District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño has called accusations that he used City resources for his re-election campaign “unfounded and untrue,” adding that he and his staff “go through painstaking measures to make sure there’s an actual separation between campaign and City work.
“Ethics [are] very, very important in this role. We take that very seriously,” Treviño told the Rivard Report on Wednesday. “We consult with the City attorney’s office almost daily. That’s something that can be reported from many folks I work with and around City Hall.”
The accusations were made by Desireé Luckey, a former council aide to Treviño who worked for him beginning in January 2015. Luckey, who left Treviño’s office in June 2016 to attend Georgetown University Law School, said that she and other staffers were “explicitly asked” by Treviño Chief of Staff Jay Podjenski and Senior Policy Advisor Jed Maebius more than once to complete campaign assignments during work hours.
Luckey said Treviño once asked her to edit an infographic to be used at campaign and fundraising events.
“I can access the materials I edited that were originally for District 1 official use that were edited on City computers for campaign purposes,” Luckey told the Rivard Report via email Wednesday. “At the time, I didn’t have a functioning personal laptop, so I can say for sure all that I did was on City resources. I sat next to colleagues on the phone with donors in City Hall. A colleague and I sat in a zoning meeting working on a flyer and a constituent remarked on it.”
Since council aides are contract workers, Luckey said, she complied with each request and didn’t report being given the tasks for fear of potentially losing her job.
“Even if Treviño was not always aware of the political activity,” she added, “it certainly took place.”
Maebius, Podjenski, and Treviño said that they were surprised by Luckey’s comments, especially since they thought she left on good terms, attending an office holiday party last December, six months after she quit. For her part, Luckey said she bears Treviño no ill will.
“I hope, for the sake of D1 residents, that if he’s re-elected he’ll do a good job for the constituents,” she said. “But I think it’s important as people make decisions to be fully informed, and if campaign ethics are important to them, this is something they should know.”
Treviño faces local technology lawyer Michael Montaño in the District 1 runoff election on Saturday. Montaño had his own ethics called into question following the first round of balloting when news surfaced of a 2002 arrest on charges of voter fraud. Then a student at Yale University, Montaño allegedly falsely claimed to have witnessed voters’ signatures on absentee-ballot applications. The felony charges eventually were expunged from his record.
Montaño sees the latest accusations against Treviño as “only part of Treviño’s longstanding pattern of using taxpayer resources to promote his political career,” according to an email sent Wednesday from his campaign.
“District 1 residents now know that instead of answering their calls, Mr. Treviño has been using his office and taxpayers’ money to promote his political career—this is unacceptable,” Montaño said in a statement. “Public service is about serving the people, not serving yourself. Residents of District 1 deserve better.”
Treviño denied Montaño’s allegations.
“I don’t give any credence to what [Montaño] has to say,” he said. “He’s unfortunately been very accusatory from the get-go.”
Podjenski, who was worked for the Councilman for about two years, said that Treviño’s staffers are careful about keeping campaign activities separate from Council work.
“We’ve always made a very distinct line if anyone wants to volunteer on the campaign to make sure that that’s an open invitation and that staff doesn’t do campaign work on City time with City resources,” he said. “The councilman has always invited staff to attend his campaign events and there’s no compulsion for them to do so, and if they want to and are available, great, if they don’t, great. There are no penalties.”
Maebius has worked at City Hall since 2005, first as a City Council liaison for former Mayor Phil Hardberger and later for Hardberger’s successor, Julián Castro. Maebius assumed his post for Treviño after Castro left office.
“Since my role as the mayor’s liaison to the council,” Maibus said, “I worked with all the council members on a daily basis and [Treviño] certainly is at the top of the list in terms of passion for the job, his vision, and his ethics.”