A former Austin Energy supervisor signed off on more than $8 million in payments to a company his brothers worked for without disclosing that conflict of interest, the city’s investigative auditor said in an ethics complaint.
The complaint was one of three that auditors filed Monday claiming conflict of interest violations at the city. The others involve members of two city commissions who voted to recommend funding for organizations where they also worked or served. All three will go to Austin’s Ethics Review Commission to evaluate.
The complaint involving Austin Energy says that Stefan Sasko, a distribution electrician supervisor who retired in January, served as project manager approving payments to Pike Electric without disclosing that two of his brothers were Pike employees working on the Austin Energy contract.
“During the period of March 2016 to January 2017, Sasko approved at least 1,939 worksheets associated with payments of over $8 million to Pike Electric,” the auditor’s complaint says.
Sasko, who couldn’t be reached for this story, told auditors he didn’t consider his role a conflict because the scope of work and pay rates had already been approved in Pike’s contract.
Austin Energy employees said it was common knowledge that Sasko’s brothers worked for the company, and his supervisor told auditors the relationship wasn’t a problem. But city ethics rules require employees to formally disclose such conflicts and avoid participating in decisions regarding companies where family members have a substantial interest.
The claim is one of a few instances of conflict accusations against Austin Energy workers this year. Investigations last month targeted information technology geospatial analyst Brent Curry, who auditors said used city resources to work on another job, and line designer Steven Salinas, who worked as a consultant for developments whose plan approval he controlled at the city-owned utility.
Another of Monday’s ethics complaints says Isabel Lopez-Aguilar, as a member of the Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Resource Advisory Commission, voted to recommend that the City Council allocate money to the Latino HealthCare Forum, where she worked. The organization received $58,000 for health care outreach.
The commission’s chairwoman, Jill Ramirez, who also works with Latino HealthCare Forum, abstained from the vote, according to the complaint. Lopez-Aguilar did not, and did not disclose the conflict. She couldn’t be reached Tuesday.
The third complaint says Clifford Gillard, a member of the African American Resource Advisory Commission, voted to ask the City Council to grant $50,000 to Capitol View Arts, where he also served on the board of directors. Gillard didn’t disclose any conflict.
The recommendation led to the money being requested as part of the council’s budget concept menu, but it wasn’t ultimately funded. Gillard declined to comment for this story.
If the Ethics Review Commission verifies violations in any of the cases, the penalty likely won’t be more than a letter on file.