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City employee forced out for using city computer for food trucks

Thursday, January 10, 2019 by Jack Craver

A city employee has been fired after city auditors accused him of using his city computer to manage two food trucks that he owns. For his part, the employee claims that he is being treated unfairly and that his mistakes are nothing compared to what he has seen co-workers get away with.

An investigation conducted by the Office of the City Auditor found that DeShawn Scott, an administrative specialist in the Public Works Department, used his city computer for purposes related to two outside businesses: Texas Go Freezee, a shaved ice stand; and Taco Sweets, a truck that offers ice cream tacos.

In response to a complaint about Scott, the auditors looked through his computer, including a USB drive that was plugged in, and his city email account. They found multiple files and emails related to his two businesses and numerous files and emails related to Scott’s personal finances.

According to the auditor’s report, Scott said that he only occasionally used his city computer to Google something related to his outside employment or to “make a flyer or something.”

Reached by phone by the Austin Monitor, Scott said that he had used his city-issued laptop to create flyers at home. He insisted that he had never conducted work related to his food trucks while he was on the clock for the city.

It did not occur to him, he said, that what he was doing might cost him his job, saying he said seen co-workers get away with much worse, including watching pornography at work.

“There were guys who watched a lot of porn on their computers,” Scott said. “Yet these people were barely slapped on the wrist.”

The investigation, Scott said, was the result of bad blood between some of his co-workers and his supervisor. Scott said that two employees, one African-American and one Latino, had accused their supervisor, who is white, of racial discrimination and alleged that she and Scott were business partners. Scott, who is black, said both of the allegations are baseless.

“I thought she was literally the best boss I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.

It was during the course of the investigation into his supervisor that auditors searched his computer and found the files related to his food trucks. After the investigation, Scott said he was told by a higher-up in his department that the city Human Resources Department would have him terminated if he didn’t resign. Scott chose to resign.

Scott said he was told that he didn’t have much recourse to fight the termination because he was a temporary employee and therefore could be fired without just cause.

The case will now go to the Ethics Review Commission, which will determine whether Scott violated city policy.

In 2017, city auditors similarly accused former Police Monitor Margo Frasier of using city resources for her outside consulting business and personal affairs. Frasier’s case was more complex since her outside employment as a law enforcement consultant was very similar to her job for the city. In addition, Frasier said that former City Manager Marc Ott had hired her with the understanding that her outside work would overlap with her city role.

In March of last year, the Ethics Review Commission voted 7-2 to clear Frasier, who had since retired from her city job. Commissioners said they were not convinced that the evidence showed Frasier engaged in anything beyond de minimis or incidental violations of the rules.

Scott said that he is currently focused on his two food trucks, which he said are doing well, but he misses his old job.

“I loved the guys that I worked with. I love everything about the city of Austin. It’s unfortunate that it had to end like this.”

On Wednesday evening, the Ethics Review Commission voted to set a final hearing for the case in March.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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