City Hall

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax's Job Is on the Line as Council Prepares for Wednesday Meeting

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax sits at City Hall in 2017 during one of his first days on the job.
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax sits at City Hall in 2017 during one of his first days on the job. Stephen Young
After his hiring in 2017, Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax told the Observer that if people didn’t know his name, it was a sign he was doing a good job.

“I truly believe that if nobody knows who I am, then I'm effective, particularly if the service levels and the things that they get from City Hall are at the level that they want them,” Broadnax said at the time. “They vote for the mayor and City Council. I am a conduit for getting the work done that they expect by way of their council members.”

He added: “I truly believe I don't need to be in the media. I don't need to be on the front page because that's not my style. I like to just get it done. It's about results.”

Well, he was on the front page of The Dallas Morning News on Saturday because the mayor and several on City Council haven’t been happy with the results they’ve seen under his leadership. More people likely know his name because of it.

The News reported last week that Mayor Eric Johnson and three other council members sent memos asking for meetings to discuss Broadnax’s performance and potential disciplinary action. Johnson’s memo asked for an executive session, while a memo signed by City Council members Paula Blackmon, Gay Donnell Willis and Cara Mendelsohn asked for a special meeting afterward. During that meeting, the full council could “consider taking appropriate action related to the performance of the city manager including discipline or removal,” according to the memo.

In a written statement Friday afternoon, Broadnax said: “Periodic performance review is critical to me and all city employees to demonstrate progress and ensure transparency for our residents, taxpayers, and stakeholders. I am proud of the hard work which has led to accomplishment of many goals related to the City Council’s eight strategic priorities, and look forward to sharing the R.E.A.L. impact we continue to make to improve the lives of Dallas residents in ways that are responsible, equitable, accountable, and legitimate, together as One Dallas.”

“It’s time for a change." – Cara Mendelsohn, Dallas City Council

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It won’t be clear until Wednesday whether there are the eight votes among council members required to remove the city manager from office. But, some feel it’s time for Broadnax to go and that’s not exclusive to the mayor and City Council members.

Broadax has been criticized for the massive loss of police data last year, the lack of movement on several city plans and a painfully slow permitting process.

Arguably, no one knows the permitting issue better than Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association. Before the pandemic, people could get permits to build single-family homes in as little as a day. But, when COVID-19 forced everyone to work remotely, a majority of the prescreening process had to be done through an online service called ProjectDox.

ProjectDox wasn’t fully integrated yet, but it suddenly had to handle 90% of the prescreening process. That led to a permitting backlog. The wait time for a single-family home permit shot up to 12 weeks during the pandemic. Long wait times for permits have persisted ever since. In February, the average wait time for a single-family permit was about 42 days.

Broadnax seemed to dismiss the issue during a City Council meeting last month, saying it was blown out of proportion by the press and people in the development community, suggesting it was a PR problem.

Crone told the Observer over the phone on Monday that this offended him and the association.

“I hear from people every day who are having to lay off staff or fire people,” Crone said. “That’s not a PR problem. That’s a real problem that cuts to the very core of what’s needed in this city.”

To Crone, the persistent problem with permitting is a fireable offense. “You look at the impact that it’s had,” he said. “It’s costed hundreds, if not thousands of jobs for workers in the construction field.”

Just the delays alone have priced homeowners out of the market, he said.

“You can’t build affordability when you make building more expensive, and these delays have made building more expensive and more difficult,” Crone said.

If it were a short-term issue, Crone said he and the association would be happy to keep working with Broadnax. But, that’s not the case, and over the years this problem has been around, Crone said he’s only been able to talk to Broadnax about it directly once.

He’s not sure what will happen Wednesday, but he thinks Broadnax doesn’t seem to be taking the problem seriously. “I feel like we’ve literally tried everything to be heard and find a path forward,“ Crone said. “This is everything. This is whether or not you can do business in Dallas.”

In a statement on Sunday, the Dallas Fire Fighters Association also said its been affected by the permitting delays. This, and problems with pay are reasons the association also supports a change in city management.

“The past five years for the city manager of Dallas has been a rollercoaster for your Dallas Firefighters,” Jim McDade, the association president, said in a statement. 

"I have a real problem with how the city manager has been treated through this last couple of weeks." – Chad West, Dallas City Council

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Over the last few years, several fire stations have been taken out of commission, either by natural disaster or because of needed renovations. Construction and repairs have only just recently started on the damaged stations.

“Years of red tape, permitting issues, and delays from every city department who is involved in the process have caused areas of the city of Dallas to lack fire and EMS coverage, endangering citizens and visitors,” McDade said. He also cited a pay dispute that led first responders to sue the city as another reason Broadnax should be replaced.

In an email to residents, Johnson explained his reasons for calling the executive session.

“During his tenure, significant problems have mounted,” Johnson said. “Homelessness. 911 call center staffing. The budgeted shrinking of the police department amid a violent crime increase. … Unacceptably long permitting delays that have cost the city tens of millions of dollars in new development and economic activity in an extraordinarily competitive region. To name a few.”

Then, Johnson got straight to the point.

“It’s time for accountability,” he said. “That means change at the top of the city bureaucracy. And if put to a vote, I will vote in favor of terminating the CEO’s contract effective as soon as possible.”

Mendelsohn told the Observer she too thinks “it’s time for a change" and would vote to fire Broadnax.

Four other City Council members – Carolyn King Arnold, Jaime Resendez, Omar Narvaez and Paul Ridley – said they thought Broadnax should keep his job, according to the News. They say progress is being made and, with budget season just around the corner, it’s not the right time to consider a change in city management.

City Council member Chad West wouldn’t say if he’d vote to fire the city manager. That’s a discussion he wants to have during the closed executive session on Wednesday. While West isn’t happy with how much progress the city has made on the permitting issue, he said he doesn’t like the way Broadnax is being treated.

“I feel like he could have done and could be doing a better job of addressing the problems in that department right now,” West said of the permitting delays. “I think all of us who are on council owe a duty to our staff and senior staff members to treat them with a high level of respect because they are people with families and professions and careers just like us.”

He doesn’t think Broadnax is being treated that way.

“The process, no matter where any council member falls — in support of keeping T.C. or taking another action — I think we should all be in agreement that the process should be dignified,” West said. “It should be respectful, and I don’t think it was handled that way at all. I have a real problem with how the city manager has been treated through this last couple of weeks and some real concerns with how we are going to move forward as a body in a now kind of fractured environment.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn