As last week drew to a close, I spent some time not getting any answers from VisitDallas spokesman Frank Librio about a $225,000 loan that the nonprofit had made to its CEO, Phillip Jones. Then Jones came out and said the loan was for medical treatment for his son and that it was made against a $400,000 retention bonus and that he’d paid it all back. As I said last week, I think state law (Sec. 22.055) forbids such a loan. So I called an expert to get her opinion.
Holly Ivel is the director of data services for GuideStar, which bills itself as the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. Here is what Ivel had to say about the $225,000 loan:
“This is not common and not encouraged. In many states, this is considered illegal. Organizations considering this type of transaction need to understand the state and federal rules and be very careful about entering into these types of transactions. They need to be able to represent how the transaction is fair and benefits the organization and ensure that it does not provide some sort of excess benefit to an ‘insider’ like Mr. Jones. The 2017 filing documenting this transaction lacks the supporting detail that would help us to know why the organization entered into this transaction and if it was a fair deal for the organization.”
Then I called Councilwoman Jennifer Gates and shared Ivel’s expert opinion with her. Gates is the chair of Dallas’ Government Performance and Financial Management Committee, before which Jones and the VisitDallas brass will appear on February 19 to answer what I hope are some tough questions. Gates and I spoke for a bit on background. Then we went on the record, and I asked her if she supported Jones keeping his job. I was going to transcribe her answer, but how she said what said seems more telling than what she said. I invite you to listen for yourself: