Audit alleges laws were broken to hire Rawlings' friend

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on June 8, 2012 at 10:47 PM

Updated Saturday, Jun 9 at 10:06 AM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS — Dallas Park Department officials allegedly violated state purchasing laws last year while hiring a friend of Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Rawlings was chairman of the Dallas Park Board at the time. News 8 was the first to report the possible violations, and now the city auditor is raising his own concerns in a recently released audit.

Mayor Mike Rawlings was chairman of the Park Board when the Happy Trails safety awareness campaign was conceived and crafted in 2010. Ad agency executive Jake Shroepfer was awarded the job on Rawlings' recommendation.

"I've known Mike since 1987,” said Schroepfer in a interview with WFAA in May of 2011. “I've worked with him. He's a good friend of mine."

City purchasing rules require professional service contracts worth more than $25,000 to be opened to competition. The Happy Trails campaign was going to cost $81,000.

E-mails obtained by News 8 revealed Park Department staff had discussed ways to hire Shroepfer's firm, Jake:Ferguson, without seeking competitive bids.

In his report summary, Dallas city auditor Craig Kinton said city purchasing policies "appear to have been circumvented" and that Park Department officials "appear to have violated state laws. Kinton shared his investigation results with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.

The DA has already declined to prosecute. Now the question is: How are the responsible parties being dealt with?

The Park Department has pledged to better train its employees and follow the rules. But at the same time, the Dallas City Council is now being asked to change the rules raising the competitive bid threshold from $25,000 to $50,000.

As for  Rawlings, who as Park Board chairman recommended his friend be hired, he issued this statement:

"I am pleased with the thoroughness of the audit, the wisdom of the Park Board and the professionalism of the park department staff in a tough time.”

Park Department director Paul Dyer, whose workers allegedly violated the rules, has not responded to our request for comment, and it appears no employees were disciplined as a result of the auditor's findings.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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