Who’s moonlighting at Austin City Hall? Most departments don’t know


Highlights

Audits found employees working second jobs on the city clock and using their positions to boost those jobs.

Only 12 of 36 departments require workers to tell a supervisor of another job and only seven record who does.

An Austin Energy worker responsible for approving developers’ electric service plans provided consulting services on the side to some of those same companies.

An Austin Water spokesman approved a marketing contract with a firm that built him a free website for his real estate business.

An information technology analyst used city equipment to send hundreds of emails and scan and print dozens of files related to his rental properties.

All were among the Austin employees scrutinized by investigative auditors this year for apparent conflicts of interest or abuse of city resources to work second jobs, even as supervisors or co-workers were aware of their outside employment.

City employees aren’t prohibited from making extra income on the side, and many do so without raising flags with auditors. But the policies for disclosing outside work and addressing potential conflicts vary by department, and in some departments there might be no way to know if a conflict exists.

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Of 36 city departments, only 12 require employees to notify a supervisor of secondary employment, according to responses to an American-Statesman public information request, and only seven were able to say how many workers do. Citywide policies say only that employees cannot work outside jobs that interfere with their city duties or represent a conflict of interest.

Peter Einhorn, chairman of Austin’s Ethics Review Commission, which has jurisdiction over only high-level managers, said most second jobs are a nonissue — but there’s no way to know unless they’re formally disclosed.

“If somebody has secondary employment at Barnes & Noble, who cares?” he said. “But if they’re moonlighting with a nonprofit entity that the department they work for funds, that’s an issue. … There should be transparency for the public, and I think the manager should know.”

Four days after the American-Statesman submitted a request for records on city workers’ second jobs, Human Resources Director Joya Hayes sent a memo to the City Council saying her office was working on new policy language regarding secondary employment. A recommendation is expected by the end of September.

“A citywide procedure, along with forms requiring department director approval for all secondary employment, is being considered,” she wrote.

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Of the departments that require workers to disclose their other jobs, only Emergency Medical Services keeps a list of who they are and where else they work. Aviation, Fleet Services, Austin Public Health, Austin Public Library, Code and Transportation keep accessible copies of approved requests for outside employment.

Within those seven departments, some 205 employees work for at least 166 entities outside of the city of Austin, according to the records.

The city employees who moonlight are diverse. A technician making $31,800 a year maintaining city vehicles also stocks shelves at Home Depot. An aviation supervisor making $101,800 is also co-founder of a mobile application company. Librarians, paramedics and mechanics are pilates instructors, barbers and H-E-B baggers off the city clock. An EMS field captain owns his own barbecue joint. So does a high-ranking fleet technician.

At least a dozen employees in the responsive departments drive for Uber, Lyft or RideAustin. Six are real estate agents. Eighteen work for another city, county or state department. More than 25 work for a college, university or school. In EMS, where 1 of every 5 employees works a second job, dozens teach emergency response to others or are hired boots on the ground for Rodeo Austin.

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Hays said a new citywide policy wouldn’t supersede departments that have their own policies, but would provide one for those that don’t. She said second jobs are necessary for many employees and she doesn’t want to make employees feel there’s anything wrong with them. She just wants to create a disclosure procedure.

“Secondary employment was a topic prior to the onslaught of the recent audits,” she said, noting the department is amid a review of personnel policies in general. “We do take this seriously, and we are already in the process of addressing it.”

Some departments, including police and Development Services, technically expect disclosure of secondary jobs to individual supervisors, but said finding out which employees work them would take going through each individual personnel file — hundreds of hours of staffing.

Austin Energy, which has been the target of a few of the recent reports, has begun working with HR to look for best practices for handling secondary employment, the department said in a statement from spokesman Robert Cullick on Thursday.

“Recent audits have raised our awareness that we need to have a healthy, continuing conversation within Austin Energy about second jobs and potential conflicts of interest,” it said, noting that ethics training taken by department employees this year focused on conflicts of interest.

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An auditor’s finding in late 2015 that a Development Services supervisor used a city computer to build a private legal website — where he advertised his city job to solicit clients dealing with land development concerns — led department Director Rodney Gonzales to look into what its secondary employment policy was.

He found the department didn’t have one. So he asked auditors and ethics liaisons for guidance and created a disclosure mandate. In place since February 2016, it translates citywide conflict of interest language, sets a procedure for department employees to request permission to work second jobs and outlines manager responsibilities for vetting them.

“It’s been very effective,” Gonzales said. “I’m glad we did this, from an employee standpoint, because the goal of this wasn’t to preclude secondary employment, just to guide our employees.”

He acknowledged that the department was unable to say which — or even how many — of its employees hold second jobs, because it doesn’t keep that information in any centralized way. The goal was not to create records, but to create reporting expectations between employee and supervisor, he said.

“That being said, our HR manager is going to work on a database,” he said, “so if we get future records requests it’s more efficient.”



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