Friday, October 30, 2020 by Ryan Thornton

City departments may now deal with small-scale violations

City Council unanimously approved a change to city code Thursday that will allow the Office of the City Auditor to refer small-scale secondary employment misuse cases to the city manager’s office. In cases where a city employee is found using city equipment for secondary work, the city auditor may now redirect the case as long as the violation has not created significant costs to the city.

“We recently had four misuse reports that were small in scale and those could have been referred,” said Council Member Alison Alter, who is also chair of Council’s Audit & Finance Committee. “Had this proposed change been put in place, we would have had a better use of our auditor resources.”

The Audit & Finance Committee recommended the change in a 5-0 vote in September.

The reports from August cited such instances as city employees using city computers to access personal email accounts used for another business or infrequently driving a city vehicle to another work site. The offenses were deemed “small in scale,” but the city code nonetheless prohibited the classification of “de minimis” for any use of city equipment related to economic gain.

According to the auditor’s office, the approved change means the office can focus on “more material violations of code” while letting city departments handle smaller violations for secondary employment. It also means the office will not need to write reports for those referred violations.

Alter also noted that both the city manager’s office and the trade union AFSCME approve of the amendment. Council approved the change in a unanimous vote. Council members Natasha Harper-Madison and Pio Renteria were off the dais.

Council also unanimously approved the Fiscal Year 2021 proposed audit plan, which the Audit & Finance Committee had recommended with a 5-0 vote in October. Harper-Madison was off the dais.

“(The plan) recognizes that the audit office will be taking considerable time to do the redistricting for the Council seats, but it has some important audits,” Alter said.

New audit topics include reimagining public safety, cybersecurity, transparency, the Amanda system, lobbyist compliance, follow-up on previous audit recommendations, cost savings opportunities, Covid-19 response, public health and economic recovery. Topics for carry-over efforts include redistricting, interlocal agreements, workforce management, technology services procurement, and audits planned for reporting in 2020.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Austin City Council Audit and Finance Committee: a sub-group of the Austin City Council. It's members are charged with oversight of city fiscal operations and anything that falls under the purview of the Office of the City Auditor.

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."

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