Deer hunting on the job: Austin Energy employee in hot water after investigation

"In this particular instance the department, Austin Energy, actually came to us. They had a citizen report, suspicious activity involving this employee," said Brian Molloy, Chief of Investigations for Austin's Office of the City Auditor.

An 11-page report alleges Austin Energy Occupational Health and Safety Specialist Jody Wood misused his city vehicle by taking it home and elsewhere...using a toll tag on the city's dime.

"That includes driving north to where he lived which was outside of the Austin Energy footprint, south to a sporting goods store which was also outside of the Austin Energy footprint," Molloy said. 

Speaking of sporting goods, in March of 2018, two city employees saw Wood on city property near Walter E. Long Lake. They reported Wood's city vehicle was near a deer blind and deer feeder. "About an hour later, he was gone, the vehicle was gone but the deer blind and the deer feeders were also gone," Molloy said. 

Wood's supervisor told investigators he didn't have reason or permission to be out there.

The audit also includes a response from Wood...claiming his supervisor was "interim" and didn't know all of his duties.  About the deer hunting, Wood said he'd never hunted on city property or set up any hunting equipment, calling the accusations "absurd."

"It is stated that I didn't have any duties on the property around Walter E. Long Lake when in fact I did.  I had to keep in contact with the fire department during the controlled burns," Wood said.

In April of 2018, Wood was driving in his personal vehicle in Milam County. Milam County officials say Wood was charged with intoxication manslaughter for a fatal crash he was involved in.  

According to the audit, Wood claims he was out of town on "personal business" that day but hadn't let his supervisor know. Two days later, Austin Energy found Wood's city vehicle at his home...and towed it. "Members of my team were able to go in and inspect the vehicle and it was at that point that they found batteries for deer vehicles in his car, shed antlers and then also a box for a hunting camera or wildlife tracking camera," Molloy said.

Molloy says it's important to look into these kinds of things because we're dealing with taxpayer dollars. "Any city resources are paid for by the City of Austin and they should only be used specifically for work and for city purposes.  And when they're not, that breaks down trust between citizens and the city."

Roger Falk with the Travis County Taxpayers Union says it's unfortunate that Austin voters didn't approve a city-wide audit this last November that could have caught more things like this.  

"I think it's just one small example of how an audit was really needed in this city and how we have many small holes draining our large ship of city government here," Falk said. "This is the product, this is what we get.  I'm sure going forward we'll find many more drops in the bucket."

Austin Energy says they'll review the report to determine the appropriate action.  

In the meantime, Wood has been on administrative leave since last April.