VisitDallas CEO’s severance package may come with a catch

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Phillip Jones, the former CEO of VisitDallas, received a $600,000 severance package when he stepped down last week with almost four years and up to $2 million in potential severance money left on his contract.

According to the severance agreement obtained by The Texas Monitor, Jones will receive his severance in 24 payments of $25,000 each. He signed the document May 6, two days before his departure was publicly announced.

The agreement also releases Jones from any liability, noted Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs, who has been critical of the agency since a city audit found that the bureau has provided murky metrics regarding hotel occupancy and other key measures of its performance.

“I’m not sure how a clause allowing him to avoid liability can be signed without a further forensic audit,” Griggs said. “You can’t just release someone from liability like that, given the red flags we already have.”

Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, one of two council members on the VisitDallas board, last week characterized the separation agreement to The Texas Monitor as a “mutually-agreed upon separation,” which, according to Jones’ contract, allows the parties to agree on severance pay.

Jones resigned after a series of stories chronicled the convention bureau’s sometimes profligate spending. Jones, who has been accused of using city-paid travel to compete in international running competitions, has held the position since 2003.

Jones last day was Wednesday, the agreement stated, and with his employment ended his benefits, which included a gym membership, and stipends for a home office and a car.

His address on the agreement is in Southlake, although Jones previously claimed a condo as his address as part of an agreement to live in the city he represents.

In October 2018, Jones signed a five-year contract extension, giving him a base annual salary of $498,000. With bonus payments, his annual salary was around $700,000.

According to the employment contract, if either party were to terminate his employment, he would be due all money not yet paid.

Which puzzles Griggs.

“Why would he leave that money on the table?” he asked.

VisitDallas spokesman Frank Librio did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

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