Austin H.R. Director Hayes says ethics report establishes 'unrealistic expectations' for mothers

Joya Hayes is a familiar face at City Hall.  

As Austin's human resources director she's frequently called on by city council to speak about the effects of issues they're working on like "Fair chance hiring," "paid sick leave" and more.

Brian Molloy, Chief of Investigations for the Office of the City Auditor says they received an allegation that Hayes was misusing staff or abusing her position.

"And so we investigated that and over the course of our investigation, speaking with other witnesses, we ended up finding several other incidents where Director Hayes used city staff to either babysit her child or transport her child to or from city locations or to daycare or to a family member's home.  Or even in one case a staff member's home," Molloy said.

The report details a day in February of 2018.  Hayes was on vacation and had a flight to catch.  Hayes told auditors she was planning to check her luggage in at the airport and take her son to daycare before flying out.

Hayes says she had to take a work-related phone call so she pulled into the city's Learning and Resource Center at the airport.  An HR Assistant came out of the building and spotted her.  Since the phone call delayed her, the employee offered to take her son to daycare so she could make her flight.

Other instances, employees kept an eye on Hayes' son at the office during late-night council meetings.

"This type of behavior, using city staff to handle your personal life responsibilities actually violates 3 different sections of the City Code," Molloy said.

Molloy also points out...

"For the employees that work in HRD, this is the Director they're providing the favor to.  This is someone that has complete control over the advancement of their career, promotion potential, raise potential, transfer potential," Molloy said.

Director Hayes sent Fox 7 a statement detailing her side of the story.  She adopted her son in 2016 right before accepting the permanent Director job.   she says the city has established a mother-friendly work environment and there are no policies that prevent working parents from the occasional need to bring their kids to work as long as there's no safety risk.

"The findings of this report establish an unrealistic expectation that prevents any reasonable parent from serving in executive level positions that require work before and after normal business hours, 7 days a week, year-round. Some of the information included in the report is also false and unsubstantiated," Hayes said.

She points out the HR Assistant who volunteered to take her foster son to daycare from the airport, was on her lunch break.  So no resources were used.

Hayes says she's made proper arrangements for daycare during the day and other times but the nature of her work is being available 24-7 so sometimes she can't make arrangements with such short notice.

The auditor says the Ethics Review Commission is having a preliminary hearing on the matter this Wednesday which Hayes says she's planning to be at to defend herself.
The auditor's office says as far as any disciplinary action...that's up to the City Manager's office.

Click here to see Hayes' full statement to Fox 7.