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Parks supervisor resigns during inquiry into ethics allegations

Wednesday, April 27, 2022 by Jo Clifton

A Parks and Recreation Department supervisor has resigned after running afoul of two ethics regulations. The fact that his supervisor misinterpreted one of the regulations likely compounded the problem. According to an audit released by the Office of the City Auditor, Jonathan Pixler violated regulations relating to a conflict of interest and also used city employees to perform personal errands for him while on city time.

Pixler, who was hired in August 2019, was responsible for PARD’s horticulture needs, including making plant purchases. His significant other worked at a plant nursery that had a contract with the city. Although Pixler made multiple purchases for the city at that nursery, there was no violation of city code until he married his partner in November 2020. After that, according to the city’s ethics regulations, Pixler had a conflict of interest because his spouse “had a substantial interest in the nursery because they earned more than $5,000 in salary annually.”

Pixler’s supervisors did not realize his spouse worked at the nursery until he revealed that fact in spring 2021. “During his employment with PARD, Pixler made at least 42 purchases totaling approximately $38,500 at the nursery.” But only 13 of the transactions were made after he was married, for a total of approximately $12,500. Auditors noted that purchasing was within Pixler’s responsibilities as a manager, and he did not need prior approval to make these purchases.

Pixler’s supervisor told auditors that Pixler’s spending “was in line with management expectations and the quality of products PARD received from the nursery was good.” The supervisor also mistakenly told Pixler his purchases were not a problem, “because the nursery is a city vendor and was not the only vendor from which PARD was purchasing plants. This advice does not match City Code. Jonathan Pixler resigned from the city in August 2021 and declined to speak with our office.”

A second allegation relates to Pixler’s use of city employees to pick up plants he bought for himself at the same nursery. According to the audit, in February 2020, Pixler instructed staff members who reported to him to pick up plants for PARD from the nursery where his spouse worked and also to retrieve at least a dozen plants that he had purchased for himself. He asked the employees to load his plants into his personal vehicle while on city time.

According to the audit, Pixler’s supervisor confronted him about his use of city employees and he apparently never did it again. PARD Director Kimberly McNeeley acknowledged the audit results and wrote that her employees would continue to attend ethics training with an emphasis on conflict of interest as it relates to purchasing.

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