City Stalls in Explaining Broadnax Severance

T.C. Broadnax | Image by Laura Buckman for The Texas Tribune

In a late-night email this week, an open-records coordinator said City officials need more time to answer a Texas Public Information Act request from The Dallas Express seeking information on how Dallas City Council members may have orchestrated City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s departure.

“While City staff is working to respond to your request, the department(s) that maintain the requested information are unable to produce it for inspection or duplication within ten (10) business days of the City’s receipt of your request because either a voluminous amount of information is requested or an extensive search is necessary to identity responsive information,” Nancy Gonzalez wrote. “In these instances, the Public Information Act permits the City to provide a reasonable time extension to provide the requested information.”

According to the email, the City expects to fulfill DX’s request on March 29 — just under a month after it asked for all communications between council members and Broadnax, Dallas’ city manager since 2017, and between council members, Mayor Eric Johnson, and Deputy City Manager Kimberly Tolbert since February 1. The request for information was made to determine the extent to which the parties may have deliberated and coordinated Broadnax’s termination privately — which could constitute a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Neither Johnson nor the council’s 14 members have returned DX’s requests for comment.

On February 21, Broadnax announced his resignation effective June 3. His employment agreement stipulates that if his tenure ends because of “involuntary separation,” he will receive more than $423,000 — the amount equal to his annual base salary, which is more than the President of the United States. Upon his departure, Tolbert is slated to assume the role of interim city manager while council members conduct a search for Broadnax’s replacement.

Broadnax has faced scrutiny during his tenure as city manager. In 2021, the City of Dallas lost 20 terabytes of police data, and in 2023, the City was targeted by a ransomware attack in which the personal data of more than 30,000 people was leaked online. Broadnax has also been criticized for a building permit backlog that nearly resulted in his termination in 2022.

He was recently named a finalist for the city manager position in Austin. Since his candidacy was announced by Austin Mayor Kirk Watson earlier this month, a third finalist, Kansas City, Missouri, City Manager Brian Platt, has withdrawn his application. The other candidate is Denton City Manager Sara Hensley.

“As a convener and connector, I understand the level of leadership that the City Manager’s Office must exhibit and embrace all the challenges and responsibilities that it entails,” Broadnax wrote in his application letter, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “I am committed to local government and eager to work in partnership with the Mayor and City Council to advance the City of Austin and take the city to the next level.”

Neither Broadnax nor Dallas City Council members have responded to requests for comment about his candidacy in Austin, but Council Members Omar Narvaez (District 6) and Carolyn King Arnold (District 4) granted interviews to the Statesman.

“I think Austin stands the chance of getting a great city manager who’s very versed in his craft,” Arnold said, according to the newspaper. “He is not afraid to speak his mind, he’s not afraid to get out of the community, and I believe he just really loves what he’s doing.”

Narvaez also praised Broadnax’s work in Dallas.

“We created a lot of amazing policy under him, with him being our city manager,” he told the Statesman.

The newspaper also reported that Narvaez said in his interview that Broadnax called him the night before he resigned and told him that a majority of the Dallas City Council contacted him, purportedly to ask for his resignation — an assertion that’s been widely reported by Dallas media, including DX.

“I was blindsided by it,” Narvaez claimed.

According to the newspaper, Narvaez offered to help save Broadnax’s job.

“He [said] councilman, I’m done,” Narvaez told the Statesman. “I don’t want to have to go through this anymore, and I’ve done what I can do here in the city of Dallas.”

A few days after that exchange, the Statesman reported, Broadnax applied for the Austin job. The initial application deadline was February 12, which was moved to February 26. Broadnax applied on February 25.

Many Dallas residents believe the City needs to be more transparent, according to a DX poll last year. About 40% of respondents registered that sentiment, while 35% of those surveyed said they did not think the City needs to be more transparent.

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