City Council Ordinance is More Smoke and Mirrors

Correction: Yesterday’s city council action was a resolution, not an ordinance. I have changed the word ordinance to resolution. (August 14, 2013 08:38am)

Oh, wow it’s been a busy week for political shenanigans. I have many issues to discuss and very little time to do it in. It’s amazing how the telenovela that is El Paso corruption permeates so much that I always seem to have something to write about and I haven’t even had an opportunity to write about the largest drug corridor in the nation.

Yesterday I found out that CF Jordan, the company building the baseball stadium, who also has a former executive in jail, Adrain Peña, for public corruption is now forming a new company with part-owner of the ballpark team, Paul Foster. As I’ve written numerous times, connect the dots and follow the money.

Tomorrow I’m going to give you a quick update about Stephanie Townsend Allala’s open records request and how the city is continuing to delay their release. On Friday I’m going to share with you some information that was brought to my attention about Bob Moore’s version of journalistic ethics. This time it’s a journalist challenging him on his ethics. And another reader kindly shared some more information with me on the city’s bonds. I’ll be giving you a glimpse into the city’s credit profile on Monday; that is unless the corruptors manage to do something else before then.

For today’s post, I’m focusing on city council’s actions yesterday in regards to the ongoing email saga.

Yesterday, August 13, 2013, city council discussed and unanimously adopted a city council resolution that is supposed to bring city council into compliance with State law starting on September 1, 2013. Although I realize that the resolution that was introduced is required in a bureaucracy, the manner in which it was posted by the city attorney’s office makes me feel that the city intended to obfuscate the fact that any business conducted by elected officials is public property, regardless of the medium it is conducted on.

I also understand that it is the city attorney’s job to protect the city, and thus the taxpayer’s from liability by creating firewalls to protect against litigation. The city attorney is doing her job by pointing out that the State law does not have a mechanism for enforcing the law.

However, that is not necessarily a bad thing because as I’m frequently reminded that the United States set up a political system by which each jurisdiction sets up their own governance based on a higher authority, thus we have state’s rights.

This leads to two things that yesterday’s action clearly shows. The first is that the city attorney, in regards to compiling the resolution was doing her job when she included the language that there is no mechanism by which to enforce the State mandate. She also did her job by keeping the resolution as open as possible in order to allow the city wiggle room to protect it against lawsuits.

What should have happened, and it did to a minor point is that the legislature of the city, the city council representatives should have addressed the issue of enforceability by adding “teeth” to the resolution. Representatives Acosta and Robinson did this to an extent by asking that the resolution be made part of the Ethics Ordinance. Their amendment was added to yesterday’s vote.

However they did not go far enough.

The issue at hand is that any business conducted by an elected official by any means is and should be considered part of the public’s official record. Except for the items that have been fully recognized by the legislature as “Executive Session” items and a mechanism is already provided for them, all other city business is the people’s business.

Yet, in yesterday’s discussion an inordinate amount of time was spent discussing taking and making phone calls on personal telephones. As the city attorney correctly pointed out, the issue at hand is about documents.

Michiel Noe hijacked the conversation on how he should handle “text” messages. In my opinion, Noe wasn’t looking for clarification rather he was looking to distract and deflect attention with what-if scenarios that clearly have a solution to them.

All electronic devices have a means by which to save and, or forward messages, which are nothing more than documents, to another device. Thus text messages, emails, chat discussions and general smart-phones or tablet communications have the ability to forward their content to a centralized location, in this case, the city’s servers.

In the case of telephone calls, if the intent of the official is to comply with, and respect the electorate then a quick synopsis of a conversation can be texted, or emailed to the city. Or, as frequent city council critic Lisa Turner aptly pointed out; “don’t use your personal devices”. All they have to do is ask constituents to not contact you on your personal devices and instead have them use their city connected devices.

For her part, Cortney Niland pontificated ignorance and asked for “additional training”.

In regards to Stephanie Townsend Allala’s ongoing fight with the city for her open records request the issue was superficially discussed in that it was stated that it will be addressed in next week’s city council meeting. In tomorrow’s blog post I’m going to delve deeper into what is going on with that issue.

Yesterday’s action was nothing more than smoke-and-mirrors by city council. Although an attempt was made to add penalties for not following the law, the reality is that the city did nothing to create a culture of transparency and instead created more layers to ignore the rights of constituents and keep city business in darkness.