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DART Board Members Abused Travel Policy

Dallas Area Rapid Transit
Dallas Area Rapid Transit | Image by Dallas Area Rapid Transit/LinkedIn

Dallas Area Rapid Transit officials have changed the agency’s travel policy for board members after an internal audit reportedly found inconsistencies in its use.

An analysis of financial documents obtained by KERA News found that one board member, Dallas’ Michele Wong Krause, spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on trips to Canada and Spain — expenses she reportedly approved on her own. Another board member, Flora Hernandez, apparently used DART funds to travel to Dallas from a second home in Denver for DART meetings, according to KERA.

The records covered trips between September 2019 and September 2023, with Krause traveling the most — at least 18 times — and being reimbursed over $50,000 for it.

Krause defended her trips in an email to KERA, claiming to have attended transit conferences, meetings with federal officials, and training sessions.

“Obtaining training and education is critical to help me have a deeper knowledge of the complex nature of the procurement process and issues at DART,” she told KERA.

But DART board member Paul Wageman, who represents Plano, told KERA, “The policy was being abused.”

“We never anticipated someone who would take that many trips travel abroad and do other things,” Wageman told KERA. “So, shame on us, right?”

However, Wageman also benefited from the lax policy when he traveled to Austin in April 2023 to speak in front of the House Transportation Committee. He testified before the committee that he was there to represent himself and the DART member city of Plano as opposed to the DART board, yet he was reimbursed by DART for the travel. Ironically, he was there to testify on House Bill 3146, which would have required more thorough financial audits of regional transportation authorities like DART.

Confirming these details to KERA, Wageman dubbed the version of the travel policy in effect at the time — which he took advantage of — “poorly drafted” and “porous.”

In an internal audit document dated December 12, 2023, Chief Audit Officer Chris Koloc determined that “overall, Board members adhere to the existing guidelines … in Board Rule 7. However, our review determined the effectiveness of internal controls in place for managing Board expenditures can be strengthened.”

The policy, amended in March of this year, now provides $6,000 annually for board members traveling for the purpose of transit business.

Koloc’s audit also found that:

  • Documentation of expenses did not consistently include detailed receipts and Board travel requests.
  • Approvals were not consistently maintained.
  • Overpayments were made to travelers for expenses previously paid by DART.
  • Board members’ expenses have increased, including the cost of meals and supplies provided during DART meetings and workshops.

To reduce “the possibility of reputational risk,” Koloc recommended:

  • Additional training for staff handling corporate card purchases and preparing travel expense reports.
  • Stress the importance of compliance with Rule 7 before traveling.
  • Create a process for tracking travel credits for canceled trips to ensure funds are used for DART business.
  • Evaluate spending patterns and determine spending trends.

The last recommendation was made after Koloc found that expenses had ballooned between fiscal years 2019 and 2023. Board meals increased from $18,400 to $27,000; expenses for board supplies increased from $2,200 to $5,300; expenses for board workshops increased from about $14,500 to $48,000; and expenses for board workshop meals increased from $0 to $8,961.

The KERA investigation comes as Dallas officials are considering reducing its sales-tax allocation to DART by 25% to help fund the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

Dallas, Plano, Irving, Addison, Carrollton, Cockrell Hill, Farmers Branch, Garland, Richardson, Rowlett, University Park, Glenn Heights, and Highland Park are DART member cities. They relay a 1-cent sales tax to DART, which accounts for about 75% of the agency’s roughly $1 billion budget.

The Dallas Express contacted DART board members, including Krause, Wageman, Gary A. Slagel, Rodney Schlosser, M. Nathan Barbera, Flora M. Hernandez, Mark C. Enoch, Rick H. Stopfer, Patrick J. Kennedy, Doug Hrbacek, Carmen Garcia, Marc C. Abraham, Enrique A. MacGregor, D’Andrala D. Alexander, and Randall Bryant, for comment but did not receive any responses.

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