Employees “should not engage in conduct that would reflect badly upon the integrity of the County” reads the County’s employee handbook. And as much as Jaime Abeytia’s personal conduct is suspect we already know that we cannot expect him to rise above and be held accountable.
Vince Perez, on the other hand, has a duty to the citizens of the community, some of which he represents to stand up and be held accountable. As an elected official he will argue that he is not an employee of the county and therefore he is not subject to the County’s employee standards.
But that arrogant notion is the crux of what is wrong with the community and why corruption is just the way business is done. Vince should be setting the standard and demanding better of the community. Instead Vince is being, well a typical lackluster El Pasoan looking to do what is good for him instead of what is good for the community.
Again, corruption is not just about money exchanging hands it is also about ignoring your responsibility to the those who pay you to do the job you were hired to do.
Just so we are all on the same page, Vince Perez’ insistence on keeping Jaime Abeytia on the taxpayer dole has nothing to do with fairness and has everything to do with his capricious attitude of thumbing his nose at the taxpayer’s of the community. The question is why is he so intent on forcing this issue? Is there more at play here than just his ego?
Let’s look at the facts so far.
Vince Perez is an elected official. He has a duty to be ethical to the community that hired him. Vince also has duty to County employees to show leadership by embracing the employee manual all county employees are required to follow.
Jaime Abeytia is employed by Vince Perez and works at the behest of Vince Perez. Jaime Abeytia is paid with tax dollars, in part tax dollars taken from the very constituents that elected Vince Perez.
Vince Perez is the only one with the authority to keep, suspend or terminate Jaime Abeytia’s taxpayer pay checks.
Texas is an at-will employment state where any employee may be fired for or without cause. Likewise, an employee may choose to work or quit at any time.
The El Paso County Employee Handbook, approved by Commissioner’s Court on May 20, 1996 and revised on December 17, 2012 specifically states that “as a condition of employment, all non-elected officials and employees of the County shall conform to the general procedures in the El Paso County Employee Handbook”. [Page: 3] It adds that employees “are not covered by the El Paso County Service Rules & Regulations”. [Page: 5] The employee manual also states that employees excluded from the El Paso County Civil Service System “are considered to be at-will employees”, in other words they can fired without cause. [Page: 5]
The employee manual finally adds that employees of the County Judge and Commissioners are at-will employees. [Page: 5]
As you can see, the Employee Manual is clear to point out that all at-will employees can be “terminated for good cause or no cause, with or without prior notice”. [Page: 7] Of course the manual states that the exceptions to being fired are for retaliation to filing complaints or for discrimination purposes. [Pages 7-8]
Under “Personal Conduct and Affairs” in the section titled; “Code of Conduct” the manual states that employees should be aware that “the impressions of County government are based, in part, upon their manner, appearance, speech and conduct”. [Page: 55] Conduct being the operative word here.
The manual further adds that as public servants, the county employees “should strive to improve the public’s confidence in the integrity of the County through their own conduct”. [Page: 55] It further adds that a County employee “should not engage in behaviors during non business hours that will reflect badly on the reputation of, or undermine public confidence in county government”. [Page 55]
Jaime Abeytia, under the law has the right to be judged by his peers through the judicial process. He has the right to be presumed innocent.
What Jaime Abeytia does not have the right to do is draw a paycheck from taxpayer funds while under a State Felony indictment. The reason is simple; this is not Abeytia’s first brush with the law and in fact he has pled guilty already to similar charges. As a matter of fact, Jaime Abeytia has at least one other pending legal matter in another jurisdiction. More importantly, Jaime’s current situation does reflect “badly” upon the County. And further, it “undermines” the public’s confidence in county government. Both of these are in violation of the County’s employee manual of which Jaime Abeytia is subject to.
Even if we were to accept the notion that at this point Jaime is presumed innocent, we still need to take into account what he is accused of doing. A martial dispute, not withstanding, Abeytia is accused of showing an inappropriate image to child. There might be some room to argue that the charge is frivolous, if Jaime’s conduct to date demonstrated a character profile that was above reproach.
But in fact, his public persona has been such that his judgment is questionable. Add to that the fact that Jaime Abeytia has had numerous encounters with the law then this current situation cannot be argued as simply as stating that he is “innocent until proven guilty”.
Suspending Jaime Abeytia, without pay, while the judicial process proceeds is the only respectful thing to do with the taxpayer’s monies. Since Vince Perez is not doing this, he is just demonstrating that he has no respect for his constituency, plain and simple. Vince is not subject to the County’s Employee Manual but he should show leadership by embracing it.
He doesn’t do that. Instead, Vince Perez’ actions in regards to Jaime Abeytia undermines the County’s public confidence and reflects “badly” upon the community, both of which go against the County’s employee manual.
Jaime continues to be Jaime because he continues to game the system for his benefit. Jaime has not had to deal with his failings head-on because he continues to find willing accomplices that put their integrity, assuming they had any to begin with, aside to help the “useful idiot” out.
With leaders like Vince Perez at the helm it is no wonder that public corruption scandals are just silly headlines in the news that do nothing more than entertain the community’s boring evenings as the corruptor’s count their money laughing at the next batch of “useful idiots” being led off to jail.