City of Austin employee and AISD trustee accused of misusing city resources

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A city of Austin communication office employee who is also on the board of the Austin Independent School District will be disciplined after an audit determined she was misusing city resources for non-work related items.

Yasmin Wagner  “misused city resources for non-city purposes relating to her non-city duties as a school board trustee,” according to a city investigative report released Thursday.

Wagner has worked for the city since January of 2015 as a public information and marketing corporate manager. She filled a vacant AISD board position in September of 2015 and was elected to the position in November of 2016. Her AISD board position is voluntary.

“Wagner admitted to using city resources, specifically her city-issued computer and the city’s printer for her trustee work,” according to the report. Auditors said they found dozens of files on Wagner’s computer related to trustee work and more than 370 visits to websites related to trustee work.

In a written response to the investigative report, Wagner said she has been “proactive and explicit” in telling management about any conflicts between her two jobs, and she has been careful not to engage in any conflicts of interest between her AISD work and city business.

“I have endeavored in my professional life to provide the best possible service to my community, whether that is in my role as a City employee or as an AISD trustee. Juggling two very demanding roles has necessitated careful balancing to address the responsibilities of both roles with fidelity, often over the course of working days that can extend to 16 hours or more. I have never abused my time commitment to the City but have at times worked some unconventional hours with the approval of my management and as an exempt employee to be able to address all of my City responsibilities,” Wagner said in a statement submitted to the auditor’s office in response to the investigation.

City spokesman David Green said Wagner would be disciplined, but “as a matter of practice we do not comment on specifics of personnel matters.”

This investigative report is the third released in the past year that has been critical of city public information officers.

In November of 2016 and January of 2017, auditors released three investigations showing two Austin Water Utility public information office employees misused city resources.

One of the audits found Kevin Buchman, a water utility marketing services manager, asked a subordinate employee to conduct a real estate evaluation on his home, which was described as “accepting a favor from a direct report.” Buchman also failed to provide adequate oversight of advertising expenditures, and auditors found some evidence of outside work on his office computer. Buchman was suspended for a week and placed on disciplinary probation for a year, according to a Water Utility executive and investigative reports.

In a letter to the city, Buchman said he accepted “full responsibility for his actions,” and he said the real estate evaluation had no impact on his subordinate, Jason Hill, or himself.

In another audit, investigators found Hill, a former Water Utility public information officer, solicited and accepted a favor from a city vendor whose invoices he approved. Auditors said the Water Utility’s public information office used city resources in a “grossly uneconomical way.”

In a response to the investigation, Hill said the report was “exaggerated,” “biased” and he was “disappointed by the tone.” Hill resigned from his city job in January.

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