SAN ANTONIO – Summer interns related to two high-ranking Bexar County officials were allowed to work more hours than other interns, a months-long analysis of pay records by the KSAT 12 Defenders found.
County officials have denied the two interns received preferential treatment during the summer of 2019, even as records obtained or reviewed by the Defenders show they often worked twice as many hours a week as others in the program.
Timesheets for Derek Guevara, the nephew of County Manager Chief of Staff Thomas Guevara, show that he repeatedly worked 40 hours a week while assigned to the county’s Fire Marshal and Office of Emergency Management from late May through most of August 2019, an internship that officials deny was a violation of the county’s nepotism policy.
Derek Guevara was also compensated more than 80 hours during multiple pay periods, a scenario officials attributed to the timeframe of his summer internship employment and off-cycle pay periods he worked.
The Fire Marshal and Office of Emergency Management are among the departments for which Thomas Guevara has oversight.
Last week, for example, Thomas Guevara led a two hour and 40 minute presentation at commissioners court regarding the county’s emergency preparedness and response to the recent winter storm.
San Antonio employment law attorney Malinda Gaul said Derek Guevara should have been assigned outside of his uncle’s chain of command.
“The problem with policies is when you get to these high levels, they’re the ones enforcing the policies. So, if they are breaking the policies, of course they’re not going to enforce them against themselves,” Gaul said.
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.
“If you had a nephew or niece you would love to have them in your place of employment, but the problem becomes what it looks like to other employees, how they might be fearful of treating that nephew or niece, so that’s why we have nepotism rules,” Gaul said.
Madison Dupuis, the niece of Bexar County Public Works Director Renee Green, was assigned outside her aunt’s chain of command during the summer of 2019 while she worked for the county’s public information office.
Dupuis, however, appears to be the only intern that summer besides Derek Guevara who was allowed to work full time hours.
Timesheets for Dupuis show her repeatedly logging 40 hours a week, beginning in early June.
Like Derek Guevara, Dupuis was compensated more than 80 hours during a pay period because of the time frame of her summer internship employment and off-cycle pay periods she worked, a county spokeswoman previously said.
The Defenders obtained or reviewed the pay records of more than 20 interns from the summer of 2019 and could not find anyone besides Derek Guevara or Dupuis who worked more than 37 hours in a single week.
An intern assigned to Green’s public works department consistently clocked 24 hours per week, a review of pay records show.
An intern assigned to the county’s Dispute Resolution Center worked 37 hours per week twice, but worked far fewer hours per week during the rest of the internship, records reviewed by the Defenders show.
An intern assigned the county’s central jury operations worked 32 hours one week, but far fewer hours in other weeks, records reviewed by the Defenders show.
An intern assigned to the country courts reached 36 hours worked one week, but worked fewer hours every other week, the records reviewed by the Defenders show.
A majority of county interns that summer worked around 20 hours a week, county auditor records confirm.
“Yeah, it’s disheartening for me,” said a 2019 summer intern assigned to the county’s purchasing department.
He asked that the Defenders not identify him in this story because his family believes it could impact his future employment opportunities.
Pay records for him reviewed by the Defenders show he repeatedly clocked 20 hours per week at the county’s standard intern pay rate of $15 an hour.
He said he received “clear cut” instruction from county management from day one that he was not to clock full time hours while learning the various aspects of how purchasing operations worked.
Multiple county department heads have told the Defenders they were instructed to not have their interns exceed 29 hours of work per week.
Samuel Turner, a 2019 summer intern who worked for the Bexar County Office of Criminal Justice Policy, Planning and Programs, said he took the internship shortly after completing work on an associate degree at Blinn College to try and get his foot in the door in the criminal justice field.
Time sheets for Turner show he routinely worked fewer than 20 hours a week and never topped more than 25 hours worked in a single week.
Turner told the Defenders he was okay with not being given the opportunity to work full time hours.
A spokeswoman for the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, which provided a majority of the county’s interns in the summer of 2019 through its SA Works program, said she could not release a complete list of interns since many of them were minors when their internships took place.
However, based on the county’s claim that a little over $62,500 was spent on interns that summer, the Defenders were able to review records accounting for 96% of all intern hours.
Bexar County Public Information Officer Monica Ramos declined multiple requests to be interviewed for this story. She instead released the following statement via email:
“Please note, the County does not comment on specific employment matters. County internship programs may vary from department, office and function. Not all interns are from SA Works. In an effort to be as transparent as possible, we have processed all of your requests for responsive records and continue to do so.”
County officials released pay stub and time sheet records for several interns without charging the Defenders in recent months.
However, following this reporter’s most recent request, county officials attempted to charge more than $430 for the records release.
The Defenders were eventually able to review the records and take notes on them at the county auditor’s office last month after paying more than $100 to view a digital copy of them.