Given DART’s recent misadventures in terms of keeping track of money and budgeting, I suppose it’s not a big shock that the agency is now in hot water with a jewelry vendor who claims he’s being stiffed by DART employees participating in a payroll-deduction plan to pay for the jewelry. On the face of it, the plan makes a limited amount of sense: A vendor sells jewelry to employees, who have their purchases deducted over time from their payroll and given to an employee group that takes a cut of every purchase to create a fund for employee holiday parties and the like. My question: Why is DART helping employees buy jewelry anyway? As an employer, I understand why a business would want to help its employees, but DART isn’t just any employer: It’s a publicly funded, perennial money-loser steeped in political controversy, so why would its leaders become involved in something like this, which is just about guaranteed to blow up at some point or another?
According to the DMN story, more than $2 million in jewelry has been purchased from the vendor, and everything was fine until the employee group handling the money apparently spent too much on parties and didn’t have enough to pay the vendor what he was owed. Naturally, he didn’t take kindly to being stiffed, and now DART officials are having to wade into the mess and straighten it out, wasting time and resources that should be used to straighten out DART’s primary issues.
Bottom line: Why are employees of public entities continually involved in dopey stuff like this? Don’t they understand that by being stewards of public money, the media scrutiny and public outcry is going to be deafening and there’s not going to be a good answer for any of the questions? If the DART people haven’t figured this out by now, maybe we don’t have the right people in charge there.
And to get back around to another pet peeve: Just wait until the city owns a $500 million convention center hotel — I can already imagine the problems we’re going to be reading about then, with third-party management company employees using city-owned resources to give free rooms to each other, steal food from the kitchen, host unpaid party rooms, and on and on, with the city employee in charge of all of this too overwhelmed to keep tabs on everything. Some things are just not meant to be handled by public entities, and jewelry purchases and operating hotels are among them.