Second Austin Energy employee investigated for misuse of city resources

FILE - Austin Energy decal. (KXAN Photo/Paul Shelton)
FILE - Austin Energy decal. (KXAN File Photo/Paul Shelton)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A city investigation found evidence a longtime Austin Energy employee misused city resources when he managed his real estate interests on city computers.

The city of Austin Auditor’s office said IT Senior Geospatial Analyst Brent Curry used his work computer, email account and phone for the side business activities. The Auditor’s Office received allegations in 2016 that Curry was using his work computer to “communicate with the manager of his properties,” and he “comes [to the office] during the weekend to use the City’s fax machine for his business.”

Curry said he only conducted non-city business during free time and off hours, and he even bought a ream of paper to reimburse the city after learning he wasn’t supposed to use the city printer for personal business, a letter states.

Auditors classified the findings as a “misuse of city resources.” A forensic audit of Curry’s work computer found numerous items related his real estate business, including about 200 messages on his computer, 30 files sent to the city’s scanners, 10 files on his hard drive and 30 telephone calls to possible business associates, according to the investigative report.

In a response letter, Curry said he has not had any disciplinary issues during his 24-year tenure with the city. He said he did “randomly” use Austin Energy’s phone during his breaks and before and after his flexible work schedule. Curry also said he is a passive investor and does not actively manage the real estate properties, and he asked investment colleagues not to call or email him at work.

This is the second City Auditor investigation into Austin Energy employees released in June. Earlier this month, a city investigation found another employee, Electric Distribution Designer Lead Steven Salinas, “solicited or accepted employment on at least eight developments located in the region over which he is the lead.”

According to the audit, Salinas accepted outside work to design layouts for telecommunications at commercial and residential developments. He then served as the Austin Energy employee that approved the layouts.

“Salinas’ secondary employment with these developers might reasonably be expected to impair his independence in judgment or performance of his City duties,” auditors said in the report.

In addition, auditors found Salinas used city resources to conduct his secondary business dealings, the report states. Among the documents discovered on Salinas’ computer were five contracts for Salinas Consulting from 2016 and 2017 worth $55,000.

The city said they were unable to confirm if Salinas collected the fees, “due to his refusal to cooperate.”

In a response to the city, Salinas said he did cooperate with the city and hand over the records they requested. Salinas also said he notified his supervisor of his secondary work, and it was allowed to continue.

Austin Energy said it is reviewing both matters to determine the “appropriate next steps.” In regards to Salinas’ investigation, the utility said it would comprehensively review its policies related to outside employment and communicate expectations to all employees regarding approvals for outside employment.

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