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Politics

The City Of Dallas Could Soon Have Its First Office Of The Inspector General

IMG_7014.JPG African American man in gray suit and tie, wearing glasses, stands at lectern speaking. Behind him are flags of many nations.
Bill Zeeble
/
KERA News
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson talks about the ethics task force report just turned in attorney Tim Powers, his ethics reform Czar. Johnson says the city's current ethics policy doesn't enough teeth. This policy will give it some.

That's a key recommendation from Mayor Eric Johnson's Ethics Task Force, which just issued its multipage report.

Dallas' first Inspector General would investigate city misconduct and other government scandals.

This is among several recommendations made to Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson by a Dallas Ethics Reform Task Force set up two years ago to come up with a plan to oversee ethics complaints or other reports of misconduct, fraud, waste and abuse.

Currently, the rules of ethics have not been consistent among city departments and have been difficult to understand. Johnson said the biggest change is the Office of Inspector General which would more than pay for itself.

 “The benefit that the city reaps from having the perception — and reality — that it is a city that does not tolerate corruption and that does business above board," Johnson said, "and that doesn’t believe in back-room dealing but everything is out in the open and done in a transparent fashion, and the Office of Inspector General is there actively investigating, actually makes us a better city to do business with, which has its own benefits.”

Dallas City Council members have been embroiled in a number of scandals that led to federal convictions and imprisonment.

Just this summer, builder Ruel Hamilton was convicted of bribing a pair of Dallas council members — former Mayor ProTem Dwaine Caraway and the late Carolyn Davis. They helped the real estate developer secure city-approved deals. The council members were ultimately convicted.

More than a decade earlier, another former Mayor ProTem – the late Don Hill – was sentenced to 18 years in prison after getting caught in a different housing scandal. He was sentenced in 2009.

The mayor’s task force is headed by attorney Tim Powers.

Johnson admitted “you are not going to stop someone hell bent on committing a crime” but that strengthening the ethics code would help deter crimes.

“The Office of Inspector General to me represents the boldest step this city will have ever taken to actively pursue and investigate allegations of improper behavior,” said Johnson.

The mayor expects the plan to go before members of a council’s Committee on Ethics and then head to the full council for debate and approval.