New emails released involving press secretary angling for non-city approved deals
City of Houston releases more than 1,000 new emails
HOUSTON – The city of Houston released a new batch of emails Thursday afternoon.
The more than 1,000 emails show Mayor Sylvester Turner's press secretary, Darian Ward, working hard to sell her private productions while using her city email, showcasing her title as press secretary, the city's seal and her taxpayer-funded domain address.
In one email, Ward writes that she is open to casting her reality show in Los Angeles and would "love to have the Hedge Fund guy be a part of the team."
In another, she talks about her company connecting with Coca-Cola and the Broadway version of "The Wiz" so she could be the "project manager" in a "BIGGER PICTURE" project.
Ward was also promoting a charity not connected to the city.
An email from a representative at Southwest Airlines informs Ward "charitable requests cannot come from a government worker or email system," adding the company receives 5,000 requests a month.
The response comes after she informed Southwest she was raising funds to send 30 people to NYC to see a Broadway show.
Turner suspended Ward for two weeks without pay in December. Harris County District County Attorney Kim Ogg's Office is now probing Ward's private business done while on the taxpayer's clock.
The controversy has the attention of an Austin-based government watchdog group.
"That’s a clear violation for her to be doing that on city time," said Bay Scoggin, director of Public Interest Research Group.
Scoggin met with Channel 2 Investigates on Wednesday along the grounds of the capitol.
As for Ward's show, "The Good Life," Channel 2 Investigates got a firsthand look at Ward's lone invoice for using the city's television studios. The invoice shows Ward receiving discounts in excess of $600.
A station official said Ward received preferential treatment since the city believed she would bring them more business if the pilot got picked up.
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