Mayor Turner’s press secretary back at work after suspension for allegedly conducting personal business on city time

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A senior member of Mayor Turner’s staff allegedly hid emails showing she used city time to conduct her personal business.

The allegations stem from a Texas Public Information Act request made in October by journalist Trent Siebert, who requested emails press secretary Darian Ward sent from her city email account.

Specifically, the journalist wanted emails connected to Ward’s production company Joy in Motion Productions, which is a personal side business.

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According to city documents, Ward reportedly withheld emails when responding to the request and allegedly misinformed her supervisors about the number of emails matching the journalist’s requests.

Ward produced 30 emails in response to the request; however, a search conducted by the city later revealed over 5,000 emails related to Ward’s private business and other non-governmental concerns; authorities allege she sent the emails over a three-year period.

According to the city’s documents, “The emails included proposals to, and signed agreements with, film and TV production companies for their consideration of your personal business ideas for ‘reality shows.'”

The emails also show Ward spent extensive time working on projects related to a charity, without any governmental ties.

David Kahne, a board member for Freedom of Information Texas, said Ward’s misrepresentation of facts is especially concerning given her position in the mayor’s office.

“The mayor’s press secretary is really the front door for the public’s right to know what’s going on with government,” Kahne said in an interview with Eyewitness News.

As a result of the investigation, Ward served a suspension for 10 days for violating four city policies, including misusing city computers, taking a side job without prior approval and using her city job to attain an advantage.

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Mayor Turner said he approved the suspension on December 11, 2017, and Ward ultimately returned to work.

Her return ruffled the feathers of some city officials, however, including Councilman Mike Kubash.

“She should be terminated,” Kubosh said in an interview. “If she lied about the number of records and used government time to conduct private business, there’s no mercy for that.”

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