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Darian Ward resigns

Adios.

Mayor Sylvester Turner’s press secretary resigned Friday afternoon, three weeks after news broke that she had been suspended for routinely conducting personal business on city time and failing to release public records.

Ward sent or received roughly 5,000 pages of emails about personal business from her government account over the last four years, many of which dealt with reality shows she was pitching to television networks or a charity for which she serves as an advisor.

Ward, who earned $93,712 annually, was suspended for 10 days without pay in late December.

Her resignation came hours before new emails showed Ward again had tried to block the release of a portion of the personal business documents she sent on city time. The Houston Chronicle and other news outlets sought the emails under the Texas Public Information Act.

“I believe many of the documents which include show concepts, treatments, etc. are protected through the Writers Guild Association’s registration. Legal needs to be advised,” Ward wrote to colleagues two weeks ago.

Assistant City Attorney Danielle Folsom replied last week, saying the city attorney’s office “does not believe that registration with the Writer’s Guild of America makes information confidential under the TPIA.”

Ward still wanted to seek an opinion from the Texas attorney general’s office, emails show. Pamela Ellis, founder of a charity Ward was promoting on city time, also asked the city to withhold documents.

As a result, the city released roughly 2,500 pages of Ward’s emails on Jan. 19.
With the release of that first batch, Ward expressed confusion that her attempt to intervene had not fully halted the city’s records release.

“How were emails released when I’m waiting to write the AG’s office?” she wrote to coworkers that evening.

The city distributed nearly 1,200 additional pages Thursday, accompanied by a letter to the attorney general’s office.

“The city takes no position with respect to the public availability of the requested information and will not raise any arguments on behalf of any third party,” Folsom wrote in requesting a ruling from the attorney general’s office.

See here for some background. As I said at the time, if that original story was all there was – if we knew all there was to know when that first story came out – then we’d all forget about it soon enough. That wasn’t the case, and so here we are. We’ve had email in the workplace for some 20 years now, and you’d think people would be clear on what “appropriate use” is by now. I honestly don’t know what Ward was thinking, but at least she’ll have more time to work on that show she’s trying to develop now. Her successor is Mary Benton, like Ward a former TV news reporter, who had worked for Gene Locke during his time as County Commissioner. I know Mary from the local politics scene, and I wish her well in the new gig.

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4 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    It is hard to believe that Ward thought she could prevent her personal business, conducted on a system owned by the City, from being subject to FOIA requests. WGA registration provides no confidentiality, as far as I can tell, it merely provides a means to prove that a certain concept or creative work was created by the registrant on a certain date.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Now Darian can feel free to get her “side hustle” on, full time. Of course, without the influence peddling card, she might not be as successful with that. No one to call to wrest plane tickets out of Southwest Airlines, for example.

    Bye Felicia.

  3. Joshua ben bullard says:

    State law requires the city( public )position to be available for all applicants ,with applications and interviews ,Mary Benton would have to apply just like everyone else ,now if Sylvester Turner decides to violate state law and thinks he can hire without following state law mandates = good luck with that .Turner didn’t allow anyone to apply for wards position in the 1st place, which was a back office hi five between him and annise parker .

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Joshua,

    If she was hired by Parker, why would she need to interview again for her job under Turner? Was she a political appointee?