City of Dallas pays big bucks for fitness leader

The City of Dallas is paying big money to help its employees get in shape.

FOX 4 has discovered that the city is paying a "fitness czar" as much as the city's fire chief and far more than fitness directors in other cities.

One year ago, Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzales named Assistant City Manager Forest Turner the city's new wellness director.

His $187,000 salary is just shy of what the Dallas Fire Chief earns.

Turner’s job is to encourage the city's 12,000 employees to get in shape.

“That is a guy who is basically being warehoused,” said Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston. “He's not being given appropriate authority commensurate with his experience level, but he's also not being fired. So what is his role here? No one can really figure it out."

While the city's other high-level managers have job descriptions on the city's website, there is not one for Turner, and a spokesperson said FOX 4 would need to make an open records request to get one.

“The main issue here is how is the city manager allocating his resources among his top staff?” said Kingston. “If he can't tell us he is efficiently using his top people, it really leads to questions about the efficiencies found in the rest of his budget.”

FOX 4 checked seven other cities with similar populations to Dallas. No other city's wellness director salary even came close.

In fact, Dallas pays its wellness director more than double what Houston pays its director, even though Houston has nearly twice as many people.

“If we're that much higher, if the job duties are comparable and it’s still that much higher, I would have a big concern with that,” said Dallas taxpayer Gary Travelstead.

San Diego and San Jose don't have wellness departments; they use their insurance company wellness benefits instead.

Kingston believes the belt the city really needs to tighten is its own.

FOX 4 called and emailed the city manager and city spokesperson's office multiple times, asking what taxpayers are getting for their money. We did not receive a response from either of them by the time this story aired.              

When Gonzales created the new wellness director position, he also ended up hiring two new assistant city managers and overall, he increased the salaries of top city management by $1 million.