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Press Secretary Was Suspended For Emails About Personal Business Using City’s Account

Darian Ward didn’t properly respond to an inquiry based on the Texas Public Information Act

Houston City Hall
Darian Ward, press secretary for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, was recently suspended without pay for 10 days because she didn’t properly respond to an inquiry based on the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) regarding a personal business.

Darian Ward, press secretary for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, was recently suspended without pay for 10 days because she didn’t properly respond to an inquiry based on the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) regarding a personal business.

According to an official letter signed by Turner and sent to Ward on December 11th by Alan Bernstein, the mayor’s director of communications, the press secretary didn’t produce accurate information about emails she wrote using her City email account in regards to activities related to the work of the production company Joy in Motion.

The letter states that, back in November of 2017, Ward notified Bernstein and Marvalette Hunter, Turner’s chief of staff, she responded to the inquiry, which came from a Houston based reporter, with 30 pages.

However, an email system search conducted by the City’s Office of Inspector General found approximately 5,000 emails related to Joy in Motion, as well as other personal and non-City business matters, over the period going from February of 2014 to October of 2017.

“Ms. Ward, you misrepresented to the requester 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,” Bernstein asserted in his letter to Ward, who was suspended from December 12th to December 27th of 2017 for violating City of Houston policies regarding outside employment and the use of information technology resources.

According to the letter, Ward also used her City account to send emails related to a charity organization that has no affiliation with the City of Houston.

On Wednesday, Mayor Turner said during his customary media availability held after the Council meeting that the City’s Legal and Human Resources departments analyzed the situation and he went “over and above the recommendation that was handed to me.”

Ward has been employed by the City of Houston since October 6th 2008.

 

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

General Assignment Reporter

Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz is originally from Spain. He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all varieties of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast news and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master's degree...

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