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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Monday, October 16, 2017 by Jo Clifton
Wagner accused of misusing city resources
The Office of the City Auditor’s investigative unit has issued a report concluding that a city employee who serves as an Austin Independent School District board trustee has misused city resources.
According to the report, which was released Thursday, Trustee Yasmin Wagner works as a manager in the city’s Communications and Public Information Office. The auditor’s office investigated Wagner’s work activities after receiving a complaint alleging that she was misusing city resources.
Auditors reported that they found “at least 40 files on Wagner’s city-issued computer” that were related to her work as an AISD trustee.
Wagner was appointed to her school board position in September 2015 after the death of Trustee Robert Schneider. She was elected to the position in November. She has worked for the city since January 2015, the report says.
In addition to the files, auditors reviewed Wagner’s internet browsing history from November to July and found that a person using that computer had made “at least 370 visits to websites associated with her trustee duties.” That included a social media account she uses exclusively in her trustee role and an email account created exclusively for that trustee job, the report says.
Auditors said they found just two emails related to her trustee duties and Wagner told them that they were accidentally sent to the city email account. “Wagner also admitted to using a City printer on approximately 30 occasions to print trustee-related documents,” according to the report.
Wagner told the auditors she knew she should not have used her city computer for trustee purposes “but stated it was done during her lunch, or before or after our city work hours. However, Wagner’s browsing history showed trustee-related web browsing during what she described as her city work hours.”
Like several other city employees who have recently been accused of using their city computers for non-city business, Wagner has attended the city’s annual ethics training, which includes a video scenario addressing misuse of city resources.
In her response to auditors, Wagner did not dispute using the city computer or school district business. “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,” she wrote. “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 wrote.
She also noted that she is a volunteer in her trustee role, “and I am very careful to never engage in a conflict of interest by always abstaining from AISD decisions that are in any way connected to city business.”
Her supervisor, Chief of Staff Ray Baray, does not seem alarmed by the report. In his response to Nathan Wiebe, the chief of investigations at the auditor’s office, Doug Matthews, Chief Communications Officer wrote, “Management concurs with the need to maintain a clear separation between personal/civic and professional duties and will address these findings appropriately with Ms. Wagner. I do feel that Ms. Wagner has made good faith efforts to maintain that separation in terms of her time in attendance; however it is clear that we must reiterate that the requirements and policies apply equally to the use of city technology and resources.”
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
AISD Board of Trustees: This is the governing board of the Austin Independent School District. The board is comprised of two at-large members and seven district representatives.
Office of the City Auditor: This city department is created by the city's charter in order to establish and ensure "accountability transparency, and a culture of continuous improvement in city operations."