By The Houston Chronicle
The Darian Ward reality show has finally come to an end. But like many other sagas that play out before our eyes, this tale bears some lessons.
Just in case you haven’t binge watched this spectacle, here’s the synopsis. The mayor’s press secretary was running a sideline business out of her City Hall office, exploiting her position to pitch Hollywood producers ideas for reality TV shows.
In the first episode, a reporter smelled a scandal and formally requested all of Ward’s emails regarding her moonlight work. Ward turned over only one relevant message, but her new supervisor apparently got suspicious. Investigators called onto the case discovered about 5,000 emails she failed to release as required by state law.
In the next surprising plot twist, Ward somehow defied the odds and managed to keep her job. Mayor Sylvester Turner suspended her for 10 days. Then came the newly released emails revealing that Ward spent years using taxpayer financed resources to promote her private interests. The press secretary abused her authority by having city employees use municipal television equipment to produce what were essentially pilots for TV shows she hoped to sell to television networks.
The star of these programs wasn’t Houston. This was The Darian Ward Show, produced at the expense of Houston taxpayers.
The cancellation notice came in late January. The mayor’s office issued a terse news release announcing that Turner had “accepted the immediate resignation” of Ward and that he had already named her temporary replacement.
That may not be the final episode in this story — the district attorney has indicated she may still appear as a guest star — but Ward’s resignation is the best outcome for a drama that needlessly dragged on too long. Still, there’s a moral to this saga, a lesson for the mayor about keeping supporting characters around long after they should have exited the stage.
It’s worth noting that Ward’s transgressions started under Turner’s predecessor. Former Mayor Annise Parker hired Ward as press secretary in 2014. But sometimes people who’ve worked around city government for many years have conflicts of interest that any mayor ignores at his peril.
Witness, for example, how Mark Kilkenny and L.S. “Pat” Brown Jr. both sat on the city planning commission even though both of them had firms involved in building subdivisions inside the flood pools of Barker Reservoir. And Steve Costello, who’s paid $160,000 a year as Houston’s flood czar, also owned an engineering firm involved in construction projects within flood pools.
The mayor would be well advised to remember the hard lessons of these last couple of weeks and review the cast of characters he’s keeping around City Hall. The Darian Ward show may be over, but nobody wants to see a sequel.