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Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax will keep his job for now

Broadnax and Mayor Eric Johnson issued a joint statement Tuesday saying they agreed they will be ‘moving forward together’

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax appears likely to stay on as the city’s top administrator after he and Mayor Eric Johnson announced Tuesday long-term plans to work more closely together to address city issues.

The two announced in a joint statement that a planned Thursday job performance review for Broadnax has been pushed back to August and that the mayor and city manager are “moving forward together.” It was a sharp reversal from June 12 when Johnson sent a newsletter to residents promoting the fact that he was leading the charge to fire Broadnax because he felt city management needed to move in a new direction.

“I still believe we need change. But after some serious and frank discussions with our city manager, I believe he is ready to make the necessary changes to address issues that are critically important to our residents,” Johnson said in the Tuesday statement. “The time for rhetoric is over. It is now time for a reset. It is now time to heal. And it is now time for real results and accountability.”

Broadnax said he is still up to the challenge of addressing long-running city issues and said Johnson told him he planned to be more collaborative in those efforts. The city manager said he plans at some point to announce a 100-day city plan to help better tackle problems with issuing building permits, public safety, homelessness, the city’s information technology and outreach to the public.

It is taking months for the city to issue residential and construction building permits, there are ongoing delays in response to 911 calls, the city estimates there are hundreds of homeless encampments around the city and poor policies and oversight in the city’s information technology system have led to problems with storing data and the alert system for fire stations around the city.

“I recognize that our problems are not just about what the media reports, but how we perform,” Broadnax said in the statement. “I own that.”

In the joint statement, Johnson gave Broadnax kudos for prioritizing public safety funding and hiring Police Chief Eddie Garcia, whose crime plan is credited with lowering violent crime in the city last year. Johnson also said he appreciated Broadnax’s dedication to addressing inequities in Dallas’ underserved communities.

Among his successes, Broadnax mentioned increased hiring of 911 call takers to improve the amount of emergency calls answered quickly, the city’s role in a regional program to help more than 2,700 homeless people into apartments by 2023, and working with the mayor and City Council to create citywide plans to try to fix environmental problems and systemic inequities, such as with sidewalks and how residents are able to travel around the city.

The rare joint announcement from Johnson and Broadnax appears to mark a truce in the mayor’s more than week-long campaign to oust the city manager after an annual job performance review, which has now been postponed for the second time in as many weeks.

As of June 10, Johnson appeared to be near the number of necessary votes — eight of the 15-member City Council — to fire Broadnax, but that effort lost support the following week when powerful politicians and groups lobbied for the city manager. Three council members accused Johnson’s office of improperly creating a public document calling for a review about Broadnax without their permission.

Broadnax has run the day-to-day operations of the city since 2017. If fired, Broadnax would be owed a lump-sum payout equal to his annual salary of $410,919 plus health care coverage for a full year.

Johnson, who was elected in 2019, has at times clashed with the city manager.

Months after he was elected, Johnson demanded more transparency from Broadnax and then-police chief U. Renee Hall in a letter on public safety and demanded a plan to reduce violent crime in the city.

In May 2020, the mayor and city manager sparred back and forth in city memos over the process of how policies are referred to council committees. That same week, Johnson publicly called out Broadnax after the community police oversight board wasn’t allowed to meet during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That fall, Johnson proposed cutting $6.5 million in salaries of top-paid city officials, including from Broadnax’s pay, to redirect the money to public safety and city infrastructure-related initiatives. The City Council wouldn’t back the plan, which Johnson dubbed “#DefundTheBureaucracy.”

A city spokesperson told The Dallas Morning News that September that Broadnax and Johnson didn’t have regularly scheduled meetings and hadn’t had one since June 2020.

Later that year, after Hall resigned, Johnson called on Broadnax to give the public more of a say in the selection process of the next police chief.

And last August, Johnson criticized Broadnax after it was discovered that the city manager and several top city officials were aware of an IT employee deleting police photos, videos, audio, case notes and other items but didn’t tell the City Council or public for months. The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office publicly announced the files were erased four months after it happened.

Johnson in his statement acknowledged that he hasn’t always seen eye to eye with Broadnax, but said it “comes with the territory in jobs like these.”

“Being a mayor or a city manager is not for the faint of heart,” he said. “And, frankly, sometimes you need conflict out in the open to reach new levels of understanding. That is what has happened here.”

The push to fire Broadnax appears to have started June 8, when a memo signed by council members Chad West, Jesse Moreno, Adam Bazaldua, Paula Blackmon and Cara Mendelsohn asked Johnson to place an executive session meeting about Broadnax on the council agenda.

The mayor’s office filed the memo with the city secretary’s office the next day. Several council members began meeting with Broadnax that week asking him to resign and the memo with the five signatures was mentioned during at least one of those meetings. Broadnax refused to resign.

On June 10, Johnson issued a memo seeking a closed executive session for the council to discuss the city manager’s job performance and a separate memo was issued by council members Blackmon, Mendelsohn and Gay Donnell Willis requesting a specially called meeting Wednesday to allow the council to publicly vote on whether to keep or fire Broadnax.

Johnson and other council members cited the reoccurring issues with the city’s permitting process, information technology office and 911 call center and delays in trash and recycling collections among the reasons the city should consider firing Broadnax.

Five council members — Carolyn King Arnold, Jaime Resendez, Omar Narvaez, Paul Ridley and Bazaldua — told The News they supported keeping Broadnax, saying that he is easy to work with, puts a focus on closing gaps of historic and systemic disparities in the city and is making progress on issues with Dallas’ building permitting system, which they viewed as the biggest blemish on his record.

Johnson’s regular newsletter to residents, emailed two days later, declared, “I made the call” to push for Broadnax’s dismissal.

“It’s time for accountability. That means change at the top of the city bureaucracy,” Johnson wrote. “And if put to a vote, I will vote in favor of terminating [Broadnax’s] contract effective as soon as possible. That is what it means to be the sole citywide elected official in the City of Dallas. Period.”

But by the next day, West, Moreno and Bazaldua sent notice to the city secretary’s office requesting their names be taken off the June 8 memo. The mayor’s office filed the document without their permission, they would later say.

West and Bazaldua told The News that they asked that their names and signatures be removed because they said they didn’t believe that memo would be used as a basis to fire the city manager.

On June 14, Johnson emailed all five council members to confirm by 5 p.m. whether they still wanted to discuss Broadnax’s job performance the next day. Johnson later pushed back the review to Thursday.

On June 15, West, Moreno and Bazaldua sent a memo to Broadnax asking him to investigate the circumstances around the memo being filed, citing concerns about ethics and appropriateness. It’s still not clear what the status of that investigation is and who would lead it.

News of some council members’ move to weigh the firing of Broadnax led to lobbying for and against him in the past two weeks, including from outside of Dallas city government.

Retiring congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, was among those calling for Broadnax to be removed, citing residents’ concerns not being heard. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price was part of those rallying for Broadnax to keep his job, citing progress made since the city manager arrived in 2017.

On Tuesday, Broadnax told The News he understood the scrutiny and that he wanted the City Council to help him understand how to better meet residents’ needs.

“That type of feedback is what I’m looking for to help figure out how I advance this city,” Broadnax said. “It’s unfortunate that this has had to play out publicly, but it doesn’t change the role and the expectation and my desire to meet the needs of this community.”

“I love this city and I love the work that I do as well as the work I get to help my team do,” he added. “I definitely want to be the city manager of this city because I think we’re heading in the right direction and I want to be a part of that progress and success for all of this community.”

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