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More Cops for UTD Dorm

Mark Graham

More Cops for UTDDorm
University president moves to help troubled Waterview

Finally, action. After years of student complaints, the new president of the University of Texas at Dallas has ordered the school to fix security problems at Waterview Park, the nation's largest private dorm.

Dr. David Daniel said last week he will improve lighting, add more emergency call boxes and hire 10 additional officers to patrol the complex--a 62 percent increase in the UTD police force.

Jesse Schneider, a Waterview resident, applauded the decision. "All three suggestions are very good ideas," says Schneider, who will graduate in May 2006. "Our lights in this outside hallway hardly ever work. And since this isn't a secure apartment complex, that isn't good."

Daniel acted after a panel appointed by former UTD President Franklyn Jenifer issued a preliminary investigative report last week. The UTD Advisory Commission on Residential Housing reported that full-time student enrollment at the school increased by almost 40 percent between 1999 and 2004. During that same period, the UTD police force added just one patrol officer. The panel recommended the university hire additional patrol officers, improve lighting and increase the number of emergency call boxes.

Though the commission's final report is not due until September 1, Daniel ordered that steps be taken immediately to act on all three recommendations. "If there were important and obvious and positive steps that we could take, then there was no reason to wait to take action," says Daniel, who began his presidency on June 1.

The changes follow a story in the Dallas Observer in April on Waterview ("The Dorm From Hell") and its more than 1,200 apartments. The story stated that there have been 10 rapes reported at the complex over the past three years but that officials routinely failed to inform students. Many residents said life at Waterview was a nightmare of poor lighting, black mold, broken toilets and leaking ceilings. Several UTD officials disputed this picture. They said crime was not a problem, security was adequate and living conditions were fine.

Daniel's actions and the findings in the preliminary report suggest the UTD president and the investigative panel--made up of former Waterview residents, UTD students and officials, business persons and officials from other universities--did not buy that picture of Waterview.

While many Waterview residents welcomed the initial steps, several said the university also must address the substandard living conditions and poor maintenance.

"They need to hire more workers at Waterview and clean the place up," says a sophomore resident who asked to remain anonymous. "I moved in after the [Observer] article was written, and my apartment was still a frickin' mess. None of the faucets in my bathroom worked correctly. And I had to put a light in the living room since there was no ceiling fan or light in there. They should have been spending their time fixing these problems."

University officials promised to address the full range of problems at Waterview.

In some cases, the actions of the UTD president have gone beyond what the commission recommended. For example, Daniel has asked UTD Police Chief Colleen Ridge to develop a plan to open a security office in Waterview. The UTD chief said installing a security office in Waterview is something he and Chief Ridge spoke about months ago. "The goal is to have students feel a more direct access to police within their community," Daniel says. --Kelsey Guy

Dialing for Dollars

Perhaps you don't listen to WRR-FM (101.1), the city-owned-and-operated radio station that spins classical gas and broadcasts Dallas City Council meetings. You're certainly not supposed to pay for it, since WRR is an enterprise fund, which means it's designed to be self-sustaining, funded only by money made from selling local and national advertisements, T-shirts, CDs, coffee mugs and other gift-shop junk. In other words, WRR's supposed to make money for the city. Instead, according to the Office of the City Auditor, it's making money for the guy who runs the station, general manager Greg Davis.

According to the city auditor's April 29 performance audit of WRR, Davis was paid $89,683 in commission income he didn't deserve. The money, according to the audit, came from interest made on station income that was placed in a bank account, where it apparently earns money not for the station or the city but for 20-year city employee Greg Davis.

And that's on top of his annual salary of more than $101,000.

WRR, says Assistant City Auditor Paul Garner, "apparently did not have good managerial oversight, or they would have found this long before we did."

It likely wouldn't have mattered anyway. Not only did Davis not have to pay back the money the auditor claims he owes the city, he also received slightly more than $2,500 on top of the disputed $89,000. City Manager Mary Suhm claimed Davis was actually underpaid--and cut a $2,500 check herself, all but closing the issue before the city council was able to address the auditor's report two months ago. It was Suhm who, as assistant city manager in 1994, hired Davis despite having never even interviewed the man, whose résumé contained a fudged work history, as reported in a 1996 Dallas Observer story ("Static Quo").

 

Suhm and Davis did not return calls.

The issue of Davis' bonus pay came to the council's attention two weeks before the audit was presented to the council. At the time, council member Mitchell Rasansky said of Davis, "This man owes us." Mayor Laura Miller wanted the issue addressed in executive session, but by the time the council met in private, Suhm had cut Davis the check and sealed the deal.

"Typically they would come up with some figure he owes, because obviously he owes something to the city," Miller says. "So when I asked for a subsequent executive session on the issue, I figured they would give us something less than $80,000 but still an amount of money he owed us. Instead I was told the city manager cut a check several days before the meeting to Greg Davis instead of the other way around, which was a big surprise to me and a number of other council members.

"The problem was, once it was done it was hard for the council to undo it, especially when the city manager and the auditor were at odds over it, but clearly that's the reason the check was cut."

Typically, Miller says, the council is supposed to act as an arbiter when the city manager and auditor can't come up with a mutually satisfactory solution. Not in this instance. Suhm acted all by her lonesome, giving money to the man she hired nine years earlier and who has run afoul of the city auditor in the past, for incidents that dated back before he went to work for WRR.

According to the Observer's 1996 story, Davis had no experience in major-market radio before joining WRR. He claimed on his résumé that he was "news director of the 6 o'clock and 10 o'clock newscasts" for KLBK-TV, Lubbock's CBS affiliate, from 1976 until 1982. But a 20-year station employee told former Observer writer Holly Mullen that Davis had been a cameraman and production assistant.

In 1985, Davis went to work for the city in its information services department, which provides audio-visual services to other city departments and installs and maintains the city's 911 and telephone systems. Mullen also reported that Davis frequently violated city policies by double-billing for trips and trading advertisers for meals and flowers intended for personal use. Davis, Mullen wrote, had been "disciplined for repeatedly missing work and lying about it on his time sheets, and was forced to pay back $200 to the city after auditors caught him fudging on his expense account."

Not only was Davis not disciplined for those alleged violations, save for an administrative warning, but he's been rewarded handsomely in his 11 years on the job. When he began at WRR in 1994, Davis made $48,000 a year, but by 1996 his salary had increased to $64,000. This year, he will make $101,076.

And he gets to keep the $89,683 the auditor says Davis doesn't deserve.

And he got that $2,594.67 check Mary Suhm cut him.

All this started in September 1994, when Frank Poe, who was then the city's director of Event Services and Cultural Affairs, hired Davis and signed a compensation agreement that gave Davis not only his base salary, but also 6.5 percent of the station's reported net operating revenue. But the city attorney never signed off on the contract and deferred judgment to the auditor's office, since it was an accounting issue. Davis didn't receive a cent from those commissions till May 2000, when the city council authorized the city manager's office to issue Davis a check to make up for money never paid him. That check amounted to $159,939.43.

The auditor's report takes issue with that whopping figure for several reasons, including the fact Davis was paid some $27,000 on capital assets that are supposed to be used solely to generate money for the station, not its general manager. In fact, the report suggests Davis may have been overpaid by as much as $177,405, after other accounting was done by Garner's office.

Regardless of the amount, Suhm didn't see it that way.

In the city's response to the audit, Betty Switzer, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, and the city manager's office claimed Davis was underpaid by $2,594.67 because that 1994 agreement between Davis and Poe "was vague and subject to multiple reasonable interpretations." That explanation likewise sounded vague to the auditor's office, which concluded that Davis' commissions "are not justified."

 

The audit contains even more examples of mismanagement at WRR, including the trading of advertising on the station for personal benefit--a problem the city auditor's office pointed out almost a decade ago.

But here's the audit's most revealing stat: In fiscal year 1999-2000, WRR's net income amounted to about $1 million, but three years later, that number shrank to $430,000. Last year, according to the city budget, WRR barely broke even, taking in about $3,150,000 while spending close to $3,101,000. --Robert Wilonsky


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