An Economically Diverse City Council
City no longer governed only
by very well-to-do citizens
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2015
Posted Monday June 15, 2015 2:32pm
Updated Tuesday June 16, 2015 12:23pm (regarding retirement, not resignations, of Rod Ellis and John Hrncir)
Updated Thursday June 18, 2015 1:12pm (regarding Karen Kennard’s connection to Scott Joslove)
Updated Friday June 26, 2015 2:45pm (regarding Delia Garza’s law school)
Updated Monday June 29, 2015 2:52pm (to publish Personal Financial Statements for Mayor Steve Adler, Council Member Gregorio Casar, and Interim City Attorney Anne Morgan)
Updated Wednesday July 2, 2015 12:18pm (to publish the Personal Financial Statement for Council Member Ann Kitchen)
Two years ago the headline for the story about our annual analysis of financial statements filed by officeholders was “Austin Governed by the Well-to-Do.” That broad generality can no longer be applied to the members of the Austin City Council.
Of the many changes wrought by electing council members from 10 geographic districts, it is significant that Austin has achieved not only a geographic balance and a more representative ethnic and racial balance of power, but also installed a governing body that includes members who had modest incomes.
This is the fifth year The Austin Bulldog has obtained, by filing public information requests, the sworn financial statements filed by the mayor and council members, reported on them, and published source documents. This year the city manager and city attorney’s statements have been added. (Links to previous coverage are at the bottom of this story.)
The Austin Bulldog publishes financial statements to provide greater transparency and allow increased scrutiny of these officials for possible conflicts of interest. Aside from publishing these statements for public inspection, The Austin Bulldog reviews each one, does additional research, and questions the filing officials when errors or omiissions are found.
A detailed spreadsheet, 2014 Personal Financial Activity of Mayor, City Council Members, City Manager & City Attorney, provides a comprehensive overview of each official’s finances. The financial statements themselves are linked at the bottom of this story.
The mayor and City Council members—in addition to scores of salaried city officials—are required by City Code to file a Statement of Financial Information (SFI) and swear that it “is in all things true and correct and fully shows all information required to be reported pursuant to Section 2-7-72 City Code for the reporting period indicated.”
The council members, city manager and city attorney also must file Personal Financial Statements (PFS) that require the filer to “swear or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that the statement “is true and correct and includes all information required to be reported by me under Chapter 572 of the Government Code.”
Out of sight, out of mind
Monitoring City Staff Conflicts of Interest
Public information requests and ongoing investigation
triggers reforms by Austin’s Ethics Review Commission
Investigative Report by Joseph Caterine and Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2014
Posted Wednesday June 4, 2014 10:33am
Of the 147 Statements that were filed by non-elected officials in 2013, only 56 forms were filled out correctly, according to The Austin Bulldog’s analysis. This is not a story exposing conflicts of interest among City of Austin staff members but about the city’s lack of oversight that would prevent or assist in the discovery of such conflicts. This investigation exposed problems the city has in identifying which city staff members are required to file and found the city has done nothing to discipline those who file late or not at all. The stir caused by six public information requests filed for this investigation between January 6 and April 2 caused the city staff and Ethics Review Commission to initiate a number of reforms. These reforms include revising reporting forms to clarify what information is required and agreeing to perform annual audits after the filing deadline. “It’s always been my position that it seems like a waste to make people file this information if nobody actually looks at it,” Ethics Review Commission member Peter Einhorn said at the April 29 meeting. And that's one of the key findings of this investigation: City Code requires designated city officials to file these reports but, beyond reminding officials to file, oversight has been nonexistent.
Mayor carries campaign debt, Riley adds domestic partner,
Martinez adds investments, Cole reports spouse separately,
and Tovo pays off $528,000 in real estate loans
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Wednesday, August 22, 2012 10:05am
City Council Member Chris Riley, an attorney, initially failed to comply with the Austin City Code by not fully reporting the financial activity of his domestic partner in his latest Statement of Financial Information.
The Austin Bulldog’s June 2, 2011, report covered similar discrepancies in Riley’s annual financial statements for 2009 and 2010.
Riley’s mid-year Statement of Financial Information covering the first six months of 2012, filed July 27, indicates that his domestic partner, Denise Brady, is an “attorney/state employee.” The report contains no other information as to Brady's specific employer, her income, investments, real property interests, debts, or boards of directors on which she may be serving, as required by City Code Sections 2-2-72(A) and 2-7-2(10).
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2012 6:48pm
Strong financial solvency is a trait shared by the mayor and other members of the Austin City Council. But properly reporting their income and assets proved to be a problem for some of the council members.
Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole failed to report her husband’s sources of income, clients, and board positions as required by City Code in her sworn financial statement filed March 12.
She also did not include in the document four out of the eight properties she owns.
The Austin Bulldog discovered these, and several other, flaws in its review of the mayor and council members’ financial statements covering the 2011 calendar year.
The reports help citizens monitor possible conflicts of interest in government decisions by outlining elected officials’ sources of occupational income, gifts from non-relatives, board positions, business and real estate interests, and other personal financial information.
The Austin Bulldog opted to publish Austin City Council members’ state and City Code financial statements in this article to provide greater transparency and allow increased scrutiny of these elected officials.