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Dallas County Auditor Resigns After Software Impacts Payroll

“I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but I want to make sure people understand where we are at,” Budget Officer Ronica Watkins said. “I don’t have good numbers.”

an aerial view of a Dallas neighborhood
Dallas officials are worried about a new state law, the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act, expected to heavily restrict what cities and counties can regulate.
(Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
The Dallas County auditor resigned after months of ongoing struggles within his office to pay employees and vendors, leaving the budget office scrambling to determine how much is left in the county’s general fund. In addition, the county budget process has been slowed by system issues.

Darryl Thomas started as auditor in 2015 after working 15 years as the sheriff’s chief financial officer. Attempts to reach Thomas were unsuccessful.

A county commissioner confirmed that Thomas gave his resignation Aug. 23.

District judges appoint the auditor. State District Judge Stephanie Huff, a presiding judge for the Dallas felony courts, did not respond to several requests for comment. Senior county officials say that district judges unanimously voted to give Thomas an ultimatum: resign or be fired after he requested a raise.

For more than four months, Dallas County vendors and employees have said they have not been fully compensated — if at all.

While the auditor’s office keeps working to correct software problems to pay contracted vendors and employees, Budget Officer Ronica Watkins said in an interview last week that she doesn’t know how much Dallas County has in its general fund.

Salaries and benefits account for more than 85 percent of the county’s general fund. Watkins said she hasn’t had a clear picture of the county’s finances since May.

“I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but I want to make sure people understand where we are at,” Watkins said. “I don’t have good numbers.”

While most employees’ paychecks have been corrected, vendors — who contract with the county to provide services like construction projects, catering, Internet or court services — are still waiting. There are still thousands of invoices with problems — some vendors have been paid incorrectly, while others have not received any compensation.

Watkins wants to give commissioners a budget proposal Sept. 5. State law requires two public hearings with a 72-hour public notice, and the county, like most local governments, planned to have a budget by Oct. 1.

“So everything was built on a Sept. 5 timeline,” Watkins said. “And if it pushes it back — think of us in a vacuum, it has some unintended consequences to other departments.”

Dallas County is working to reconcile payments. Watkins said that the auditor’s office is resolving how much the county still owes to vendors and employees and how much has been paid month by month. The county books for May have been corrected, and the office is working to reconcile payments in June, July and August by mid-September, she said.

Watkins said the county is planning two weeks of “no spend” in September as she shores up promised funds and funds spent. Only budget requests for emergencies will be granted, she said.

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