Austin mayor’s aide out in wake of controversial emails going public

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Austin Mayor Steve Adler
Austin Mayor Steve Adler

Emails from an aide to Austin Mayor Steve Adler show the aide tipping off a nonprofit he co-founded to a possible city contract.

Frank Rodriguez defended his emails to the Austin American-Statesman and said he did nothing improper.

He’s also out of a job. On Friday, an Adler spokesman told the Statesman that he was stepping down because of health issues.

The emails show that Rodriguez also worked on a budget item that funded a key contract for his nonprofit, the Latino HealthCare Forum, which employs his wife.

Rodriguez was hired by Adler in 2015.

From the Statesman:

But four months into his new government post, Rodriguez emailed his former colleagues at the forum, which still employed his wife, with a tip: Keep an eye out for a possible contract linked to the city’s massive development and zoning code rewrite, known as CodeNext.

The city wanted a “culturally competent public engagement process,” Rodriguez wrote in the Aug. 12, 2015, email. “Read the information and think about doing some of this work through the CHC.” The Center for Healthy Communities was a Latino HealthCare Forum program.

Linda Smith, Rodriguez’s wife and a top Latino HealthCare Forum official, responded, “If we get the proposal we can hire others to do the work on it and (the forum) would have an oversight role.”

There are dozens of emails that show Rodriguez communicating with his former colleagues at the forum since joining the mayor’s office.

Also from the Statesman:

“The fundamental principle in preventing conflict of interest is you should never act on insider information,” said longtime government watchdog Tom “Smitty” Smith, “to use your position to benefit yourself, your family members, or your business — whether it’s a for profit or nonprofit.”

“It would appear that Rodriguez has a history of blurring the lines between his role as a government official and the nonprofit that he previously received compensation from and which continues to employ his wife,” added Smith, who ran the consumer and political advocacy group Public Citizen in Texas for three decades before retiring this year.

You can read the full story and see some of the key emails here.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.

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Trent is an award-winning editor and reporter, who has previously worked The Denver Post, The (Nashville) Tennessean, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Most recently, he was the investigative producer for Houston’s KTRK-TV ABC-13. He was also the editor and founder of Texas Watchdog, a ground-breaking news group that paved the way for this project. Trent is a teacher of journalism skills, and has shown hundreds of reporters and citizen-journalists how to use public records, databases and journalism tools to keep a watchful eye on their own local government.

13 COMMENTS

  1. City of Austin officials hide their corruption and cronyism behind their support for “inclusion” and “diversity”. This is what “identity” politics is about. They tell all of these fringe groups the LIE that supports their “identity” and that these groups want to hear. Thus, all the corruption is overlooked and excused. Just look at the Democrats at the national level. SAME THING!

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