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Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax is on the hot seat. What led up to this?

tc_broadnax.jpg
Krystina Martinez
/
KERA News
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax's job performance is under the microscope. Some council members have been critical of building permit delays.

Dallas City Manager T. C. Broadnax’s future may be on the line. Mayor Eric Johnson and some city council members want to consider firing him.

They had initially tried to push his evaluation forward a week to Wednesday's city council briefing.

But in a Tuesday night statement, Johnson announced the council would be evaluating Broadnax's job performance on June 23 — as originally scheduled.

“I do not mind taking another week to ensure my Dallas City Council colleagues can get comfortable with the process,” Johnson said. “I look forward to discussing our city’s direction and future next week.”

Trouble between Broadnax and his detractors at city hall has has been brewing for some time. Some council members say critical city services aren’t getting fixed fast enough. And that's created tension. They blame Broadnax.

Here are some of the issues:

Building permits are a major sore point  

Developers and business owners say getting permits can take months — and they want to build new houses and apartments.

When confronted by council members last month, Broadnax defended the process.

"Developers used to not complain audibly. They would call me or call you. But now, you know, they're in articles, they're on TV,” he said. "And I keep saying, well, there's a lot of permits that are still being approved.”

That answer didn’t sit well with several council members — or Mayor Eric Johnson.

"To say that [one] of our issues here is PR suggests that somehow these criticisms are overblown or somehow baseless or whatever.” Johnson said. “What would be the motivation of folks to exaggerate this problem?”

One week after that exchange, Johnson asked for an evaluation of Broadnax’s performance.

The data loss 

The anti-Broadnax camp publicly accused the city manager of several major screwups. Among them is how he responded to a massive deletion of important police files during a data transfer.

“It was clear that some very routine tasks like data migration, and basic protocols for handling data, are completely lacking,” said Council member Cara Mendelsohn after the release of an internal report about the data loss.

Mendelsohn also wanted Broadnax to explain why the council wasn’t told about the data loss sooner. At a meeting the week after news of the data loss broke, she pushed the city manager about it.

“You knew that the only council member briefed was [Public Safety Committee Chair Jennifer] Gates, and you knew she left the council in June. So did you not find that at any point in there the mayor or somebody else on council needed to be notified?” she asked.

In response, Broadnax said that “on a day-to-day basis there are a multitude of issues and challenges that I deal with, and I did not stop to think about a conversation, unfortunately, that I had in April.”

Staffing shortages

Broadnax also has grappled with shortages of city workers. In the 911 call center, a lack of workers has led to long wait times and heartbreaking stories for people in emergencies.

Council member Paula Blackmon last month said she didn’t get why so many departments are struggling to hire people.

"If we need the people, hire the people. Pay them. Because that's the way we're going to get the work done,” she said.

Other governments have struggled to fill vacant positions, including Dallas County. Broadnax said hiring city wide is not that simple. He’s promised to fix the call center issue.

"This challenge of paying individuals what they're worth or what they think they're worth — juxtaposed to the private sector — has really become a challenge for local governments,” he said in response to Blackmon.

Media reports say some council members asked Broadnax to resign last week. He declined, and later news broke of the meeting to evaluate his performance, Broadnax released a statement saying he’s “proud of the hard work which has led to accomplishment of many goals.”

He’s had some steadfast supporters, like Council member Carolyn King Arnold. She said in February that she’s felt the pressure of high expectations as a Black council member representing Southern Dallas — and she empathizes with Broadnax.

“I don't know, but all of this is put on me as a council member,” she said. “So, you can imagine as the city manager, you're asking him to be a Black Jesus.”

The council would need eight of 15 votes to remove Broadnax. There are 14 council members and Mayor Eric Johnson also gets a vote.

No matter what happens, it’s clear the relationship between the Dallas city manager and a chunk of the council members is seriously frayed.

This story has been updated.

Got a tip? Email Alejandra Martinez at amartinez@kera.org and Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow them on Twitter at @alereports and @bretjaspers.

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