VisitDallas names interim CEO; CFO also steps down

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VisitDallas

VisitDallas announced Thursday that former state representative Sam Coats will be the group’s interim CEO.  He replaces Phillip Jones, who announced Wednesday that he is stepping down after a series of stories chronicled the convention bureau’s sometimes profligate spending.

Coats is past chair of the board of directors at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and served as president and CEO of fast-food eatery Schlotzsky’s. He was also an executive at Continental Airlines, vice president at Southwest Airlines and a chief spokesman for Braniff Airways.

Coats, a Democrat, ran for mayor in Dallas in 2007 and received 5,400 votes, or 7.6 percent. He considered a run for Dallas County judge in 2010 but did not file.

He has also been a donor to the campaigns of several sitting city council members, including $500 in January to Jennifer Staubach Gates, one of two council members on the board of VisitDallas.

VisitDallas is also looking to replace chief financial officer Matt Jones, who stepped down this week after working for the agency since September 2004. VisitDallas spokesman Frank Librio said a search committee for the CFO’s replacement would be put together this week.

Together, Phillip and Matt Jones (no relation) were paid over $1 million a year, with the CEO at $700,000 and the CFO at $380,000.

The CFO was part of the financial team that failed to clearly report advances made to Phillip Jones on a $400,000 bonus payment. He also defended the CEO’s travels that coincided with international endurance races that Phillip Jones participated in. He insisted Phillip Jones paid his own expenses for travel and lodging during those events but could not provide documentation confirming that.

VisitDallas earlier this year was rattled by a city audit that found the bureau has provided murky metrics regarding hotel occupancy and other key measures of its performance. The audit also found that the bureau reported its expenses in ways that “inhibit appropriate monitoring” by the city.

It wasn’t clear late Thursday whether the Dallas City Council will proceed with a briefing that had been scheduled for next week to discuss several reforms that were put in place in hopes of providing stricter financial oversight of the agency. VisitDallas is funded with $30 million a year in public money, much of it from the city’s hotel tax.

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

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