Mayor Johnson Sounds Off on Broadnax Severance Deal

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson | Image by Mayor Eric Johnson/Facebook

Mayor Eric Johnson has broken his silence about how Dallas City Council members handled outgoing City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s resignation.

In his latest weekly newsletter, he questioned their motives and argued that Texas legislators should ban large severance payments.

“It is incredibly aggravating and unacceptable when your city government wastes your money — especially on something like a ‘golden parachute’ severance payment for a government employee,” Johnson wrote in the newsletter. “Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening at Dallas City Hall.”

The newsletter was the first time Johnson has publicly acknowledged the amount of taxpayer money Broadnax is expected to receive since he submitted his letter of resignation on February 21 — four days before he applied for the city manager position in Austin. Citing news coverage from Dallas media over the last several weeks, including The Dallas Express, Johnson said council members worked in concert to secure Broadnax’s resignation, triggering a provision in his employment agreement that allows him to receive a sum at least equal to his annual salary of just over $423,000.

“This clause calls for paying out a year of his salary — about a half million taxpayer dollars — in the event of an ‘involuntary separation,'” Johnson wrote. “Specifically, the language states that the severance will be paid as a result of a ‘resignation following a suggestion, whether formal or informal, by a majority of City Council that he resign.'”

The Dallas Express reported on Monday that Broadnax wrote a memo dated April 8 to City Attorney Tammy Palomino identifying the eight council members who he said asked him to resign between February 14 and February 21 — Jaime Resendez (District 5), Jaynie Schultz (District 11), Adam Bazaldua (District 7), Gay Donnell Willis (District 13), Carolyn King Arnold (District 4), Paula Blackmon (District 9), Zarin Gracey (District 3), and Chad West (District 1).

None of the council members responded to DX‘s requests for comment.

In his newsletter, Johnson said Broadnax will face “a tough job” in Austin, where the city’s council members unanimously named him city manager on April 4.

“In addition, and to be clear, he is not the first city manager to have a severance clause. Other cities have paid large severances to city managers, although not in this way — and not to someone who was already lining up a job somewhere else. None of that makes this situation any easier to swallow as a taxpayer. This is still about your money — and it’s not a pittance,” the mayor wrote.

Bazaldua (D-7) told The Dallas Morning News that Johnson was “whining.”

“The difference in then and now is that Mayor Johnson failed at his attempt and couldn’t build a consensus of a simple majority of our council to see it through. I think a better question is, would the mayor still have this whining tone had he been successful two years ago?” Bazaldua said.

Bazaldua was referencing Johnson’s attempt to fire Broadnax in 2022. During the city manager’s seven-year tenure, Dallas has sustained multiple IT calamities, including a 20-terabyte loss of police data in 2021 and a ransomware attack last year that led to the personal data leak of more than 30,000 people online. A permitting backlog and residents’ displeasure with the delivery of City services have also been sources of frustration under Broadnax’s watch.

“Contrary to the false narrative pushed by some, the city manager and I were getting along just fine … despite different perspectives on the importance of significantly lowering taxes, drastically improving permitting, and substantially increasing the city’s parks and green spaces,” Johnson said in the newsletter.

“Of course, it’s easy to understand why the city manager would want to receive that golden parachute payment (although it’s terribly unclear why city councilmembers went along with the idea),” Johnson wrote. “Really, no one should have had the opportunity to engage in this backroom maneuvering in the first place. This flimsy severance clause was the doing of the previous mayor and City Councilmembers.”

For weeks, DX has been trying to determine the extent to which any “backroom maneuvering” — if any — was done. The news outlet filed a Texas Public Information Act request that prompted Dallas officials to invoice the news outlet for $3,375 to access more than 9,000 emails.

“It was a curious decision for them to make,” Johnson continued in the newsletter, in reference to the previous mayor and council members. “In theory, severance clauses are meant to make City Councils think twice about moving to dismiss a city manager over frivolous issues or for purely political reasons. … The fact is that the clause, as written, created an incentive for things to shake out exactly like they did. And that leaves you, the taxpayer, to foot the bill without even forcing the City Council to get together to discuss it first.”

Although severance pay is a benefit routinely negotiated between prospective city managers and the city councils that hire them, Johnson said in the newsletter that he favors performance incentives over severance clauses.

“This simply shouldn’t have happened this way. At the very least, it shouldn’t happen again in Dallas — or anywhere in the state. The Texas Legislature ought to take the step to protect taxpayers by forbidding these golden parachutes for city employees in any locality in the state. … It’s time for the Dallas City Council to take a stand by definitively stating that there won’t be a golden parachute clause in the next city manager’s contract,” he wrote.

Resendez criticized the mayor’s newsletter as another example of Johnson not working with council members to advance the City’s interests. He told DMN that while he agrees with the mayor that the next city manager’s contract should be carefully reviewed, Johnson has not discussed the topic with the rest of the city council.

“Effective governance requires collaboration and a commitment to the public good,” he said. “Instead of perpetuating divisive rhetoric and simplistic narratives, the mayor should prioritize cooperation and pursue solutions that uplift and benefit all Dallas residents.”

Broadnax’s last day with the City of Dallas is May 2.

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