Interns related to Bexar County leaders enjoyed bloated work hours, records show

‘Nepotism hires are just not in the public interest’, government accountability expert says

Interns related to two high-ranking Bexar County leaders at times worked an average of 56 hours a week or more, according to compensation records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

SAN ANTONIO – Interns related to two high-ranking Bexar County leaders at times worked an average of 56 hours a week or more, according to compensation records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders.

The paystubs cover the 2019 summer internships of Madison Dupuis and Derek Guevara, both of whom are third-degree blood relatives of county leaders, public records reveal. Employee relatives within three degrees include nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles and are prohibited under the county’s nepotism policy.

Dupuis is the niece of Public Works Director Renee Green, while Guevara is the nephew of County Manager Chief of Staff Thomas Guevara, background checks show.

The release of internship pay records for the duo comes as multiple county department heads told the Defenders they had been instructed to not have their interns exceed 29 hours of work per week.

Madison Dupuis

The LinkedIn page of Dupuis, 24, states that she interned with the county’s Public Information Office from May through August of last year.

A budget transfer explanation, obtained by the Defenders following an open records request, shows that $6,000 was moved in late May 2019 to allocate additional funding for a Summer Intern PIO “for up to 29 hours a week, for 8 weeks.”

The number of weekly hours listed and length of the internship matched what was contained in intern budget transfers for other county departments, records viewed by the Defenders show.

Officials have not said if the budget transfer was specifically for Dupuis’ position, as she earned in excess of $6,000, according to compensation records.

The budget explanation also states the transfer was meant to allocate funding for a temporary high school intern, even though Dupuis was several years removed from high school at the time of her internship.

Dupuis, however, began working full-time shortly after her internship began, logging an average of 40 hours per week for most of June and into July of last year, when calculating her pay based on the standard $15 an hour paid to county interns.

Bexar County compensation records show 2019 summer intern Madison Dupuis was paid for 112 hours during a single pay period. (KSAT)

For the last week of July and the first week of August last year, Dupuis averaged 56 hours of work per week, compensation records show.

Bexar County Public Information Officer Monica Ramos told the Defenders outside Commissioners Court last week that Dupuis assisted with the county’s opioid lawsuit.

Ramos, however, has not responded to multiple formal inquiries about which of Dupuis’ job duties required her to work so many hours.

A packed hallway outside Bexar County Commissioners Court on Dec. 15, 2020. (KSAT)

The Defenders last week attempted to speak with Green at Commissioners Court but were told by Ramos it would need to wait until after Green had completed her presentations.

After the Defenders waited for nearly five hours in an often overcrowded hallway outside court where social distancing measures were not properly being followed, Ramos informed this reporter Green had taken part in a meeting in another part of the building and had left for the day.

Bexar County Public Works Director Renee Green looks at a KSAT 12 camera during a commissioners court meeting earlier this month. She left without answering questions about her niece's 2019 summer internship. (KSAT)

Public records indicate Dupuis no longer lives in the San Antonio area.

Derek Guevara

Paystub records show Derek Guevara, 22, was assigned to the county’s Fire Marshal and Office of Emergency Management from June through most of August last year.

Guevara averaged 56 hours of work for his first two weeks of the internship, when calculating his pay based on the standard $15 an hour paid to county interns.

For the last week of July and first week of August last year, Guevara was compensated for 120 hours worked, or 60 hours per week, paystub records confirm.

County officials this month denied accusations that Guevara’s placement in those departments ran afoul of the county’s nepotism policy, even though the departments are among the group for which his uncle, Thomas Guevara, has oversight.

County records show that since January 2017, Thomas Guevara is the “day-to-day point of contact” for a list of departments that includes both the Office of Emergency Management and the Fire Marshal’s Office.

The Bexar County Fire Marshal's Office in the 9800 block of Southton Road. (KSAT)

Thomas Guevara, for example, reviews out of cycle budget requests for the fire marshal, including the addition of new positions.

Derek Guevara did not respond to a request for comment left with a family member at his San Antonio-area home.

Thomas Guevara ignored questions from the Defenders as he walked out of court last week.

County Manager David Smith also did not acknowledge questions from the Defenders about the interns’ hours before walking into a room designated for authorized county personnel only.

County Manager David Smith (center) and Chief of Staff Thomas Guevara (right) ignore questions from Dillon Collier earlier this month following commissioners court. (KSAT)

The county’s nepotism policy states that no person may work in an office or department if his or her direct or indirect supervisor is a blood relative within three degrees or fewer.

Employee relatives within three degrees include nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles.

“When taxpayer funds are used to pay a government employee, I think people expect that the person who’s hired is hired based on their qualifications and the quality of their work. Doesn’t matter if that position is an intern or a supervisor. The outcome is the same. The perception of impropriety is going to be the same for the people,” said Adrian Shelley, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen.

The Austin-based nonprofit champions the voice of the consumer in the halls of power.

“If somebody is hired who has a blood relationship to a person who is under their supervision, direct or indirect, that is a nepotism hire. Nepotism hires are just not in the public interest,” said Shelley, when asked about the internship of Derek Guevara.

Bexar County Fire Marshal Chris Lopez declined to describe what Derek Guevara’s internship responsibilities entailed and instead referred all of our questions to Ramos.

Ramos has not yet responded to multiple inquiries about Derek Guevara’s job duties.

Ramos, in a written statement, defended the county’s 2019 summer internship program:

Ramos declined multiple requests to be interviewed for this story.

In a subsequent written statement, she said, “neither intern worked in excess of allotted hours. After checking with the Auditor’s office, paycheck stubs reflect more than 2 weeks of hours worked due to off-cycle pay periods and the timeframes for their summer internship employment.”

Ramos has so far not provided any documents that support this statement.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.