AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) supervisor used the city’s time, money, and resources for personal benefit, according to an investigation report released by the Office of the City Auditor in April 2022.
The report states that the City Auditor opened an investigation after it received allegations about Jonathan Pixler, the former PARD General Maintenance Supervisor, purchasing large quantities of plants exclusively from one nursery where his spouse was employed.
Additionally, the city auditor found that Pixler instructed staff members who reported to him to pick up and unload personal orders from the nursery while on city time during normal working hours.
One staff member stated, “they were uncomfortable with this request, but felt compelled to comply as Pixler was their direct supervisor,” according to the report.
KXAN reached out to Pixler for a comment but has yet to hear back.
The city auditor’s investigation found that Pixler began making purchases with the nursery shortly after he was hired in August 2019.
The report explains that Pixler’s purchases were within the scope of his responsibilities and that he did not need prior approval.
It wasn’t until November 2020 when Pixler married his partner that his connection and the transactions made with the nursery became a conflict of interest, according to the report.
The report states that Pixler’s supervisor did not become aware that Pixler’s spouse worked at the nursery until spring 2021. The supervisor told Pixler that his relationship wasn’t an issue because the nursery was a city vendor.
The city auditor’s investigation found this advice did not match city code.
Pixler resigned from his position with PARD in August 2021. During Pixler’s two-year employment at PARD, he made at least 42 purchases totaling nearly $40,000 at the nursery, 13 of which, totaling approximately $12,500, were made after he was married, according to the report.
The Office of the City Auditor concluded that these 13 purchases and the requests for his staff to perform personal errands were in violation of the city’s prohibition on conflict of interest and standards of conduct.
In response to the city auditor’s investigation, PARD stated, “The Department will continue to require employees to participate in Purchasing and Ethics Training with a training emphasis to include Code of Ethics-Conflicts of Interest as it relates to purchasing.”
PARD told KXAN that the nursery is still listed as a city vendor, but that it no longer has a contract with the company.
KXAN found this investigation to be the fourth conducted by the Office of the City Auditor related to PARD since 2019. Those investigations found a PARD employee misusing city resources, a manager accepting favors from a direct report, and an employee getting special privileges that resulted in a cost of over $55,000 to the City of Austin.