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City of Austin launches investigation over claims of misconduct involving civil rights officer

Carol Johnson was named the City of Austin's first civil rights officer in January 2021.

AUSTIN, Texas — According to a report from KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman, a new investigation has been launched over workplace complaints against the City of Austin's civil rights officer.

The report states that a City-funded external investigation will be looking into complaints from Carol Johnson's employees that she places "unrealistic demands on their work performance and that she flouted COVID-19 safety measures in the office." She is also accused of retaliating against at least one employee who may have filed a complaint against her.

The Statesman report states that this is the second time over the last two years an investigation has involved her workplace conduct. After she had begun her job in Austin, a Portland law firm was also reviewing her time as the head of Oregon's workplace civil rights division. In that case, she was accused of manufacturing claims that showed she was subjected to racism and discrimination.

This week in a city commission meeting, the head of the local municipal workers labor union claimed three employees had recently left Johnson's office, one of which was a recent hire who had been employed for around two months.

The Statesman noted that multiple employees attended the meeting but Johnson was not in attendance.

The Austin City Council could consider taking action to put Johnson on leave as early as next week.

The report states that Johnson inherited staff from Austin's equal employment and fair housing office and that she said she soon recognized that she needed to address "longstanding performance staff deficiencies."

RELATED: City announces hire of Austin's first civil rights officer

"To address performance deficiencies, I have worked to ensure staff was equipped to be successful in their investigative roles, including the provision of training and technical assistance opportunities both in-house and with our federal partners," Johnson told the Statesman on Wednesday. "Staff remains resistant to these efforts. My attempts to address existing case processing deficiencies by staff have been met with formal complaints, including my attempts to provide additional opportunities for community members to access the office which remains closed to the public post COVID have been met with significant resistance. Staff has been vocal about their desire for 100% telework."

The City of Austin announced Johnson's appointment as the first civil rights officer in January of 2021.

Her role includes the responsibility of supporting department programs and initiatives related to all six of the strategic outcomes outlined in Strategic Direction 2023. She's also in charge of developing and monitoring a clear vision for the office, advancing the City's non-discrimination efforts and promoting outreach, education and awareness events for businesses and community stakeholders. She also drives department programs for creating goals, policies and best practices that address racial equity and inclusion across the city. 

To read the Statesman's full report, click here.

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