One Dallas,” Bazaldua said.

Gracey and Resendez, who helped draft the Council’s letter, have not responded to requests for comment. (Resendez’s council liaison was listed as a press contact on the news release.) Council members Carolyn King Arnold, Paul Ridley, and Jesse Moreno also have not responded to voicemails and text messages.

Council Member Tennell Atkins said just before 4 p.m. that the news was “a shock to me” and “I really don’t know what’s going on. … I was not one of those City Council members involved in the conversation. It’s new to me,” he said. “I just found out through someone calling me.”

Council Member Chad West said in a prepared statement that “we must and will keep the city’s momentum going in our housing, economic development, environmental, and parks and trail efforts. Dallas is a city on the move, and I look forward to working with whomever steps up to the plate in the coming weeks.”

In a statement, Johnson said he briefly spoke with Broadnax about his decision. He downplayed just how much the two were reportedly at loggerheads.

“TC was tough — he often knew what he wanted for Dallas and would fight hard for it. And I would do the same,” the mayor said. “We did not always see eye to eye, but we still worked together to help move this city forward.”

Johnson said he would have more to say about a national search for Broadnax’s replacement soon.

Resendez, Schultz, and Bazaldua have filed a three-person memo requesting a special-called meeting to consider appointing Deputy City Manager Kim Tolbert as the interim replacement. Tolbert has worked closely alongside Broadnax since he began in 2017. Her biography on the city website calls her “the City Manager’s top trusted advisor.”

While Broadnax may have gotten crosswise with the mayor, staffers who worked closely to him frequently praised his leadership. One staff member who spoke on background said that he was “so loved here.” He broke the news of his departure to the group this afternoon. Staffers reportedly reacted with “tears and long faces.”

Broadnax then sent a message to the rest of City Hall announcing his decision. He wrote that he hoped his “departure provides the City Council an opportunity to reset, refocus, and transition to a new City manager that continues to move the City forward and will allow for a more effective working relationship with the Mayor and City Council moving forward.”

Broadnax and his staff were overseeing or involved in several major projects, including a $1.25 billion May bond election; the plan to bring the city’s pensions for police and firefighters and city employees to solvency; the once-a-decade review of the city’s charter; and a new convention center, transit hub, and high-speed rail station downtown. 

He will still be a city employee when voters decide on the bond propositions and the Council weighs in on changes to the charter, but he will be gone before many of those tasks will be completed.

The City Council unanimously approved Broadnax’s hiring in December 2016, making him the city’s first chief executive from outside Dallas in decades. He previously served as city manager in Tacoma, Washington, and as assistant city manager in San Antonio and Pompano Beach, Florida. The City Council will appoint an interim city manager at some point in the future.

This is a developing story and we’ll have more information shortly.

Bethany Erickson contributed to this report.


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