What's Not Good for Morale? Money Missing from the Dallas PD's Employee Morale Fund.

For me, a good City Hall audit report is better reading than a John Grisham novel. You just have to know how to read it (upside down, holding it up to the mirror, between the lines). Today's offering is the City Auditor's report on the police department's Employee Morale Fund, for which the sub-head should have been, "What kind of morale are we talking about?"

But first this disclaimer: The audit was requested by Chief David Kunkle. So Kunkle must have known something wasn't right. And Kunkle has already answered the audit saying he's going to do almost everything the auditors recommend to fix the issues they found.

The audit, posted Friday, was officially released today. The official money line is on Page Three: "The integrity of the employee morale fund (EMF) could not be determined." That's CPA-speak for "We got no idea what we're lookin' at here."

The back story is about a thing called the city-wide morale fund, funded by vending machine royalties and intended to pay for commendations, retirement parties and stuff like that for all city employees. It's a practice that has parallels in the private sector, of course. Here at the Observer, we have an employee morale fund called "your paycheck." Every two weeks we have an employee appreciation ceremony called, "Here's your paycheck." I say every two weeks. In my personal case, I think of it as every two weeks so far.

Anyway, the audit found a number of discrepancies in the way cash has been handed out in the police department's version of the morale fund -- advanced in the form of cash, apparently -- to pay for various morale events. In a fund that averages $28K a year for the police department alone, the amount totally missing, according to the auditors, was only $2,200 in fiscal years 2007 through 2009.

But remember the line about "integrity could not be verified."

That means they don't know how much is missing, because they can't find the right kind of paper to cover it. Missing, after all, means you can't find it.

For me, the real money line, as opposed to the official one, was this, just giving some for-instances: "In 2007, two DPD units purchased the following questionable items with EMF funds: $556 for miscellaneous items at Builders Surplus of Garland; $43.24 for a jump starter at Wal Mart on April 5, 2007 (Note: the EMF staff recognition event was held in December of 2006)."

Especially that last one. I don't even want to think about a police moral booster that involves jumper cables. If I ever get invited to a DPD morale event, I'm going to get a wig and head for Cleveland on the Greyhound until things blow over.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze