HOUSTON – A senior staff analyst and a member of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s communications team was recently suspended without pay for violating several city of Houston policies.
Turner approved the 10-day suspension of Darian Ward on Dec. 11. City documents obtained by Channel 2 Investigates show Ward misrepresented the results of a Texas Public Information Act request to a journalist and misinformed her superiors regarding that request.
The journalist, who is not named in the documents, requested emails sent from Ward’s city email account related to her production company. The documents state Ward located 30 emails relevant to the request.
The city’s Office of Inspector General did its own search of Ward’s emails to make sure the city was in compliance with state law and it located more than 5,000 emails related to Ward’s private businesses and other non-city matters over the course of three years.
The city stated: “The emails included proposals to, and signed agreements with, film and TV production companies for their consideration of your personal business ideas for 'reality shows.'" The city added that Ward identified herself as a “board member of charity.” However, the charity does not have any affiliation with government functions.
The documents alleged Ward “misrepresented to the requester, the volume of documents regarding the TPIA (Texas Public Information Act) request under state law.” The documents also stated Ward “misinformed the Chief of Staff.”
The documents also stated that Ward “spent a significant amount of city time" conducting personal business.
Ward was disciplined for violating four city policies and received the 10-day suspension without pay.
Channel 2 investigator Mario Diaz spoke with City Councilman Michael Kubosh about the policy violations within the mayor's office staff.
“I was shocked that an employee who had been with us since 2008 would be using city computers, city time, city resources to do this,” Kubosh said. “This is theft of city time, theft of city resources and this is a violation of our city’s administrative procedures."
Diaz also spoke with Councilman Mike Knox.
“She is clearly lying about these emails,” Knox said, referring to the discrepancy between what Ward told the journalist and the number of emails actually discovered by the inspector general.
Knox said he expected a different punishment for the policy violations.
“I was surprised that this was all the punishment," Knox said. "That is amazing."
Knox said the controversy not only reflects poorly on Ward, a senior member of Turner’s staff, but also Turner himself.
“Our mayor has said he wants to be transparent, but when stuff like this happens, it begs the question, how transparent is his administration really being?” Knox said.