Dallas city audit questions former council members' spending habits

A Dallas city audit raises questions about oversight of city council members’ spending.

The audit looked at charges on government issued credit cards for four city council members whose terms ended last June. It found a lack of documentation involving $14,755 worth of tickets and food purchases.

The money bought hundreds of tickets to Bahama Beach Water Park, the State Fair of Texas, the Dallas Zoo and even skate party packages.

The expenses seemed fishy to the Dallas auditor, who noted in his report that the city "continues to have difficulties consistently following appropriate procedures."

SMU political science professor Cal Jillson says one reason why the accounting is so important is to avoid the appearance of using public money to get votes.

"The problem seems to be that there are not specific enough records about the public purposes that were accomplished by these trips to the fair or a water park,” Jillson said.

The four ex-council members in the audit are Monica Alonzo, Carolyn King Arnold, Erik Wilson, and Tiffinni Young.

Jillson said the city's policies don't seem to be the problem.

"It looks to me as if Dallas has plenty of rules, they're specific enough. It’s that the city council members don't always provide all of the information that is required,” Jillson said.

The auditor recommended that city manager, T.C. Broadnax, make sure elected officials are following the rules. The city manager's office agreed.

Since the audit, city staff members have also received extensive training about the city's required oversight of tax dollars. Jillson said it wouldn’t be unreasonable to have those expenses repaid.

“The city manager would first ask for the detail to see where the expenses should be charged. Member could transfer the expenses to their campaign and if not, pay out of their own pocket,” Jillson said.

The audit was triggered automatically when those four council members left office.

Wilson said he had not had an opportunity to go through the audit yet, so he did not want to comment.

Young said in a statement her office didn’t have a city-issued card and she hasn’t seen the audit. She said her office did purchase tickets for distribution to various camps and youth groups throughout District 7.

FOX4 was unable to get comments from Alonzo and Arnold.