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City of Dallas Approves Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying Contracts

On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council approved three personal service contracts for taxpayer-funded lobbyists as Mayor Eric Johnson distances himself from some of the turmoil that has gripped the city. The decision took place after debate between Johnson and Councilman Lee Kleinman over whether the city attorney acted improperly when approving similar contracts in the past.

One of the proposed contracts on the agenda failed on a 9 to 6 vote due to concerns over conflicts of interest.

Johnson stated that he was concerned that so many of the contracts they were considering were “highly problematic.” He was the lone dissenting vote against one of the contracts that passed by a vote of 14 to 1. Two of the other contracts passed by voice votes.

Kleinman contended that taxpayer-funded lobbying is necessary for the city to “gain access” at the capitol during the legislative session because large corporations are able to hire lobbyists.

“I think the outcomes here are good, I do believe we need the assistance of [Randy Cain] who is on this contract as well as [Lorena Compos] and [Kwame Walker] before him,” Kleinman said.

However, with respect to previous lobbying contracts, Kleinman criticized what he called “sneaky, untransparent” administrative actions by City Attorney Christopher Caso to hire lobbyists.

Kleinman’s remarks irked Johnson, who rebutted the councilman by asserting that Caso had acted conscientiously and transparently by informing the council of the contracts.

“The fact of the matter is the city attorney, in his official capacity, working with me as the chair of the legislative ad hoc committee, discussed the lobbyist situation and then decided to proceed with informing the full council of the decision. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Johnson said.

“With respect to all these contracts and this whole topic, I do agree with Mr. Kleinman on one thing,” Johnson continued. “I do agree we are under the microscope just like we were on the debate about the legislative agenda itself, this debate about us hiring lobbyists is also under a microscope.”

The mayor added that it was his “biggest fear” that the lobbying contracts would be held against the council as public confidence in the city’s legislative affairs is not at its zenith.

State of the City Address

The decisions occurred the day after the mayor’s state of the city address, in which he stated “the state of the city is strong because our people are strong.”

Johnson spent part of the address distancing himself from what could be characterized as chaos that has enveloped Dallas in recent months. More people have been murdered in Dallas this year than in any year since 2004, and the city is about to be without a police chief

The State of Texas recently ordered reinforcements to the city to attempt to contain the uptick in violence.

“In Dallas, the mayor is not the chief executive like in most other major cities. My responsibilities are to help guide policy, to provide oversight, to give a voice to your interests, and to regularly give you an honest and frank assessment of what our city must do to correct its course,” Johnson said.

The mayor blamed city executives for failing to implement plans to improve the condition of the city, and said he would pressure the city manager to involve the public in the process of hiring a new police chief. He indicated he has “no say” in that decision.

Johnson reminded residents that the city council passed a budget that cut police overtime by 25 percent over his strong objection.

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