VisitDallas working to convince Dallas City Council organization has things under control

With a new CEO in place, VisitDallas worked to convince Dallas City Councilmembers that the organization now has things under control.

The former CEO, who was earning $700,000 a year, resigned last week, months after an audit was highly critical of the organization's management.

In his first week on the job, the new interim CEO of VisitDallas is working to salvage the organization that has been under fire for everything from poor accounting, to wasteful spending.

“This is my third day. We've got a great staff, I'm learning as quickly as I can, kind of like drinking from a fire hose,“ Sam Coats said.

Well respected Dallas businessman Sam Coats - just back from retirement - is now working to sell the organization whose job is to sell the city of Dallas to visitors.

“Dallas has a tremendous economic benefit from tourism meetings, and conventions that come here every year. Our hotel community is dependent on it.  Restaurants are dependent on it,” Coat added.

Coats' first priority is to get a new chief financial officer, with Matt Jones no longer with the organization.

VisitDallas can't say if he was fired or resigned, calling it a personnel issue.

The audit by the city of Dallas found the city had poor oversight of the organization, which had unreliable performance measures, and the city couldn’t ensure funds were being used properly.

While the last CEO, Phillip Jones, was earning a $700,000 a year salary, we've learned that Coats is earning $15,000 a month, which would add up to $180,000 a year if he stayed that long.

“Seeing you in a leadership role, I think was an obvious choice for everybody, gives everyone confidence,” said Philip Kingston, Dallas City Councilman.

Even so, Kingston believes the city should do what it always does when it provides tax dollars to an outside organization, have a public bid for the contract.

“My ultimate opinion that VisitDallas has structural problems you can't fix,” Kingston said. “Competitive bidding fixes a lot of things, if everything you told us is true, all these reforms can be implemented and the city of Dallas will have near perfect oversight of all this, then it would merely make you all the most, strong possible bidder, right?”

Dallas City Councilman Rickey Callahan disagrees with seeking a public bid.

“What, in my view, we don't need, is to blow up this model which is currently VisitDallas. I think we can resolve these issues. The light is shining brightly on the subject,” he said.

Coats is planning to ask city leaders in September to renew the VisitDallas contract a year early, to help provide stability in order to attract a permanent CEO.