Consultants say Travis County has dysfunctional government

Travis County seal

AUSTIN (AP) — Travis County has a dysfunctional government with multiple departments that fail to work with each other, according to a consulting firm hired by the county.

The firm recommended county officials establish a position, either an administrator or manager, who would coordinate the county’s departments. That person would report directly to commissioners.

Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who helped push to hire the firm, said Tuesday he doesn’t know of another group that “doesn’t have a boss.”

“You’ve got to have somebody where that’s their responsibility, to make sure there’s a chain of command,” Daugherty said.

But commissioner Ron Davis said he is wary of creating a situation where the county administrator could become a “power broker” with “Robert Moses syndrome.” Davis was referencing the New York City municipal builder who controlled millions of dollars and didn’t have to answer to elected officials or public.

Travis County is the only urban Texas county that doesn’t have a county administrator. Consultants estimate the new position would save Travis County about $2 million in efficiencies in the first year.

In their review of the county’s organizational structure, consultants found Travis County is “a frequently dysfunctional county government” that often works without efficiency or accountability.

The Travis County Commissioners Court manages about 930 employees and a nearly $175 million budget. Five commissioners oversee multiple departments.

The consultants’ study shows inefficiencies and employee morale problems under Travis County’s current system. Some positions remain open for months because of the county’s difficult hiring process.

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