Dallas City Attorney Chris Caso is retiring February 28, according to an email sent to the Council and the mayor on Thursday and obtained by D Magazine.
The City Council postponed its annual meeting from its first date in August, which was rescheduled for January 11. Instead, the Council went into special administration, then returned and voted to postpone. until January 25. before a general vote to reflect what was done during the closed meeting. That could include anything from a raise to a penalty plan.
Caso earned an annual salary of $325,000, making him the third highest paid employee at City Hall. He has been in the role since 2020, although he was named interim city attorney in 2018. He has been on the city’s payroll since 2005. when he started as an assistant city attorney he defended the city during trials.
“I will be retiring from the City on February 28 to spend more time with my family and pursue other interests,” his email read. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my 17+ years with City and look forward to embarking on the next chapter of my life.”
Caso operated the $21 million office responsible for drafting ordinances and resolutions and providing the City Council with legal advice prior to their votes. The office, which includes more than 160 employees, is one of the largest government offices in the country. He is also responsible for protecting the city from lawsuits and bringing legal action when necessary, such as law enforcement matters.
“We thank Chris Caso for his years of dedicated service to the city of Dallas, and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors,” read a statement from Mayor Eric Johnson. “We look forward to conducting a thorough national search for our next city attorney.”
Caso has faced criticism in some high-profile legal cases in recent months.
The Dallas City Council approved an ordinance that would make it illegal to drive in freeways less than 6 feet wide. Similar ordinances passed in places like Oklahoma City were eventually challenged in court, and weeks later, Dallas was sued.
Caso’s office was also behind an effort to shut down poker rooms that had permission from the city to operate. One of his attorneys said the city misinterpreted state law and issued the wrong certificates of occupancy. Although gambling is illegal in the state of Texas, the Legislature allowed three caveats: the games must be held in a private place, the organizers cannot remove money from the top, and the players must share the risk. According to the building inspector, these card houses are not independent places and should not be operated.
There are many opportunities in Texas, and Dallas became the first city to challenge their legal status. The board ruled against Caso’s office, but the city filed suit. There are currently two cases going before the courts, which, barring state law, can be appealed all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.
About a year ago, the City Council also passed a law banning sex businesses from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. due to safety concerns raised by the police department. Some of those businesses sued the city and a judge did them; Dallas is a great city.
Elsewhere, the Council will soon vote on a plan to ban short-term rentals from single-family neighborhoods—which is where most of Dallas is moving. That, too, is likely to land the city in court.
He was the only high-ranking city official to postpone a performance review last summer, which means he didn’t get a raise. Since then, Caso’s job status has been quietly questioned by City Hall as they look at what the Council will do when the review occurs. After this month’s special session, the city attorney went first.
The City Council will approve an interim replacement while a search is conducted. It is not clear when that will happen, but it will take a little more than a month.