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Ethics investigators see rise in complaints

Friday, November 22, 2019 by Jo Clifton

It’s been a busy year for the city auditor’s Integrity Unit. Brian Molloy, chief of investigations for the auditor’s office, told members of the Council Audit & Finance Committee Wednesday that the unit received 333 complaints during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a 21 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2018 and the highest number of complaints in four years. Many of the allegations were outside the auditor’s jurisdiction, Molloy said. That included complaints about harassment, discrimination and retaliation, which were referred to the Human Resources Department or the HR person within other departments. Molloy noted that his unit completed 14 investigations during the past year, with nine complaints substantiated, one inconclusive, and four substantiated but determined to be de minimis violations. The department issued nine public reports as a result of the complaints. Those included three related to the HR Department (with one of those also related to the Public Health Department), two related to Austin Energy, one related to the Fire Department, one related to Public Works, one related to the Development Services Department and one related to the Parks and Recreation Department. The Integrity Unit currently has 13 open investigations across 11 departments, Molloy reported. Issues include waste, inventory theft, abuse of position and misuse of city resources as well as solicitation of a gift. Molloy said 71 percent of complaints received were from anonymous complainants. Twenty-three percent of those reporting used the whistleblower hotline and 42 percent used the online reporting form, demonstrating why the city needs the anonymous complaint system.

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