Nothing like allegations of unauthorized bonuses paid to City Hall staffers to shake things up downtown.
Four employees in Houston City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado's mayor pro tem office were placed on administrative leave today after city officials said "payroll irregularities" were discovered.
The pro tem office, separate from Alvarado's district office, handles administrative functions for the 14 council members. The office was empty this afternoon.
Houston Mayor Bill White's spokesman, Frank Michel, said an internal investigation has been launched to look into the "payroll irregularities," which were discovered by the city's finance officials in recent days.
Mayor Bill White said the allegation under investigation is that four employees in the office somehow received unauthorized bonuses totaling $130,000. Investigators are trying to determine how that would have been arranged, and whether it would require cooperation by employees in other city departments.
"It's a betrayal of the public trust," White said. "We will follow it through to the full extent of the law."
Alvarado confirmed the investigation this afternoon, but did not provide details.
"I am deeply disappointed to learn of these alleged irregularities. I support the investigation and fully intend to cooperate. I want to get to the bottom of this matter as quickly as possible."
This updated story has more from Councilmember Alvarado.
Houston City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado deflected responsibility today for the improper bonuses city officials say some of her employees received, saying she trusted subordinates to oversee payroll administration.
"There is no way that an elected official can police every single iota, every single detail, that goes on in their office,'' she said this morning. "My job is to delegate, to hire people, to trust people that will bring forward any types of irregularities.''
The four employees, who work in the mayor pro tem office that Alvarado oversees, have been placed on administrative leave pending a police investigation into how they received more than $130,000 in extra pay since late 2004.
"Something slipped through the cracks,'' said Alvarado, whose district office employees have not been implicated in the investigation of the separate mayor pro tem operation.
Asked whether someone might have forged her signature, or she might accidentally have signed off on the payments, Alvarado said, "There is something that doesn't smell right here. There's no way in hell I would ever authorize an increase of that magnitude.''
Ask whether she felt responsible, she replied, "My responsibility, once something is brought to my attention, is to correct it, to make sure procedures are put in place, to make sure that something like this never happens again.''
As noted by Houstonist, the Chron did not print any names, as the people involved have not yet been charged with a crime, but KHOU did. There's also some more quotes from previous Council members Mark Goldberg and previous Mayor Pro Tem Gordon Quan.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 16, 2006 to Local politics | TrackBack