DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Transparency, accuracy and accountability. The three words sum up a couple of dozen pages of planned fixes for VisitDallas.
The tourism agency formerly known as the Convention & Visitors Bureau is on the receiving end of tens of millions of tax dollars intended to lure visitors to the city.
But for the past month, they’ve been in damage control, scrambling to explain some questionable spending practices highlighted in a city performance audit.
The grilling continued at a City Council committee briefing Tuesday.
“I have grave concerns,” began District 1 Councilman and Mayoral candidate Scott Griggs. “I see packages of large salaries, large bonuses.”
Griggs has been a vocal critic of the tourism agency, and has publicly questioned VisitDallas CEO Phillip Jones’ $700,000 annual compensation package.
“I’m very concerned about the compensation, particularly, Mr. Jones, your compensation. The data was good enough for compensation, but it’s not good enough to show us heads and beds, that’s a very serious concern.”
Some called the January audit “scathing,” as it pointed out lax policies at VisitDallas, but also criticized city staffers for a lack of oversight.
A council committee briefing laid out planned fixes– including having a third party establish and validate performance metrics.
Another independent party would help the agency strengthen and monitor policies to provide better guidance on allowable expenses. An annual review would take a look at compensation practices– and before the acceptance of all high-level contracts.
Nevertheless, VisitDallas Board Chair-Elect Joyce Williams told reporters today that the agency welcomed the audit as an opportunity to “tell our story,” and defended Jones’ salary as being commiserate with others in busy travel destinations.
“While we may be hung up on Phillip’s salary, we really need to look at the impact of the workforce that VisitDallas is bringing in,” says Williams. “Phillip is just one person. We have 79 other employees that are making an economic impact on this city. When you look at the number of cranes that are around this city, one of every 10 is a hotel that’s being built. I say to you, Dallas, VisitDallas is a part of that economic development.”
Some of the agreed upon changes to provide more accountability could be in place as early as April.
A full council briefing is also expected on the audit aftermath at some point.