EXCLUSIVE: Austin's HR Director Joya Hayes speaks with FOX 7 Austin

"While I appreciate the process and I am respectful of the process, I think in this case there was misinformation provided that was portrayed as truth," said City of Austin Human Resources Director Joya Hayes on Friday.

Earlier this week, Brian Molloy, Chief of Investigations with Austin's Office of the City Auditor explained to FOX 7 Austin the details of an ethics complaint involving Hayes. "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.

Molloy believed Hayes violated city code.

"I never asked any employee to stop work and to take care of my child.  I think it needs to be clear that I not only have a daycare that has 12 hours of coverage, I hired additional support to help me with evening and morning activities because of my job," Hayes said.  

At Wednesday's Ethics Review Commission meeting, Hayes presented her side and the case was dismissed. Hayes sat down with me Friday at City Hall.  While she's excited about the Ethics Review outcome she says unfortunately some may see the dismissal as the result of some level of privilege.

"Be it executive privilege, be it race privilege...and what I would share with those who perceive it that way would be to say that it was not privilege at all," Hayes said. 

The ethics report detailed a time in February 2018 when Hayes was on vacation and had a flight to catch. Before dropping her 5-year-old foster son off at daycare, she took a work-related phone call and pulled into the city's Learning and Research Center at the airport.  

An HR assistant came out of the building and spotted her.

"She was excited to see my baby, he's lovable and everybody's excited I think to see him," Hayes said.

The phone call had delayed her so she was trying to get another flight. "Ultimately she said 'you know what, I've got my grandbaby's car-seat in my car.  I'm on my way to lunch, I'm going that direction, let me take him so you can go straight over and get on your plane,'" Hayes said.  

Hayes pointed out she was on vacation, the employee was on lunch so no city resources were used.

Other times, co-workers kept an eye on her son during a late-night council meeting.  Or took him home while Hayes stayed to address council on an agenda item. "For her to say 'Hey you know what he's better off asleep on my couch or in my house than he is asleep in his car-seat here in the office or here in this council meeting, I did not perceive that to be an abuse of power, I did not perceive that to be a violation of code," Hayes said.  

Hayes says going forward...

"This entire scenario has humbled me to the reality of what real people go through in real situations that don't have the resources, the titles to get this level of attention and I have to be committed to never forgetting that in order to be a better and more successful HR Director," Hayes said.

The investigation may end up sparking some changes in Austin City government.

Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison is working with the Mayor to re-evaluate what's appropriate or not appropriate for one employee to assist an another employee with. They're taking a look at how and when these investigations are released to the public.  

Council also plans to get serious about providing childcare during council meetings.



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