City Hall

Audit of Ex-City Council Members Shows Unaccounted-for Meals, Parties and Water Park Tickets

Bahama Beach Water Park is a favored beneficiary of undocumented Dallas City Council activity.
Bahama Beach Water Park is a favored beneficiary of undocumented Dallas City Council activity. City of Dallas
The Dallas city auditor's office rolled out its final report late Friday afternoon on the four City Council incumbents voted out in last spring's municipal elections. The results, which show hundreds of dollars in unaccounted-for meals and event tickets paid for with cash from city-funded officeholder accounts, don't look great for outgoing council members Monica Alonzo, Erik Wilson, Tiffinni Young and Carolyn Arnold.

Dallas codes require City Council members and the mayor use their officeholder accounts only for "official city business." That means expenses must serve a public purpose for the city, rather than a personal or campaign purpose. Office supplies, cellphone bills and travel expenses related to performing one's official duties are all OK. Event sponsorships, campaign activities, and food and drink for events that aren't put on by the city are not.

According to the auditor's report, Alonzo, Wilson, Young and Arnold — none of whom returned a request for comment for this story — spent a total of $3,749.70 on meals from the Corner Bakery, Pollo Regio, Alonti Catering and Soulman's Bar-B-Que using city purchasing cards. The auditor's office did not receive documentation showing that any of the food expenses were for city-sponsored events or to whom the meals were served, according to the report.

In addition to all the food, the council members and their staffs purchased thousands of dollars in tickets to the State Fair of Texas, UniverSoul Circus and Bahama Beach Waterpark with city funds for which the auditor's office did not receive documentation about who received the tickets to or what city event the tickets might have been purchased for. Young's office paid for three skate parties at the Southern Skates Roller Rink, costing the city more than $2,000.

In its report, the city auditor's office recommended that the city better educate council members and their staffs on how to use their officeholder accounts so that they aren't "used as a gift or transfer of public funds to individuals or entities."

According to the city manager's office, that's already happening. Since July 2017 — a month after the four council members listed on the report left office — the city manager's office has provided "extensive, required training" to the mayor and the rest of the council about the appropriate use of officeholder accounts. Beginning this year, the office said in memo last week, the accounts are subject to more frequent audits. The city now requires that every purchase made from the accounts be documented with a specific purpose, how it relates to city business, and who received the item or service purchased.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young