But I also get why it made Bryant nervous as the hired manager not to have control over her own finances. She provided me with correspondence in which the board member in question tried to explain to her that the checks he wrote sometimes had to be back-dated and post-dated to make the monthly report balances come out right. Phew. That might give me the willies too. Bryant was basically telling the guy to come drop off the check book and find another volunteer activity.

She also got into it with another board member who was acting as a sort of self-appointed chief financial officer instead of chair of a board committee.

Look, I hear this kind of stuff all the time about nonprofits. I have served on a couple of those boards myself, and I understand how it happens. The entity is sort of muddling along anyway, trying to get things done and not have to pay a bunch of professional fees all the time, and sometimes the muddling gets a little too muddled.

We're not talking about organized crime. We're usually not talking about organized much of anything. I was always really glad when somebody on a board I served on had actual business experience so it wasn't all management by journalism, a toxic brew if there ever was one.

The situation at the Discovery Gardens sounds like too much garden club, not enough business. But here's where things take a darker turn:

Let's say you report the irregularities to City Hall, and they tell you, "Oh, don't bother turning in any demands for public documents, because we wouldn't want them to start shredding documents over there." Two days later a reporter gets tipped that they're practically stuffing file cabinets into a tree chipper.

Up to that point, everybody was protected by the harmless dithering defense. Oh, gosh, did we do that? (Slow forehead slap). We didn't even know. But shredding is not dithering. There is nothing naive about shredding, even though I believe I heard something like that argument when I called about it.

I called Sarah Gardner, the interim director. She confirmed that there had been a big shredding party on the day in question, but she said, "We were doing that because we needed the space."

I went through the whole timeline with her about Randy Johnson going to see Paul Dyer and Joan Walne and their telling him not to do anything that might cause shredding.

"And then you suddenly needed the space?" I asked.

"I was unaware of the meeting," she said. "This is the first I have heard of that. We got a new intern, and we have a new director coming in, and we've been moving office spaces around, so those are just old financial records."

Old financial records. Not exactly what you want to hear. Would rather have heard they were shredding old garden party invitations.

"Those are 10-year-old documents," she said. "Those are financial documents. After 10 years you shred the old documents. That has nothing to do with this."

I said, "So there's nothing missing from the last 10 years?"

"No."

That's great. That's really great. It's such a relief, because I have a very strong belief, based on information provided to me, that a lot of the information that would be crucial to the allegations made by Bryant and Johnson still exists on other copies held in other venues.

So of course, if the allegations were taken seriously and someone were to look into them and the pertinent records were found to be not where they should be in the files, then we might wind up with news footage of people holding their raincoats up over their faces while being herded into the federal paddy wagon.

That would be a cruel, cruel fate indeed for people only trying to keep their garden club afloat. That's why, generally speaking, most garden clubs don't even really need to own document-shredding machines.

Financial records take up much less room than you might think. Just get rid of one large potted plant, and you have room to keep those old financial records another 20 years. That accomplishes two things: 1) You still have them if you need them, and 2) Your own employees, who know all about the meeting two days before with Dyer even though you strangely don't, don't have to walk by the glass doors where you're spending the entire day until nine o'clock at night stuffing bales of paper into shredders, and they don't have to get all panicky and have a big morale problem because they see you doing something that looks really sketchy to them.

Ah, the advantages of just not shredding. They are multiple.

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31 comments
Rosanna Hargrove Ross
Rosanna Hargrove Ross

I've been going to the plant sales since I heard about them, and taking Randy's tours before hand. Last fall I joined and looked forward to a long relationship with TDG, with more time spent upon retirement. I've been involved with organics and native plants since the early 70's in Austin. Upon moving back to the area, I had the pleasure of learning from Rosa Finsley at King's Creek Nursery. When they finally shut down, I was saddened by the wasteland that is Dallas landscaping. Then I discovered TDG with lots of plants that are vital to sustainability, but not commercially viable. Randy had lots to teach me. I doubt that you can replace him and his knowledge.

Guest
Guest

You're a better journalist than this Jim, and you've certainly had ample time to research your story in the past two months. Was Randy Johnson's sister, who is still employed with the organization, your "source"? How unbiased. For example, you could simply google Jane Anne Bryant's name and see her history of litigation with a former employer, Lucent Technologies. Better yet, you could look at your own website or your beloved DMN and read about her frivilous litigation with the city based on the dilapidated apartments that are a hazard in West Dallas. If you really wanted to delve deeper, you could submit a enrollment verification for Randy Johnson and ask A&M for any information regarding discipline from the corp or the university. You could also run a background check on Randy and seeeeee what that turns up! Or, you could encourage him to sign a release with TDG allowing them to publicly discuss the grounds for his termination. You might even try to contact previous employees of the organization who have worked with him in the past 5 years. They will all tell you the same story of fear and initimidation. But then, I guess that would make it difficult for you to attack the city, the "rich people" in Dallas, and their "personal garden club." Stick to writing about JWP. I enjoy that much more.

Doc
Doc

Blog,It is a shame when want-a-be magicians like this Kckid051975 try to misdirect us from the obvious.Is there any wrongdoing going on? Let’s look into it. Deal with it and fix it. Randy did the right thing taking it up the chain of command first. First stop, he was fired. Second stop, he was lied to and played. Do you really think that the timely house cleaning was a coincidence? Kid 051975, if that is who you really are, I thought you were just hilarious in your attempt to hide behind your computer and make third party crack pot shots that Randy is a racist to divert the focus of this story. It should make us all ask this question? Why would you try to sit there and cloud the issue of misappropriation of funds and what is beginning to sound like conspiracy of corruption at multiple levels government here in Dallas? You are not involved so what do you have to gain? I am saddened that there are too few men and women that have the character and moral conscious to see the difference between right and wrong and lose their voice in setting things right. Don’t crucify the messenger. If it stinks that something underhanded is going on, we need to look into it. If we don’t, we are all guilty because we knew about it and we choose to look the other way and did nothing. I ask you, do you choose to be part of the problem or the solution?Something I once read 30 years ago comes to mind. It has caused me to ponder its’ full meaning on many occasions. ” Rather than passively submitting to the imprint of your environment. He, who does not exercise personal leadership, is destined to vacillate forever among the conditioned people. Where mediocrity is the norm and success consist solely of getting through life with as few battle scares as possible. “Blog Out.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

What did these fine folks forget we are in the information age ? They can Destroy all the on site records and documents they want to. That information will still be on file with vendors. And I would be willing to bet they have a list of approved vendors so researching where they buy things will be easy .They are a Tax exempt organization even if you pay cash if you use the TAX ID for the exemption it will be recorded to that number .And I am quite sure the bank might keep good records on who wrote what check It will be up to the check writer to explain the reason..

Not being able to find information their own files ? It will be easy to check the records of of folks who are on the receiving end of the funds .

Soul Air Water Soil
Soul Air Water Soil

Mr. Johnson and Ms. Bryant love the gardens and I would presume that is their motive in bringing attention to the conduct of the TDG Board. This is not about their firings, but about what they, and all of us, would like to see continue far into the future.

Most of us know all that Mr. Johnson has done for TDG, but far and away the most vital was bringing sustainability to the forefront. The public found Mr. Johnson's engaging, fun, charismatic, intelligent style something that they could believe in and trust him, feel good about getting involved in, feeling that THEY could make a difference.

As for Ms. Bryant, I do not know her as well, but in the short time she was there, she had made tremendous strides forward, including getting far more in volume and types of grant money that no other director has been able to acquire. TDG was hurting pretty badly when Ms. Bryant came on board. I'm not sure how much she knew about organics and local flora and fauna, but she came to rally around that mission, brought the staff together, greatly increased membership, income, donations and visitation. In other words, FAR exceeded expectations.

Let's not get off track here. This article is not about the eyewitness messengers, it's not about TDG's mission, it's not about all the great work that has, and hopefully, will continue, to go on out there by the many fantastic volunteers. It is about the Board, period. It will be about the employees as well if they have had any hand in misconduct along with the Board, but right now, this is a Board issue. Taxpayers should be paying attention and demand answers about how their money is being used. This goes for the city as well. Winfrey Point is a prime example of power going awry.

Some questions I would want answered are:Is there balanced representation on the Board?Should there be more strict term limits for Board members?Why did the largest fundraising event for TDG, vital for their budget, NOT occur this year?Why hire and pay a staff to run TDG if the Board is going to insist on running things themselves?What is the city's role in terms of the TDG Board?Why does it sound suspicious that the city and the Board are in collusion?Why does there appear to be no transparency? I see nothing regarding finances on the website.Who is doing the purchasing and is there a separate entity for oversight?I could go on and on.... I have been a huge fan of TDG and it's growing mission of organics, sustainability, and adult education regarding managing our natural resources more effectively. And let's face it, Mr. Johnson played a pivetol role in all of those successes. I don't think anyone, including Mr. Johnson and Ms. Bryant, want to see the downfall of TDG. Again, this is a Board issue. If we all want TDG to continue it's sustainability mission and continue to be the gem it is in this materialistic-obsessed city, then questions do need to be answered by and about the Board. Let's support TDG by insisting that this Board and any future Board, be held accountable. Let's ensure success and movement forward of this wonderful and increasingly rare piece of land by making sure that everyone has TDGs best interest in mind and in practice. The status quo is NOT acceptable!

Cortez_mathis
Cortez_mathis

I've never been on the receiving end of Randy Johnson's emotions & have often sent folks to the TDG to see how organic practices bring wonderful results. I was sad to see him go & I hope the TDG can answer some of the concerns brought up in this article so that the TDG can go back to serving the public with the great education they are known for.

I am a Dallas County Master Gardener & an organic gardener. I give talks all over town as a Volunteer Speaker for the DCMG. I am really proud of the work all the volunteers do to help "educate the public about good horticultural practices." This year, the DCMG have even added "Organic Gardening" to the curriculum for this year's intern class. So, just a heads up that Master Gardeners do some really great work & service for our community.

Thanks for the article & I do hope that we can get all sides to this story so we can move forward.

Chrissy Cortez-Mathis

J Meagher
J Meagher

While I cannot address the management problems or firings at Texas Discovery Gardens, I am tired of reading unsubstantiated claims of misconduct there from Mariana Greene in The DallasMorning News and Jim Schutze in the Observer.

As a volunteer in both the greenhouse and the Butterfly House for several years, I have had the opportunity to work with Randy and have benefited greatly by learning only a small portion of what he knows about plants. Also, the plant sales at TDG are made possible only through the work of volunteers, many of whom are Dallas County Master Gardeners and North Texas Master Naturalists.

The new Butterfly House, now housing approximately 500 exotic butterflies and moths, is a fabulous addition to Dallas. I serve a a volunteer docent one day a week and our visitors range from DISD students to foreign visitors to and residents of Dallas. John Watts, an entomologist,has shared much of his knowledge with me and I enjoy sharing that information with those who visit TDG.

Texas Discovery Gardens is an oasis in the middle of a hectic city and is worth a visit. Solet us move on and file charges, if need be, and stop the innuendos and be more positive about this wonderful place that we have right here in our own backyard.

Kckid051975
Kckid051975

Those of you that have never been on the receiving end of Randy's explosive anger, or have a close friend who has, should keep their moth shut. He has 2 sides, his public persona and the one that his co-workers and closer friends see. It is terrifying. Until he admits it, he will keep trying to blame everyone else for his firing.

Eackley
Eackley

What a hurtful article without much research, think before you speak or write... More to come... You and Mariana should think about the community before you judge...TDG is a jewel in Dallas. I am so sorry that Randy is gone, but TDG is a beautiful garden... AND the Master Gardeners are not evil... we do not all use chemicals...How hateful!

Chevytexas
Chevytexas

Weird: I'm reading this online, can't find a byline. Who wrote this?

File note: yes, you don't discard financial records but any business, large or small, with a financial compliance (and frankly things like volunteer boards, never mind City of Dallas departments like the Parks Departments are cumbersome about this) has a physical-record reduction policy, usually past the last 5 years. It's no big deal unless you want to drive around your implication that has some merit: they didn't shred until The Amazing Randy mentioned it, or didn't. Hope they get their house in order, our grandson just discovered the butterflies and my kid the exotic plants.

Kckid051975
Kckid051975

Mr. Johnson's firing had nothing to do with this. It has everything to do with his inability to control his angry tirades to all of those he works with. He threatens people with physical harm and more. There is more than one side to that man.

born in dallas
born in dallas

I was married at The Dallas Garden Center in 1979. At that time the building was very affordable. I just reserved the building for my son's wedding for next year and still very affordable, just like the building at Whinfrey Point. Why can't the city run thesetreasures and protect them ?

Donna Harris
Donna Harris

Sarah Gardener and Randy Johnson have both been great assets to Texas Discovery Gardens for the reasons you state. They pushed hard for new programs to bring in younger people and why we love it, their programs and plant sales. Don't know Ms. Bryant personally, but my hat is off to anyone who can double the size of donations during a bad economy!

The challenge with smart people who work for non-profits is, they are smart! After a while, the antiquated procedures and practices of running the older organizations, can become unbearable.

The problem is how our boards are set up. In most instances like the Arboretum, Opera, DMA, etc., Board Members have to pay to sit on the board. No doubt, most board members have the absolute best intentions to help their organization. Unfortunately, something happens when a bunch of nice people, who donated money, get together in a room to network or promote an agenda. Some of them turn into controlling dictators, who are out of touch with their supporters, both long time and potential. The others just go along because this is a volunteer gig and they have enough confrontation in their non-volunteer lives.

Some feel their personal donation allows them to push their weight around the organization, with politicians, and with city employees for other "favors" until, the compost hits the fan. It is typically the complete opposite of how these nice people run their own personal businesses, and always a complete mystery.

If board members don't give up control to their astute employees, it is impossible for the organization to realize its best potential, externally and internally. Sadly, the larger non-profit organizations, like the Arboretum, often forget their amenity is only a small part in the City's entire landscape of amenities, to serve the common good of the public!

As they go through their growing pains, I wish the Texas Discovery Gardens a wiser path to continued success. They rock!

darrd2010
darrd2010

I see once again, Joan Walne is in the middle of the trouble. First the drilling in parks and Trinity flood plain, then wanting to mow the prairie at Winfrey, now this? So when is someone going to 'man up' and get rid of her? Remember D Magazine said that Paul Dyer should have been fired over Winfrey. This incestuous atmosphere at 1500 Marilla is always amazing to watch from the outside and they act like it's normal and there's never a problem.

jesdynf
jesdynf

Should've claimed they were composting with them.

Guest2
Guest2

Seriously? You are presented with an article that suggests there is something terribly wrong with the Board, something that could provide irrecoverable damages to TDG, something that should make citizens perk up their ears and take notice? Instead you focus on 2 PAST employees? Oh sure, they have a history with TDG, but really, at this point, what do they have to lose by standing up for what is right, for what we all should demand from our non-profit Boards and hold people accountable? I find it awfully coincidental that 2 employees, very successful TDG employees in terms of TDG growth, diversification of programs and development, and positive public impact are both suddenly gone. Oh, and by the way, they also happen to know a few things about the goings-on with the Board and are not afraid to face them....hmmmmm, interesting. What is wrong with you people who insist on picking that damn scab? Let the frickin' thing heal and focus on the thing that is causing the scab to begin with, which may very well be the Board! That is what this article is asking; What is wrong down at TDG? Yes, no doubt, many of you have friends or friends of friends on this Board and no doubt, some of them really are just trying to do the best they can. After all, it's a volunteer gig, why expect them to be completely honest, ethical, or hold them up to any kind of decent standard? Gee, I don't know, because some of it has to do with handling taxpayer money or because real people depend on TDG to make a living, or perhaps because doing the right thing still matters to most of us! TDG was having problems long before Jane Bryant and perhaps even before Randy Johnson came on board. I don't know, I have not been around TDG long enough to know all it's history. I do know that I've been hearing grumblings about this place, off and on for many years, and now with information from this article perhaps we are getting a glimpse as to why there are issues. TDG is not a playground for the Board or any entity that uses TDG for their business gain. That's not fair to the employees and it's not fair to the public. TDG has the potential to be something truly unique and beneficial to this city. Let's not lose it by griping about a couple of trees when it's the soil their growing in that's the problem.

Liesl
Liesl

You know what? It may be true that Randy has two sides to him. It may even be true that he has explosive anger (never seen it myself), but to accuse him of threatening violence "and more?" That's character assassination. Not to mention the fact that this article wasn't about Randy's firing, which makes your comments looks like bitter, small pills.

Eackley
Eackley

Let us move on please. It has been unfortunate. We need to have this beautiful resource in Dallas! If you have positive suggestions, please step forward and volunteer like the Master Gardeners do...if you would like this beautiful spot to continue in Dallas for the wonderful education classes. Sad that two Dallas journalists have taken a personal friendship to the papers...

Liesl
Liesl

I suppose it's to be expected that when someone is as knowledgeable and charismatic as Randy, there are bound to be people who try to tear him down due to their own feelings of inadequacy. Bless your little hearts.

Treenut.
Treenut.

I have to agree. He was very confrontational the first time I met him. My wife could not believe he acted that way. I hate to see anyone lose their job however.

Sateliitepaddler
Sateliitepaddler

......Are you the person I caught picking flowers and eating the tomatoes before my kindergarten gardening class??? The five-year olds were inconsolable......

Montemalone
Montemalone

Their excuses do sound like bullshit, so same thing.

Kckid051975
Kckid051975

My claims are backed up by fact and I know personally the people it has happened to. You are right, this article is not about Randy but what you don't know is his backstory which I am trying to get you all to see. He has a motive to get TDG into legal trouble. If they have done something wrong, let's see the facts. But what Mariana Greene in The Dallas Morning News and Jim Schutze in the Observer have done is print statements from a man that feels he has been wronged. That is not good journalism.

Ugh
Ugh

No doubt the same people who send their perfect kids to school with a notarized form of excuses from their lawyers, threatening action if the teacher so much as sighs in exasperation.

Liesl
Liesl

I actually have had conversations with Randy about people of other races. Unless he's lying to me, and I highly doubt that, he doesn't have negative feelings about Hispanics. I've also seen him give his card to people of many different races, Hispanics included, and tell them to email him with questions. So, yet more unsubstantiated claims. You say you have "facts" on your side; if that's the case then you must be able to prove your allegations. That's the thing about facts, they must be demonstrable. So, prove it.

Kckid051975
Kckid051975

You are the one that that has no idea about the real Mr. Johnson. Next time you see him, ask him how he feels about Hispanics. End of story.

treenut
treenut

That's not the experience that I had and I don't even know the guy. I met him back when he first started. He also made a few claims that were false without doing any research. I can tell he has a lot of support and that's great but not everyone feels the same way.

Soul Air Water Soil
Soul Air Water Soil

To the individual who is insisting on defamation of Mr. Johnson due to some petty personal issue, let us be very clear right now. Mr. Johnson is one of the most ethical people I know and he is not afraid to stand up and face those who are not.

If you have had the rare experience of facing a ticked off Mr. Johnson then you did something wrong; perhaps something immoral, unethical, broke a rule, or just did not do your job, but you did SOMETHING. If you are a hard working, ethical individual, then you will be treated to one of the most kind-hearted, giving, intelligent, honest, hard-working, humorous men I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

Mr. Johnson and Ms. Bryant love the gardens and would not make statements unless there is evidence. This is a board issue. If it takes a journalist to wake people up and take notice, so be it.

 
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