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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.

"The ad revenues for WRR have consistently met or exceeded all operating expenses, including capital improvements," Poe is quick to point out. "If the station were confronted with a deficit, it could continue to operate without drawing from property tax revenues or any other city revenues."

But a look at WRR's financial data back to 1987 shows Poe is mistaken. Twice, the station landed in the red, losing a whopping $213,000 in 1987 and $16,000 in 1991. In better years, profits were meager, ranging from $3,526 in 1988 to $83,830 in 1989.

Things took a healthy swing upward in fiscal year 1993-'94, when WRR showed a net profit of $383,000. In 1994-'95, WRR posted a profit of $567,000. The station is estimating a profit of $463,000 for fiscal year 1995-'96, which ends September 30, and projects annual increases of 3 percent through the year 2001.

All "profit" figures for WRR are slightly mythical, however, since they do not reflect the special breaks the station enjoys as a city property--such as its cheap rent and tax-free status. It is all but impossible to determine--using city budget documents--whether WRR would be turning any "profit" at all if it operated under the same constraints as a private business.

Even with its unique advantages, though, the station's revenues are sluggish. Conventional industry wisdom holds that WRR's gross revenues should be much heartier, given the station's share of the Dallas-Fort Worth market. Historically, WRR should have posted annual gross revenues of from $2 million to $3 million--which has only happened in the past two years.

Looking at finances alone, a private owner could hardly do worse for WRR, and pressure is once again mounting for city leaders to sell the station.

Last March, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Among other things, restraints on radio station ownership--established long ago to prevent broadcast monopolies--were all but obliterated. In a city the size of Dallas, one company is now allowed to own up to five FM and three AM stations, says Sharon Hurd, a spokeswoman for the Federal Communications Commission. The new rules have spawned a buying frenzy by broadcast companies, who are gobbling up stations and other companies.

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Holly Mullen