Austin ethics panel finds former aide to mayor violated law

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Austin Mayor Steve Adler
Austin Mayor Steve Adler

An ethics panel found that a former aide to Austin Mayor Steve Adler violated city code by accepting payments from a nonprofit he promoted that won city contracts, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Frank Rodriguez was paid consulting fees of $17,235 in 2015 and $19,875 in 2016 by Latino HealthCare Forum, a nonprofit he founded that helps low-income residents get insurance through the Affordable Care Act. During the same time, the group was receiving city contracts.

Investigators for the city auditor presented emails to the Austin Ethics Review Commission that showed how Rodriguez had raised concerns to Adler about the Forum receiving “disparate treatment” compared with competitor Foundation Communities, the newspaper reported.

Attorney Ross Fischer, one of the investigators, told the commission that the group depended on the city contracts and was in danger of losing them, which was a reason “the Forum needed a friend inside of City Hall.”

Rodriguez’s attorney, Fred Lewis, called the allegations “much ado about nothing,” but the commission voted 6-1 that Rodriguez’s actions violated sections of city code that prevents city employees from conducting business with groups with which they have a substantial financial interest and requires disclosing conflicts of interest.

The commission voted unanimously to issue Rodriguez, who resigned his post with Adler’s office in 2017, a letter of admonition, indicating the violations were minor or unintentional, the American-Statesman reported.

“I don’t know whether Frank received money associated with any city contract, but the advocacy he was doing in my office involved ensuring children and families were insured,” Adler told the commission.

 

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