Should cities endorse private companies for cash?
PLANO — Connie Schulte was so upset she took a break from work to cancel a warranty she had just ordered.
"I feel duped," the 35-year Plano homeowner said. "I felt like the City of Plano was endorsing this company... that if something went wrong, they would be there to help their citizens."
Not true. The city only sold the right to use its name, logo, and the city manager's signature in an advertisement for a private company, Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA).
Plano, as the letter briefly mentions, has no involvement with the company.
"I had no qualms about choosing this company because it came with the City of Plano letterhead and signed by the city manager," said Schulte, 67.
SLWA paid Plano tens of thousands of dollars to use the company's name and official logo in an advertisement.
After our report earlier this week explained that letters sent to thousands of homeowners are actually ads for a private company, Plano is promising changes.
"We have heard our citizens that there are a number that would like more transparency in the letter," said City of Plano spokesman Mark Israelson.
The Pennsylvania company has struck similar deals with at least nine other North Texas communities, but Carrollton recently canceled its agreement.
Ashley Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the city, conceded that there was some concern about the appearance of the solicitation. "We wanted to make sure the market was fair, that they were able to use any company they choose," she said. "Having Carrollton's name on it was confusing."
Carrollton got $10,000 from SLWA.
The company offers warranties for utility lines under homes — a valuable service, supporters say. Plus, cities get badly-needed cash.
"This approach is a new, innovative way to raise revenue without having to go to fees and taxes," Plano City Manager Bruce Glasscock said.
But Connie Schulte, who is an office manager, elected to get her money back, and she's still steamed.
"The city of Plano is going to make money on the residents," she said.