How Did No One Notice the Landfill Hemorrhaging Cash? Budget Cuts.

Categories: City Hall

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Last month, a report from city auditor Craig Kinton's office enumerated what it politely termed "deficiencies" in the operation of the city's McCommas Bluff landfill. There were a lot of them, since the landfill didn't really have much in the way of procedures to safeguard cash, prevent embezzlement or make sure the city wasn't being gamed by customers who were dumping a lot more garbage than they were paying for.

The upshot was that the city had lost a garbage-truck full of potential revenue over the past decade, a total of $1.1 million, Kinton estimated. That kind of lost dough guaranteed the City Council would take up the issue, which the Budget, Finance, & Audit Committee did Monday.

"We started this audit around May of 2011, and we started to suspect that we had a problem around July," Kinton explained. That became increasingly clear as auditors delved more deeply into the landfill's books.

Assistant City Manager Forest Turner told the committee the city is working to deal with the problems raised in the report and will report to the council in six months. But Councilman Scott Griggs questioned whether city staff are grasping the full scope of the problem, namely that "there are more controls on the number of ketchup packets at McDonald's" than on the $28 million passing through the landfill each year.

The $1.1 million figure is an extremely conservative estimate, he said. The real losses are probably much greater.

Councilman Tennell Atkins wondered how the landfill managed to lose, conservatively, $100,000 in revenue each year without anyone noticing. Kinton couldn't say definitively whether an audit of McCommas Bluff had been performed earlier, but "I started in 2006 and this was the first time we've been able to get around to it in our audit plan."

As for Atkins' questions on why it took so long to get around to the landfill: "When I came, we were budgeted at 28 positions; now we're budgeted for 18," Kinton said. The office simply can't perform as many audits as Kinton would prefer.

That, Atkins said, is troubling.

"It shouldn't have took 11 years. That's a serious problem."


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12 comments
roo_ster
roo_ster

_...Councilman Scott Griggs questioned whether city staff are grasping the full scope of the problem, namely that "there are more controls on the number of ketchup packets at McDonald's" than on the $28 million passing through the landfill each year._

 

Well, you gotta understand that one of the organizations is full of slack-jawed staff that can not make change without a pictogram-interface computer and the other organization is McDonalds.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Farm it out to the private sector for management and the city can just clip coupons without the employment overhead.

 

Sell all of our golf courses.

 

Sell Fair Park to mixed-use developers.

 

we'll have to eat the Convention Center Hotel however, we could do like Houston - privatize the convention center bureau and stop the revenue drain.

WylieH
WylieH

At least one good thing came out of this-- having the rather bizarre and ethically challenged Mary Nix moved to the sidelines (although, in true City of Dallas style, she wasn't fired--- just moved out of the spotlight to another position where she continue to draw a hefty salary).

Fb2012
Fb2012

As long as the landfill appeared to be making money no one on the city council or in the city manager's office was going to look too hard at its operations. In fact, there was no follow up when these problems were first reported in 2009. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The city manager and council have refused to look at the inefficient operations in the sanitation department and instead focused on the bizarre idea that the city will someday profitably mine the landfill waste for cash. Instead of being involved in an expensive lawsuit with the major waste haulers the city should be asking them how to operate more efficiently.      

Borborygmus
Borborygmus

We are all so easily pacified by the term "budget cuts". Well didn't we get what we asked for? Makes you wonder what else the accountants haven't had time to track with 1/3 fewer staff than needed.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

The Dallas Cowboys should be dumped in the nearest landfill.  Hee hee!

claytonauger
claytonauger

 @WylieH Unfortunately, her rather bizarre and ethically challenged boss remains in place.

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