City Council Meeting June 10, 2014 Tidbits

city_cncl_tidbitsYesterday’s city council had lots of pontification by politicians looking for their next political gig. It also revealed how Ann Morgan Lilly feels about transparency in government. As expected, Lily Limon’s item also revealed an interesting issue that will be vetted in the next few months. Of course, in the end it was about how some elected officials posture for sound bites while doing the exact opposite of their rhetoric.

During the call to the public the pending lawsuit regarding the release of the emails being litigated by Stephanie Townsend Allala came up. The city attorney continues to argue that the case is ongoing because of the “technicality” of waiting for the court to dismiss the lawsuit. According to Sylvia Borunda Firth, the city has released all of the records in “its possession” and thus, according to her the city has complied.

The issue conveniently ignored by the city attorney is that the city’s position is that they have no mechanism by which to demand the emails from those that have refused to give them to the city. That is the key that the court is considering at the moment. The city wants to absolve itself of the responsibility of demanding its public records from Steve Ortega and others.

The first order of business was Joyce Wilson’s contract amendment allowing her to continue receiving her city salary while starting to work at the Upper Rio Grande Workforce Solutions. I won’t bore you with the details; suffice it to say that Joyce Wilson needs to stay on the city’s payroll until September 3, 2014 in order to be fully vested (corrected on June 11 at 2:02pm ET) in the city’s retirement program. If she were to leave sooner, her pension would be significantly impacted. Larry Romero is apparently feeling the heat from his constituency as he preached about how he could not support Joyce Wilson’s contract amendment. In the end, city council voted four to three to amend Wilson’s contract.

The next issue was Limon’s agenda item about the use of the city’s luxury box at the ballpark. Much of the discussion was veiled on unnamed individuals and thus it was hard to identify who was being targeted by Limon. Much was made about an incomplete list of attendees and email exchanges between the city representatives as a result of Lily Limon asking each for a list of those that have used the luxury box.

I filed an open records request asking for the list that Limon has compiled so far. When I receive it I will share it with you.

According to the discussion the list of attendees is incomplete because there has been lax record keeping and because at least one city representative refused to provide a list of those she has invited. Although Limon did not identify Ann Morgan Lilly as the individual that refused to provide her the list, Morgan Lilly, herself stated that it was she who refused to release her list.

According to Ann Morgan Lilly she refused to provide the list because she did not want to “hurt anyone’s feelings”. According to her monologue, Morgan Lilly stated that she invited members of a west side neighborhood association however she could not invite the entire membership because there were not enough tickets for all. Only 16 tickets are available for each game.

According to the presentation made by both Lily Limon and Edmundo Calderon, an internal auditor, the city’s luxury box is supposed to be used by city employees and board members as an incentive. Because there are over 6,000 employees it is understood that spouses should not be invited. The policy about spouses has not been officially adopted by the city. City representatives, as well as the mayor, are each allocated certain game nights for the use of the luxury box.

It is the city’s policy that the luxury box is supposed to be used by the city representatives and the mayor “for official city business purposes”. The mayor is allocated ten game days for “city business hosting” and the Economic Development Department is allocated five days for economic development hosting projects. The city representatives are each allocated 16 game day tickets. The rest are supposed to be used by city employees and boards as incentives.

During the discussion it was revealed that four employees have used the box twice, one has used it three times and at least one employee has invited their spouse and family members to the box. Although the discussion pointed out that it was inappropriate that city representatives invite family and friends, at least one city representative admitted to having her spouse at the game.

Emma Acosta stated that she brought along her “significant other because he is involved in the neighborhood associations”. Acosta added that “elected officials should not be policing each other…or demanding information from each other”.

City council ultimately voted to hold a LRC meeting of the whole to discuss clearing up the policy on what is the proper use of the city’s luxury box.

As I wrote earlier in my piece I have filed an open records request for the list of who has used the luxury box so far. As soon as I receive a response I will share it with you.

The last item of interest that city council voted on was to intervene through an amicus brief on a pending lawsuit before the Supreme Court between the State of Texas and the states of Colorado and New Mexico. The city will intervene on the side of Texas in the lawsuit. An amicus brief is also a “friend of the court” filing that basically asks the court to include El Paso with the Texas pleadings.

The lawsuit filed by Texas concerns the allegation that New Mexico is short changing Texas on water released through the Rio Grande. According to the discussion, New Mexico releases the water as required by a federal agreement; however it has issued over 4,000 water well permits along the route that effectively lowers the water supplies.

You might remember that in 2000, Woody Hunt entered into an agreement with the water utility to “explore various options for bringing water into El Paso”. Hunt later purchased about 2,000 acres of farmland near the Bone Springs Victorio Peak aquifer and other water-rich land in Dell City. Hunt told the news media that acquiring the water rights made it easier for the water utility to purchase land easier because instead of negotiating with multiple land owners the utility would only have to negotiate with Hunt and his investor partners.

12 thoughts on “City Council Meeting June 10, 2014 Tidbits

  1. you have to be kidding. I came by to check up on you and still have all the facts wrong.

    1. Nobody gets “vetted” to be in the pension – it’s “vested” and it’s obvious that Limon is now feeding you your information because she is known to make this mistake.

    2. Wilson was vested in the pension years ago. You source, Lilly Limon, is confusing Wilson with someone else. Wilson is being kept on because that was her contract date. If the city breaks that contract they owe her the money up front for the rest of the year and other penalties.

    Wilson’s contract has only been published on-line 50 times – you could have just looked at it.

  2. EPWU has, I think, 145,000 acres near Marfa as a Plan B for water. We own it and Hunt would like to have the city at his mercy for water, saying his supply is closer. I think that was the “manufactured” water crisis during Ray Cabellero’s term. At least that is the story the builders were circulating who don’t like Hunt anymore than the rest of us, David K excepted. It is worth any amount to pipe our own water here instead of being at the mercy of that vampire.

    As for the bribery suite, WTF does the city need that for? Business use, Hah! If they need to entertain visitors, use one of the business-owned suites.

  3. What disgusted me about yesterday’s meeting is the fact that Council even had to take an hour of meeting time to discuss policies for use of a luxury stadium box. We are told constantly how the city manager and her staff are so smart and have done such a great job. Why didn’t they use some of that brain power to set up some workable policies BEFORE the box was ever used. And why set policy if you’re not going to enforce it with required documentation of who got the tickets. Now it’s budget time and the Council is spending precious time acting like a high-school student council deciding how to give out perks.

    DavidK confuses using the wrong word with getting “the facts wrong.” And if two people make the same mistake they are “feeding” each other information? That assumption isn’t logical. I would suggest that DavidK go back to high school but his thought process indicates he’s actually stuck there already.

  4. Let’s see here…….either DK is lying or Joyce is lying about her pension. DK sez that JW was vested years ago. JW told the council yesterday that she was going to stay until Sept 30 because that is when she would be fully vested. When she found out she could leave as early as Sept 1 and still become “fully” vested, then she changed her last day to Sept 1.
    Also, I can see where words like “vetted” can be a big deal to people. They might not want to be “vetted” in case the public was to find out (1) why they had to go to court for something as simple as lapsed vehicle registration or, (2) why they had to hire a bankruptcy attorney to fight a late payment.

    BTW, Good Job Martin! Greatly enjoy your writings ! Can’t wait to see the luxury box list!

  5. To be vested in the city pension it’s 7 years. Do the math.

    september is end of her contract. Stop trying to confuse everyone.

    1. David, Joyce Wilson specifically stated that she needed to keep her paycheck at the current level or else her pension would be reduced. She also stated that she needed to stay on the city’s payroll in order for her to receive her full pension. This was during her exchange with Larry Romero who told her he couldn’t support her continued paycheck if she accepted the position with the Workforce Commission. Unlike you, I do not need to make up stuff to remain relevant. Try again.

    2. Those were JW’s own words, not mine. Go back and watch the replay (this time actually watch the proceedings), Mr. I-Only-Bother-To-Write-On-My-Blog-When-We-Need-To-Cover-Up-or-Confuse-The-Public-About-Something-To-Do-With-My -Moms-Buddy-

  6. Being vested means that a person has secured rights to a retirement benefit, which usually includes health and/or life insurance and a pension. The amount of the pension depends on how many years the person has worked for an employer and the salary level. Most employers determine the pension amount by taking the average salary over a certain length of time, such as the last 3 years or last 5 years.

    In Ms. Wilson’s case there were two aspects being discussed: 1) her average salary, and 2) her contract. She had to work through a certain date by contract unless Council accepted changes, which they did. Her average salary, however was not something she was willing to compromise on because that affects the amount of her pension from the city. Her contract said she would work through September and her pension will reflect that.

    That said, Ms. Wilson did misuse the term “vested” as did others during the meeting. She is already vested. The only discussion concerned whether she could leave in early September or receive a salary through the end of that month. Without altering her contract, which cannot be done at this point, there was no way to change her salary unless she voluntarily chose to do so. Even if she had agreed to a salary cut for the next few months I doubt the City has a process to do that. The most practical suggestion was from a member of the public who suggested Ms. Wilson donate her salary to charity during her consulting time. She didn’t have to accept that suggestion and she didn’t. That’s her choice, unlike a fairly recent District 2 city representative who donated all of his salary to his district.

    I can’t help but wonder about the sincerity of Ms. Wilson’s commitment to El Paso, which she proclaimed in the EP Times and during the Council meeting. She was recently in the running for a couple of jobs outside of El Paso and apparently was willing to put aside her loyalty to El Paso to move. Suddenly, when she didn’t get those jobs she’s committed to El Paso again. That sounds fickle to me. If she gets another job offer, don’t count on her being here very long.

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