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Darian Ward

I shake my head.

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday staunchly defended his press secretary’s job performance following her recent two-week suspension for conducting personal business on city time and failing to turn over public records requested by a local journalist.

Turner also lectured reporters on the newsworthiness of the city’s disciplinary action against Darian Ward, saying other issues are more important than “whether or not somebody did something on an email.”

Ward, who was allowed to return to work Dec. 27, sent or received roughly 5,000 emails from her government account related to her company, Joy in Motion Enterprises, or other personal business matters over the last four years, according to a city memo. However, Ward, who at the time was among those responsible for fielding Texas Public Information Act requests for the mayor’s office, produced just 30 pages of emails in response to a journalist’s October records request.

“Ms. Ward, you misrepresented to the requestor the volume of documents regarding the TPIA request under state law, and you misinformed the chief of staff and me; you spent a significant amount of city time conducting your personal business rather than focusing on your work task,” mayoral Communications Director Alan Bernstein wrote Ward on Dec. 11, informing her that she had violated multiple city policies.

[…]

“It’s pretty flagrant,” said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, based in Missouri. “I’m surprised the mayor retained this individual.”

Turner said “no employee ought to be utilizing personal emails on city time,” but said he was not concerned about Ward’s performance.

“She’s done her job extremely well since I’ve been here, over and above,” he said. “I have no question with regard to her work performance.”

The mayor, who bristled at reporters’ questions about Ward, added that he imposed a stiffer punishment than the city’s legal and human resources departments had recommended.

Ted Oberg had the initial report about Ward’s suspension. For what it’s worth, I once had a coworker who was fired for doing something very similar to what Ward was suspended for. She was a lousy employee and was probably going to get herself fired for something eventually, but her email follies provided the fulcrum. If there are no further revelations to be made, and if Ward manages to adopt a more work-appropriate posture going forward, then we’ll all forget about this in a few weeks. If not, then I don’t think it’s possible for her to be a good enough employee in other respects to outweigh the negatives. Campos has more.

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6 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    She needs to be fired now. 5000 emails shows she’s too stupid to be working for the City, since she presumably has a personal cell phone that she could use for her personal business without impacting the City infrastructure. There are risks associated with external emails, especially if the City doesn’t use good blocking software to help mitigate the risk of people clicking on malicious links. I also wonder if the City still allows access to outside web based email clients like Gmail, Hotmail, etc. My employer has all of those blocked to prevent potential issues.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    5,000 e-mails in 4 years= 1,250 per year

    Say she works 240 days a year, that’s a little over 5 e-mails sent and/or received per workday.

    How long did each e-mail take to read/write? I also wonder about the timing of these. If this personal business was done after hours, or perhaps, on a lunch break, I wouldn’t see that as something to fire an otherwise competent employee for, especially without giving that employee a warning about it first…..except for the fact that she wasn’t checking a personal e-mail account, she was commingling her day job and her side job.

    Ross has a good point about bringing in potential problems and virus the city computer system. This woman should have known the policy, and yet another good reason that this stuff should have gone to her personal e-mail account, not the city account.

    I wonder if she was trying to let it be known that “Joy in Motion Enterprises” was a politically connected company. Actually, I don’t wonder. She was probably trying to sell influence, or at least let her “customers” THINK she had influence that could be bought by having them communicate with her city account.

    It’s a rare moment here at OTC, but I agree with Ross.

  3. Steve Houston says:

    Ross, while I agree with your comments in general, maybe you should consider just how SMART Ms. Ward is for collecting a six figure salary and all benefits while getting to develop her private business on company time. It takes a lot of moxie to be so brazen in doing all this and doing it for ten years, starting under Mayor Parker and yet we’ve not heard a single peep about any of this until about a year ago when the information request was so mishandled. Had Ms. Ward turned over the requested emails in full, I doubt she would have been punished at all given she was so open about her conduct.

    I also have good reason to believe that many at city hall knew about it since the beginning of her employment, after all, she CC’d various elected and appointed city officials on many of these emails, one staffer claiming Ms. Ward “sold” the idea of allowing this as a benefit to the city, her proposals for positive reality shows based in Houston well known to both mayors. Like Bill, I wonder about the amount of time most of these took to write and if they might have been written while she was on break or otherwise not bogged down in city work, but the belief that she wasn’t politically connected is hilarious. Of course she was, and remains, politically connected considering she has been close friends with Parker and Turner for so long. Oh, and to hear supporters of hers describe it, Ms. Ward did not work “240 days a year”, she worked virtually every single day and all hours at that, at least claiming she was on call as such.

    But now that the standard has been set, perhaps every city employee, from elected officials, appointees, and the worker drones alike, should have to submit their personal cell phone records, access to all social media accounts, and any devices owned so that we can once and for all root out employees “stealing” public time. I’ve seen elected officials running their businesses from cell phone, drones posting so often to Facebook that they probably hit the 5000 mark every other week, and appointees finding plenty of time to browse their tablets when on company time for their adult entertainment needs that Ms. Ward’s transgressions are minor by comparison. So let’s make sweeping reforms to end all of it, perhaps saving a great deal of man hours that could be used productively instead, but remember this has gone on for decades and is nothing new.

  4. Steve Houston says:

    And this is from a city of Houston website:
    “Darian Ward is the Press Secretary for the dynamic Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. She is also an award winning, nationally recognized, television, radio and film veteran, with a proven track record of success. Darian recently received a Telly award and two TATAO awards for her TV series “Press Pass to the City” and “State of the City” on HTV which spotlights Houston’s sports, arts, fashion, and business communities. She has also hosted news shows on affiliates of CBS, NBC, FOX and BET for more than 15 years. Her shows include BizRadio’s “Strategies for Success,” “Military Makeover,” “Houston Airports Today,” and “The Good Life.”

    Darian spent nine years as a weekend anchor and investigative reporter with KRIV-TV (FOX), averaging more than 40 community events per month. In 2008, Darian handled media and public relations for five years for the Houston Airport System, which launched several new international airlines, and sees more than 50 million passengers a year. Darian is also a small business advocate and is the recipient of a Runway to Business award for her support of aviation enterprises.

    Ms. Ward is the President of Joy in Motion Productions, a multi-media firm which has been honored with a Leadership Award from the Government Procurement Connections, a Minority Media Firm of the Year Award from the Houston Minority Business Development Center; and Darian was nominated as a Journalist of the Year by the Small Business Administration Board.

    Ms. Ward has received Congressional recognition for her community outreach initiatives and works extensively with government entities, major corporations, city and state leaders to promote and train professionals and novices regarding media and crisis management. She has worked closely with Women Business Enterprise Alliance, National Association of Minority Contractors, Texas Conference of Black Mayors, Air Liquide, and Women Contractors.

    When it comes to giving back, Darian is a member of Women Working Wonders, The Smahrt Girl Foundation, Women in Film & TV, Pink Petro and Southwest Association of Media Professionals. She has been recognized as an Influential Woman, Top 25 Women of Houston, a finalist for 2013 PROSHOW’s PGA -Reality Show and a NATPE FOX Fellow. She was the consulting producer for “Keeping Up with the Jones” which aired on Centric & BET and has worked on projects with high-profile athletes and business owners.

    Darian graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and broadcast management. She is a native New Yorker, but she is one of the biggest cheerleaders for Houston.”
    _____________________________________________________________

    Sounds like some political stroke and free advertising to me, anyone else agree?

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Steve:

    If there is nothing wrong with influence peddling, then why go through the dog and pony show of a two week suspension? Remember the big deal made about General Flynn making money on the side and not declaring it? Seems like this lady did the exact same thing.

    ….oh, and not turning over e-mails? Where have I heard that before? LOL! Cover up worse than the crime? We’ve got the best of Trump, Hillary AND Nixon, all wrapped up in one. The only thing better would be if we could get Dave Wilson on the case, to ferret out more impropriety.

  6. Steve Houston says:

    Bill, I didn’t say she should get a pass for influence peddling, merely that she was doing it in plain sight and almost certainly with the knowledge of her immediate supervisors on up, including former Mayor Parker and Turner, for a long time. And I’m not going to validate comparisons to national politics/office holders because they are literally completely different situations when you look at them closely.

    A better example would be to look at local officials, city and county, who inevitably take office with modest means in most cases yet manage to enrich themselves tremendously the longer they remain in office, appointed or elected. When they get caught violating some technical rule and get their hand slapped, it doesn’t diminish the fact that it is common for such people to have side work of some sort, and anyone that suggests these people never field calls in support of that work or send emails during regular work hours is sticking their head in the sand.

    As far as the emails, she didn’t destroy them ala Watergate, White Water or what have you, she simply gave far less of them over upon request. Anyone that makes such requests knows how it has become a game to many officials, not just city officials but those in the county and state as well. The stretches of imagination used by document holders knows no bounds, some of the semantic play or the way costs have been greatly increased beyond reason are well known. I’m not agreeing with the practice at all, merely reminding people that this is very common and has been for decades, the mock surprise is hilarious.

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