Static Quo

The City of Dallas could make a fortune from WRR-FM. But powerful friends don't want anything to change at their little radio station.

Such trade-for-service arrangements, common in radio, television, and some newspapers--allow advertisers to swap their products for advertising spots instead of paying in cash. During her time at WRR, Rodriguez says, it was not uncommon for the station to do up to $200,000 a year in trade business with advertisers. At some businesses, WRR managers need only to flash their business cards, and meals or services will be charged to the station's trade account.

Most media outlets have strict rules to make sure that free meals, tickets, flowers, and myriad other goodies offered in trade are used only for bona fide business purposes, not personal gain.

Although WRR has such a policy, auditor's office documents show that Davis used trade to entertain people who had no business relationship with WRR. On July 30, 1994, for example, he treated the owners of African Concepts--former Dallas City Councilwoman Diane Ragsdale and her sister, Charlotte Ragsdale--to dinner at St. Martins Restaurant. The tab was $65.28, which the restaurant covered as part of its trade account with WRR.

On August 3, 1994, Davis lunched with Marilyn Clark, owner of Clark and Co. Public Relations, at the Grand Kempinski. The trade tab was $35. Two weeks later, Davis sent Clark a $97 bouquet from trade client McShan Florist. The flowers, according to audit records, were to thank Clark for hosting a dinner for Davis--unrelated to any WRR business.

"Trade for services is against city policy, except at WRR. Trade is treated like cash, and the potential for abuse is high," says an audit department investigator who worked on the Davis case and asked not to be named. "It makes it imperative that a person of the highest integrity is in charge, because it can be tempting to use trade for personal gain."

The auditor's probe also determined that Davis' violations of city policies had started before Suhm decided to give him the top job at WRR.

Auditors found that Davis violated city policy in 1992 by double billing the city and state for a business trip to Austin.

On November 12, 1992, while working for the information services department, Davis attended an afternoon meeting of the 911 Administration Committee in Austin. That morning, also in Austin, he attended a Texas Department of Health meeting to review grant proposals for statewide HIV and AIDS education programs. Davis submitted expense forms, to both the city and the state, for two nights' lodging, mileage, and meal reimbursement for the trip. He charged the state $201 and the city $198.04. When the discrepancy was discovered nearly two years later, Davis was issued an "administrative warning" by his boss, Frank Poe.

Poe also put Davis on two weeks' paid leave and required a written explanation of the matter. In his November 17, 1994, letter, Davis said he "never intended to defraud the city or state in this matter."

The auditor's office concluded its investigation of Davis on December 21, 1994. Though an official report was never issued, the findings were referred to Suhm and Poe. Davis was ordered to reimburse the city for the Austin expenses and to take two weeks of paid vacation time, punishment which the auditors found meager, given the results of their investigation.

"While we disagree with the action taken, our investigation is complete," says a closing note in the audit department's summary of the case. An investigator who worked on the case says "that case was well-documented. And for what he did, Mr. Davis got a little slap on the back of his hand."

Poe did write Davis a letter of reprimand--which did not make it into Davis' personnel file.

"Greg, as you are aware, your appointment as general manager for WRR has not been uneventful," Poe wrote. "I realize we have some issues in front of us that must be resolved.

"However, it will add to our burden if we are sidetracked with other issues. Therefore I admonish you to maintain the highest standards of professional management."

In an interview, Poe says he is satisfied with the action taken in the investigation. "Greg was working very long hours and there were times he needed to take care of personal business in the daytime and would do so. This was a caution to Greg that he needed to be careful and conscientious in the way his time is recorded," Poe says.

When it comes to running WRR, Poe says, Davis is the city's man for the job.

If any radio station is begging for a strong general manager, WRR is it. During its life, the station's finances have ranged from dismal to moderately successful, with no consistency.

After Davis ducked out of an appointment to discuss WRR's performance, the responsibility landed with his boss, Frank Poe. Poe is the director of Event Services and Cultural Affairs, a domain that includes WRR, Reunion Arena, and the Dallas Convention Center.

All are city "enterprise funds," which are supposed to be self-supporting, requiring no tax dollars. WRR has been an enterprise fund for as long as he can remember, Poe says, paying its way with revenue from local and national ad sales. Poe says the station has built up a surplus, a safety net in case the station starts losing money.

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