After a Dallas citizen sued Councilmember Adam Bazaldua following a car accident, Bazaldua successfully pushed for the city to provide council members with a yearly car allowance.
A report from The Dallas Express revealed that in February 2021, Bazaldua turned left at a Dallas intersection and collided with Peter Cherry. According to the responding law enforcement officer’s crash report, the intersection lacked functioning traffic lights or stop signs.
More than a year later, in August 2022, Cherry filed a lawsuit against Bazaldua, claiming he caused the accident after he “failed to be attentive and failed to yield the right of way.”
Cherry also accused Bazaldua of negligence and said he failed to “keep a proper lookout” and was traveling at unsafe speeds, leaving Cherry to suffer physical harm and property damage.
After filing the lawsuit, Cherry submitted an affidavit listing nine instances of medical care he received following the accident, including from the Comprehensive Spine Center of Dallas and Momentum Spine and Joint.
Bazaldua retained Dr. Mohammad Shaikh, who reviewed Cherry’s medical records and concluded, “It is my opinion interventional treatment and imaging rendered was not medically necessary, and billed excessively high.”
However, Cherry’s lawsuit called for Bazaldua to pay for the cost of the suit, damages, and monetary relief between $250,000 and $1 million.
In response, Bazaldua denied Cherry’s allegations and requested a jury trial.
Bazaldua subsequently offered an amendment to the city’s budget in September 2022—one month after Cherry filed his lawsuit—requesting that Dallas City Council members be given a yearly car allowance of $12,000. The council approved the car stipend amendment with a majority vote in September 2022.
The stipend replaced the previously used mileage reimbursement system and costs Dallas taxpayers $168,000 per year for all 14 council members—on top of their $60,000 salaries.
Balzaldua’s amendment called for the city to pay for the allowances using $95,783 from the Pension Stabilization Fund and $72,217 from the Denton Central Appraisal District’s property tax revenue.
The councilman told The Dallas Morning News that council members needed the allowance because of how often they travel for city business.
“I proposed it because I really believe that we have a lot of wear and tear,” said Balzaldua. “I spend more time in my car than in my office, not just going all around my district, but also around the city and regionwide for city obligations.”
Balzaldua also promoted the stipend as a way for council members to cut down on how much paperwork they file.
However, Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn (District 12)—who voted against the amendment—said the stipend may have been a way for council members to increase their salaries.
“I voted against it because council members can already receive reimbursement for mileage expenses,” Mendelsohn told The Dallas Morning News. “And this appears to be a way to give council members a raise without going to the voters.”
Balzaldua’s jury trial will occur January 22, 2024.
As of publication, Balzaldua has not responded to a request for comment.