City bonuses subject of audit

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Matt Stiles reports that the DA’s office has asked Houston controller Annise Parker to begin an audit of all incentive bonuses handed out to city employees, because the bonuses could violate state law:

At the request of Harris County prosecutors, Parker recently began an audit of incentive payments since January 2004 in all city departments, including City Council and those that rewarded salaried employees with one-time bonuses for long hours worked during last year’s hurricanes.

Parker said she thinks all the pay was authorized by supervisors, unlike the bonuses that led to the indictments last month of four workers in the Office of Mayor Pro Tem.

But some could have violated a provision in the Texas Constitution that prohibits using public money for gifts. Generally, cities must have incentive plans in place before giving employees extra compensation, Parker said.

“We honestly don’t believe that there were any more illegal bonuses in the sense that someone had their hands in the till and no one was aware of it,” she said after the Houston Chronicle obtained a copy of a memo notifying Mayor Bill White of the audit. “We think it’s an inadvertent violation under state law.”


The Chronicle reported in March that one in six city employees had received some incentive pay during White’s tenure, totaling about $4 million.

White strongly encourages one-time incentive payments for city employees, based on set performance criteria, as a way to reward hard work and improve service.

He has approved plans for employees at the 311 Service Helpline, for example, to receive extra pay when they meet their productivity goals.

Meeting goals gets a city employee bonus pay??? How about exceeding goals (usually the measure in the real world)? Meeting goals should mean one gets to keep one’s job. Things sure are different when one has a government job, eh?

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.