Who read the F&A email warning of bonuses? (updated)

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In today’s Chronicle, Alexis Grant and Matt Stiles expound on Tuesday’s Civil Service Commission hearing for the four fired Bonusgate employees:

Alvarado, who has stepped down temporarily as mayor pro tem while Harris County prosecutors investigate the payments, said she did not approve extra pay. But Hernandez said she and the other employees earned the bonuses for doing extra tasks, including projects for Alvarado’s re-election campaign.

Alvarado denied requiring them work on her campaign, or that they did so on city time.

Hernandez’s attorney, Walter A. Boyd III, said Alvarado’s latest comments were just shifting the blame away from her own lax oversight of the pro tem office.

He noted that city finance officials had copied the councilwoman an April 2005 e-mail, revealed at Tuesday’s hearing, that mentioned $18,000 in bonuses for pro tem employees.

“This is inconsistent with her continued and repeated denials of her knowledge and involvement,” Boyd said.

Alvarado said she didn’t remember reading the e-mail.

What’s interesting about the city finance department email is this from Controller Annise Parker:

When consecutive bonus requests were received, Controllers Office staff requested confirmation from F&A that the bonuses were authorized. When the bonuses continued, they contacted the Mayor Pro Tem office and were informed that the authorizing staffers had full signature authority, which was confirmed.

Who gave confirmation is not stated. If confirmation was given by Rosie Hernandez, then that’s more proof that Councilwoman Alvarado took a remarkably hands-off approach to managing her staff and day-to-day office happenings.

Also included in today’s Chron story is the news of a new legal defense fund for Alvarado set up by former state representative Al Luna. Attorney Rusty Hardin doesn’t come cheap, you know.

UPDATE: Whoa! KHOU-11 got a look at a 264 page OIG compilation report:

For the first time, it was revealed that a warning from the Finance and Administration Department had been sent to the mayor pro tem’s office, with a copy sent directly to Councilmember Carol Alvarado via e-mail.

It said the office was going over budget and specifically mentioned the bonuses Alvarado said she knew nothing about

There was also a handwritten note from a finance and administration official saying that one of the employees who was getting big bonuses was warned the office was going way over budget.

Alvarado still maintained in Tuesday’s Civil Service hearing that she knew nothing about the bonuses and it was all the fault of renegade employees. Hmmmm.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.