Ex-Austin Energy worker, advisory board members face ethics complaints


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.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

PolitiFact: Key facts (get it?) are missing in claim about car thefts
PolitiFact: Key facts (get it?) are missing in claim about car thefts

Williamson County’s sheriff posted a warning that led us to check some key facts and find them faulty. Robert Chody, elected in 2016, said in a Dec. 27 tweet: “65,000 vehicles stolen in Texas each year. Almost half of all vehicles stolen in Texas each year had keys left inside. That’s a lot of preventable thefts #TakeKeysWithYou...
Here's what has happened during previous government shutdowns
Here's what has happened during previous government shutdowns

It’s fairly certain the government will shut down. If the Senate doesn’t pass the short-term spending bill —passed earlier by the House — by midnight Friday, it will happen. Under a shutdown, thousands of federal employees would go without pay and national parks would close, among other things.  Here's a look at the key...
Trump cancels Florida trip as government shutdown looms
Trump cancels Florida trip as government shutdown looms

President Donald Trump will not make a planned trip to Mar-a-Lago today because of a looming federal government shutdown, a White House official told The Palm Beach Post on Friday morning. Trump was scheduled to arrive at Palm Beach International Airport tonight for a weekend trip that included a Saturday fundraiser for his 2020 re-election...
Miami’s Haitians, accustomed to being shunned, rally after Trump slight
Miami’s Haitians, accustomed to being shunned, rally after Trump slight

When Jacques Despinosse lost a primary for the Florida House of Representatives in the 1990s, he chalked up his drubbing to the skepticism many voters had for candidates from what was then a relatively small Haitian diaspora.  But since then, Haitian-American politicians have made one electoral stride after another in the state, winning commission...
Kelly’s remarks unsettle a tense alliance at the White House
Kelly’s remarks unsettle a tense alliance at the White House

The one thing sure to make President Donald Trump angry, as anyone who has ever worked closely with him knows, is any suggestion that his staff is managing him.  Yet early Wednesday evening, after learning from a White House aide that his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, had described his views about his signature campaign pledge to build a wall...
More Stories