Dallas officials funnel money into proposed budget to advance law-breaking prosecutions

Dallas officials funnel money into proposed budget to advance law-breaking prosecutions

The Dallas City Council approved several changes to its latest budget proposal Wednesday, including transferring money to go to the new inspector general’s department to bolster city code violation prosecutions.

The Board then replaced the omitted funds for the Office of the Inspector General with funds from the planned new pension stabilization fund. The majority of the approved amendments reduced the initially recommended $14 million proposed by City Manager TC Broadnax to address future expenditures related to the city’s police and fire retirement system to $9.9 million.

Broadnax in August revealed its $4.5 billion spending plan for the city that will go into effect in October. The proposed budget is $160 million more than the current budget. The council will vote on the budget on September 21.

Council members Carolyn King-Arnold and Chad West proposed moving approximately $345,000 of the planned $1.7 million that Brodnax recommended go to the city’s inspector general and his team.

The department was set up by the council last December to investigate cases of fraud, waste and abuse in the city, and the money will allow the appointment of four other prosecutors.

Arnold West noted that the Department of Inspector General already has 10 positions, including Inspector General Bart Bevers. Broadnax’s budget recommendation would allow for six more people to be hired, but Arnold, West and other board members said they felt it was too early to strengthen the division without more data to justify the move.

West, who said hiring more community attorneys was “a dire need across the city.”

The Department of Public Prosecutions is the city’s civil law enforcement arm, which supports city laws and state nuisance laws. The department can, for example, bring lawsuits against owners of properties that are believed to negatively affect the quality of life or the safety of residents and neighborhoods.

Bevers said the demands on his management justify the need for at least 16 workers. Between March, when he started, and August, his department received 137 complaints and is still investigating about a third of them.

“Now, we’re going to get 308 [complaints to investigate] In our first year, we didn’t move to tell the public how to contact us.

Bevers has raised nearly two dozen types of complaints his office has sent so far, including allegations of embezzlement, conflicts of interest, sexual harassment, health care fraud, nepotism, improper giving or receiving of gifts, and unfair hiring practices. He said he currently oversees two investigators, and with the proposed budget allowing him to hire four more, Dallas would be in line with the city’s fraud investigator numbers in Austin and Houston.

“Demanding more people depends on what we’ve seen come in, what I think we need now and what I think, to some extent, we’ll need in the future,” Bevers said. “Complaints will increase.”

The city has 15 prosecutors. Senior community attorney Jill Hanning told council members they have had nearly 600 cases since October, and the four new positions will help fill gaps in addressing fair housing complaints, cover more cases from the southwest part of the city and better deal with environmental complaints. . and issues of entertainment venues.

City Attorney Chris Casso said council members in his job review last month raised prosecutions for violations of the law as an area of ​​concern, saying they need to be resolved more quickly.

Arnold, Paul Ridley, and Mayor Eric Johnson were among those who voted against wiretapping of funds for the Department of Inspector General. Johnson advocated the establishment of the department.

“It’s a source that I find offensive to take money from, given what public corruption this city has gone through and where I don’t want to see it happen again,” Johnson said. “Because the damage to the city we cannot afford and it undermines everything we do.”

Nor did all three support efforts to take money from the proposed pension fund.

In other modifications:

+ The Board agreed to transfer $130,000 from the communications, outreach and marketing budget to pay for the opening of the Vickery Park Library seven days a week. Council member Jay Donnell Willis, who represents the district, said keeping the library open for as many days as possible is vital to the community in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood.

“In this area, Vickery Park is not just a library,” Willis said. “It’s a city facility, a source of learning and community, and also a place to rest in inclement weather.”

She said more than 30,000 people live within a mile of the library, two-thirds of those are people of color, and 80% of residents within a mile of the library are from low-income families.

+ The council approved nearly $3.2 million of a proposed $14 million pension stabilization fund to add six workers to the Office of Urban Planning and Design, increase maintenance and garbage pickup in sports fields located under parks and recreation, and raise funds for weathering and solar energy for city buildings, and more funds for library services to allow six libraries to open six days a week.

Broadnax said city libraries have adopted five-day-a-week schedules in 2020 during the pandemic. Heather Lowe, assistant director of the Dallas Public Library, said operating all 30 libraries six days a week would cost the city about $4.5 million.

A further $866,100 has been greenlighted to be transferred from the Pension Stabilization Fund to add 10 Token Compliance Officers to be dedicated to the Violence Reduction Scheme at the Police Department’s apartment complex.

+ The board also approved approximately $3.7 million in adjustments for several public improvement districts and other economic development funds based on final Dallas Central Assessment District data, and a transfer of $400,000 in the Office of Risk Management to hire six more workers.

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