in Houston, Texas

Authority 'not there' for city of Houston investigative arm, Inspector General Bob Doguim says as he quits job

Wednesday, Feb 08, 2012, 08:09AM CST
By Steve Miller
Houston City Hall

Inspectors general in other cities root out fraud, conflicts of interest; Houston's IG only has power to investigate complaints of vulgar language, unlawful tamale sales

While Philadelphia's inspector general was stamping out contracting schemes between vendors and city officials, Houston's counterpart spent the past year fielding complaints of poor work performance evaluations, harsh language and other petty grievances best suited for an HR department.

In Chicago, the office of the inspector general issues a quarterly report running dozens of pages describing the findings and results of its office. In Houston, the quarterly report amounts to simple tallies of cases closed. It took a public information request and a state Attorney General’s ruling to obtain all of the complaints fielded by its inspector general office. Even then the city attorney’s office violated the state’s open records law by failing to provide the records in a timely fashion.

And the office that was once said to be revamped via an executive order from Mayor Annise Parker has yet to issue a report on its findings over the past year.

The former FBI agent, Robert Doguim, hired to lead the office, stepped down. His last day was Friday. He lasted 14 months in the job and left on what he said were good terms. He also provided some candid advice to City Attorney David Feldman on how the office might operate in the future.
Bob DoguimBob Doguim


“I talked about the three cornerstones for a successful, true OIG operation,” Doguim said. “That is independence, proper authority and transparency. And I also believe that whoever serves next as the inspector general should have a fixed term.”

With his departure, Doguim said, the city is now in a position in which it can build a true OIG office like the ones in other cities the size of Houston. Or not.

"I said that when they are hiring the next inspector general, before they do, they should know what they want at the city," Doguim said. "Do they want to build the Federal Reserve, or do they want to put an addition on the house?"

The complaints received by the OIG office in the past year tell a story of an office with little legal heft, besieged by concerns that are mostly personal and often more concerned with perceptions rather than reality.

One employee filed a complaint stating that unauthorized vendors were selling tamales at the Houston Police Department.  

Another claimed there was trouble in the city’s wastewater department: “...I have felt discriminated because I am Hispanic and I feel also retaliated and besides that I have been sick because of this situation, they do not treat me as a good hard worker. …”

Then there are also substantial complaints regarding misuse of funds and labor kickbacks that, if proven, would seem to lead to bigger cases or illicit activity.

One accusation, also from the wastewater department, alleges a supervisor misused funds and was given free work in exchange for directing contracts to certain vendors. The claim was backed up with 17 pages of emails.

There remains fallout from the Houston Fire Department fiasco from 2009. A May filing accuses a supervisor of downgrading an employee’s evaluation because of a “racially charged assessment."

The complaints came from across the spectrum of the city’s 21 departments and offices. Engine operators, inspectors of all kinds, city council members and even City Attorney Feldman were named in complaints.

That account alleged that Feldman, in a department meeting, entered wearing “a pair of brightly colored feathered earrings…

"The earrings strongly resembled the same type of earrings sometimes worn by Council woman Jolanda Jones. As Mr. Feldman entered conference room number 382, several employees laughed, however, the majority of the employees were not laughing. Mr. Feldman approached the podium and laughed himself! He then started to speak, but did not make sense in what he was saying. He stated (in a different tone than usual) 'I have had a hard life.' I had to walk several miles to get to school and Oh, did I mention I am a lawyer". 'I am a lawyer'. It then appeared that Mr. Feldman was clearly mocking Council woman Jolanda Jones in both her attire and demeanor.”

Doguim said he wanted to look into the allegation but was overruled by Mayor Parker, who sent it over to the Houston Police Department for investigate.

Feldman declined to speak with Texas Watchdog.

There are complaints of name calling, including numerous racial epithets, complaints against judges’ rulings, as well as complaints of inappropriate language, in one case citing the use of the words ‘damn’ and ‘hell.'

In another protest, a retired worked claims, “On July 29, 2011, Mr. Jackson came to my work station and called me ignorant. ... I have retired and no longer work for the city.”

Still another alleged that he was denied a promotion. One person filed a complaint against “someone in IT (information technology)” who had changed the passwords while that complainant was out of the office.

While Doguim professes admiration for Feldman, he said that in the end, “the authority is just not there.”

“I had always argued that the office should not be under the city attorney,” Doguim said. “Mr. Feldman never pushed back on anything I recommended, or tried to influence anything. But at this level, even the appearance of a lack of independence is a problem. It makes it look like someone is saying, ‘I have an OIG,’ but they don’t want all the things that come with it.”

Assistant City Attorney Lynette Fons will serve as interim IG until a replacement can be found. Fons is a former litigation attorney at Beirne, Maynard & Parsons.

Texas Watchdog will be releasing all of the 342 pages it obtained from the city in the coming weeks.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Houston City Hall by flickr user J Jackson Photography, used via a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License
Like this story? Then steal it. This report by Texas Watchdog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. That means bloggers, citizen-journalists, and journalists may republish the story on their sites with attribution and a link to Texas Watchdog. If you do re-use the story, e-mail news@texaswatchdog.org.

More Stories in this category
Comments
Sherry Gregory Nassar
Saturday, 02/11/2012 - 01:28PM

Tried to send email to news@texaswatchdog.org but it bounced back. per your request to let you know when someone publishes/copies one of your stories, I posted your story about the Houston Investigator who quit. Have heard rumblings and overt complaints against city employees for years as they held the city (which lives in terror of lawsuits) hostage. It took years to get an unqualified Vet out of BARC. He killed many of the animals he attempted to spay and neuter. His reputation as a poor excuse for a vet was known all over the city. It took years but - finally the city has been working very hard to do the right things for the poor homeless and stray animals who end up at BARC through no fault of their own.

Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
“The Long Way Around”
Update:8 hours 7 min
Houston's Clear Thinkers
Clemency sought for schizophrenic man set for execution Texas is on track for an 18-year low in executions, likely because the option of life without parole was added in...
Update:18 hours 1 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Lawmaker spoke to grand jury after making TRWD complaint A state representative says he testified to Henderson County a grand jury after bringing a complaint against the Tarrant Regional Water...
Update:18 hours 48 min
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The Playlist: The Thrill Is Gone With enough House Republicans publicly backing Speaker Joe Straus to all but guarantee his re-election, excitement about the...
Update:23 hours 48 min
Texas Tribune
“I Can Cook, Too”
Update:1 day 7 hours
Houston's Clear Thinkers
A Loftier View of the Houston Ship Channel Can’t stop celebrating the Houston Ship Channel’s recent centennial, but unable to make it to that exhibit downtown? Do...
Update:1 day 17 hours
Swamplot
The Ship Channel’s Folk History on View  Houston Arts Alliance’s Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel, an exhibit running through...
Update:1 day 19 hours
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: Zone d’ Erotica Is a Symbol of Houston Freedom “I’ve always thought the Zone D’Erotica placement was one of the most charming things about Houston. Welcome to Houston: you own...
Update:1 day 20 hours
Swamplot
This Sleek, Beaming William Floyd Mod in Memorial Bend Is Asking $798,900 In Memorial Bend, a neighborhood known for its operatic street names and steadily dwindling collection of midcentury modern inventory,...
Update:1 day 21 hours
Swamplot
Houses Around Booker T. Washington High School Are Boarded Up and Look Ready To Go Demos appear to be ready to commence on a good-sized swath of Independence Heights surrounding Booker T. Washington High School at 119...
Update:1 day 22 hours
Swamplot
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 2 years 3 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 2 years 3 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 2 years 3 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 2 years 3 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 2 years 3 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 2 years 3 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 2 years 3 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 2 years 3 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
© 2014 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement