As some of you already know, on Thursday, October 10, 2013, El Paso Times reporter Alex Hinojosa reported that the board of trustees for the Ysleta Independent School District opposed the financial disclosure requirement recently enacted by the Texas Legislature. Back on May 2, 2013 Marissa Márquez was successful in passing House Bill 343.
House Bill 343 requires school board members of El Paso County school districts to file personal financial statements. According to a press release issued by Márquez shortly after the bill was passed she stated that the required “personal financial statements be filed at the commissioners’ [sic] court”. Márquez’ press release goes on to state that the bill was a result of the “corruption at the El Paso Independent School District”.
Many of you will remember that at the time the bill was originally introduced the financial disclosure requirements were to be state wide, however by the time it made it for a vote it had been worded in such a way as to make the requirement only for the school districts in El Paso County.
In Hinojosa’s article; “YISD board opposes financial disclosure” she reported that the YISD board had voted on a resolution “asking El Paso lawmakers to waive a state law that requires school board trustees to file personal financial statements”. According to the article, trustees; Marty Reyes, Deby Lewis, Paul Pearson and board president Patricia Torres McLean voted in favor of asking lawmakers to exempt them from having to file the personal financial disclosures.
The article goes on to state that Shane Haggerty, Ana Dueñez and Connie Woodruff voted to keep the disclosure requirement in place. Hinojosa points out in her article that most state officials are required to file financial disclosures while in office.
Why a school trustee would be opposed to transparency is something each of you should consider especially in light of the recent public corruption scandals plaguing the city.
However, what caught my attention was a recent request by Texas state representative Richard Peña Raymond, of Laredo who on September 27, 2013 filed a letter with the Texas Attorney General’s office asking for an opinion on whether the “School Board Trustees for the Clint Independent School District [were] required to file financial statements…if the school district boundaries are within El Paso County but lay outside the corporate city limits of the City of El Paso”.
Raymond represents part of Webb County, more specifically the Laredo area.
As the reader to my blog had pointed out when they had alerted me to this was; “why would a state representative outside of our jurisdiction be asking about a school district not in his district having to comply with a transparency requirement that did not affect anyone in his district?”
That is an excellent question.
I also noticed something interesting in the letterhead used by Richard Raymond in the letter sent to the attorney general’s office. The letterhead states; “House of Representatives Committee on Human Services” and it lists a chair and vice-chair. As you have probably already guessed, Raymond is the chair. Guess who the vice-chair is?
It is Naomi Gonzalez.
On Thursday, October 10, 2013 I sent a request for comment on Raymond’s request to Marisa Márquez, as it is her bill that passed the legislature and to Richard Raymond.
The following day I received a response from Márquez’ office pointing me to letter dated October 9, 2013 from the Texas Attorney General to Raymond confirming that they had received an email dated October 8, 2013 by Raymond asking to withdraw his request for an opinion.
I never received a response from Richard Raymond’s office to my query.
My first thought was why would Richard Raymond be asking for an opinion on something unrelated to his district? After reading Alex Hinojosa’s article my question then became was Naomi Gonzalez somehow involved in this request?
If she was, then why? This is a question that should be asked of her on the campaign trail as it involves government transparency.
More importantly, why would any politician be hesitant to file financial disclosures for the community to purview?
Use this link if you would like to read the original request and the withdrawal notice.