DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Two years after taking office, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson is fulfilling a campaign promise, tackling ethics reform to crack down on corruption at city hall.
“I promised that we would root out corruption by reforming our city’s ethics code,” he said during a news conference Monday, Sept. 27, unveiling recommendations made by his appointed ethics czar, Tim Powers, and an ethics reform task force.
Chief among them is the creation of an Office of the Inspector General, which would be able to proactively seek out or investigate submitted complaints alleging fraud, waste, corruption, or misconduct.
Johnson took office months after the city’s former mayor pro tem, Dwaine Caraway began his prison sentence and former council member Carolyn Davis submitted her guilty plea, both embroiled federal corruption charges.
Currently, though, the mayor says, there’s no city office with the ability to investigate potential allegations of similar wrongdoing made in ethics complaints.
“When someone feels like they have information that would relate to a deal that’s not being done above board or that money is exchanging hands, they have one place to go now. And that place to go is the inspector general which would have the authority to look into it and investigate. Under our current system, no way,” said Mayor Johnson.
The OIG can refer a case of potential crime to the district attorney’s office, employment issues to human resources, or a breach of ethics to the Ethics Advisory Commission.
At least a dozen other cities, including Houston, New York City, and Chicago, have formed their own OIG, the task force found.
Its report also recommended updating training to foster a culture of ethics and integrity, simplifying the city’s ethics code to make it easier to understand, and creating a dashboard making campaign finance reports more accessible.
The hope, the mayor said, is not only to catch any existing corruption, but to deter it from happening in the first place.
“Someone who is hellbent on committing crime, they’re going to commit it. I get that. But you can create a culture and environment that deters it and makes it harder to do. Or makes it less appealing, makes the stakes higher,” said Johnson.
The proposals now head to a city council committee, which expects to vote on them by the end of the year.
CLICK HERE to read the task force’s entire 18-page report and its detailed recommendations.