Mayor Turner responds to KPRC 2 investigation on intern being paid nearly $100K annually

By Cory McCord - Digital News Editor, Mario Diaz - Reporter
KPRC2

HOUSTON - Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a response Tuesday to Monday night's KPRC 2 Investigates report on a city intern being paid $95,000 annually for a position with the Houston Airport System.

The position is publicly funded.

Marvin Agumagu, 31, was offered a position as the first candidate for the airport’s Executive Internship program. Agumagu was given the salary of a senior staff analyst, $95,000 a year with benefits. He took the position in October 2018. Turner, in his statement, said there are "94 Senior Staff Analysts positions in the City of Houston, of which 15 are at the Executive Level. The current salary range for Senior Staff Analysts is $74,256 - $131,325."

“The Executive Intern program is newly created within HAS. Based on the scope of responsibilities, needs and demands of the job, we are requesting an effective date of October 13, 2018, with a base pay rate of $3,654 biweekly or $95,000 annualized," airport director Mario Diaz wrote in an email to Turner at the time of Agumagu's hiring.

In Turner's statement, he admitted to knowing Agumagu before he was offered the internship. Last week, KPRC 2 investigative reporter Mario Diaz asked Turner in person if he knew Agumagu, and the mayor responded, “I have no idea who you are talking about.” Turner said in his statement that KPRC 2's Mario Diaz's question "caught me off guard as I was rushing to another scheduled city event."

Turner's statement says airport director Mario Diaz created the Houston Airport System Executive Internship Program in order to "attract new talent in the field of aviation and to serve as an entry to the Management Training Program."

Turner said the establishment of the program is within the "discretion and authority of the Department Director." Here is a link to the memo of the administrative policy for filling key executive management positions.

Turner, in his statement, says director Diaz requested approval for the "re-classification of the position and waiver of posting." Turner said the process is routine, and he's signed 122 such approvals for each of the 23 city departments since he took office in January 2016.

In his statement, Turner touted Agumagu's education and experience: "Agumagu’s salary is commensurate with his education and experience. He has three (3) advanced degrees, including a bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degree and a law degree. He also has experience in international relations and governmental affairs which is an asset for the City of Houston’s 5-star international airports."

Here is the full statement:

"There has been a lot of discussion, but little attention paid to the facts. I hope that everyone will review the facts and the supporting documentation that was provided to Channel 2 in advance of its story, but was not shared with its viewers, regarding the Houston Airport System’s Executive Internship Program and the City of Houston’s Administrative Policy 3.5 governing the hiring of Executive Level employees.

  • "As shown in this key memo, the Houston Airport System Executive Internship Program was created by Director Mario Diaz to attract new talent in the field of aviation and to serve as an entry to the Management Training Program. The establishment of the program is within the discretion and authority of the Department Director.  Please see the attached memo by Director Diaz and Administrative Procedure 3-5 7.1.2.
  • "The approval sought from the administration was to approve the re-classification of the position and waiver of posting. This personnel action was done in accordance with the City of Houston’s Administrative policy. The process is routine, and I have signed 122 of these reclassifications for each of the 23 city departments since taking office in January 2016.

"The official job title for the Executive Intern is Senior Staff Analyst (Executive Level) with a pay grade of 28. The Department Director chose the job title and pay grade and the Human Resource Department determined both were consistent with the specified duties and responsibilities of the position.

  • "For reference, there are a total of 94 Senior Staff Analysts positions in the City of Houston, of which 15 are at the Executive Level. The current salary range for Senior Staff Analysts is $74,256 - $131,325.
  • "Mr. Marvin Agumagu’s salary is commensurate with his education and experience. He has three (3) advanced degrees, including a bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degree and a law degree. He also has experience in international relations and governmental affairs which is an asset for the City of Houston’s 5-star international airports.

"The City of Houston is proud of our record on recruiting, hiring and retaining qualified individuals. We are especially proud of our intentional outreach to attract millennials who bring innovative ideas and energy to our workforce. As we compete with the private sector for qualified employees willing to learn and excel, we are amazed at our good fortune to attract such talented young men and women committed to a life of public service.

"Regarding my statement about Mr. Agumagu, I do know Marvin and, quite candidly the reporter’s question caught me off guard as I was rushing to another scheduled city event after leaving the Houston Police Department's cadet graduation."

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.