The Reason for the Shang Paid Leave

The City of El Paso continues to hide behind the notion that the taxpayers of the community do not have a right to understand why Jane Shang is being paid to stay home. This notion is enabled by politicians who have either abdicated their responsibility to the taxpayers or are part of the cover up keeping the taxpayers in the dark. In order to try and better understand where the taxpayers stand in this latest fiasco I have put together this timeline on Jane Shang leading to her paid leave.

On March 31, 2008, Jane Shang was formally offered the position of Deputy City Manager for Mobility Services. The letter offered her “six (6) months [sic] severance package at termination”. Shang signed the letter on April 30, 2008. [6] According to the city’s website, the portfolio includes the following departments; Department of Transportation, International Bridges, Mass Transit Department (Sun Metro), Engineering & Construction Management, PSB Coordination and General Services. [1]

On April 22, 2014 during city council meeting, Jane Shang made a presentation about a resolution swapping monies between the city and the Texas Department of Transportation. [4] The agenda items being discussed were items 14.3 and 14.4. The two items were about swapping monies TXDOT had with monies the city had allocated for certain transportation issues. After Shang’s presentation, Lily Limon asking about “pedestrian facilities”, asked, “Specifically is this for any connection to the ballpark”. Shang replied that it is related to the ballpark. Limon then stated that the day before she was told by Joyce Wilson that this item was “not related to the ballpark”. [4] Limon then made a motion to postpone the item for one week because she did not believe she had received “true and accurate information” [4 at 1:57:15]. Wilson interjected “you might as well delete it” because Wilson did “not believe TXDOT would come back to the table next week”. Oscar Leeser asked to clarify whether the approval of the agenda would add more than the $64 million already approved to the ballpark project. Wilson replied that it would not. [4 at 1:58:19]

Leeser told Wilson “Ms. Shang answered Ms. Limon that this had to do with baseball”. [4 at 1:59:00] Limon received two answers, the day before from Wilson stating that the item did not involve the ballpark. During the city council meeting, Shang told Limon that it did include the ballpark project.

Later, Oscar Leeser asked Jane Shang directly “does this have anything to do with baseball” and “increase our $64 million” funding for the ballpark. [4 at 2:07:10] Shang replied, “it will not increase the $64 million…you can argue it has something to with baseball”.

After further discussion about the need for median lighting, a discussion to whether the allocation is a taxpayer savings or whether it was a monetary swap between two taxing entities. Shang said that it was not. Wilson stated that it was. [4 at 2:14:49]

Carl Robinson challenged Shang about how it is that she was able to tell Michiel Noe that she can take care of the lighting issues in his district while Shang previously told Robinson that his items were not funded. Jane Shang replied, “Mr. Robinson I have been very honest with you.” [4 at 2:28:58]

This exchange was followed with Holguin stating, “the more people lie to us the more they get rewarded”, while pointing out that there are many discrepancies on how staff presents information to the elected officials. [4 at 2:31:50] Leeser agreed that there are discrepancies about how information is presented to them.

Cortney Niland, clarifying that the projects in question abut the ballpark however they did not include the ballpark stated, “There appears to be a lack of transparency and confidence in this particular department”. [4 at 3:09:10] Niland reiterated that there was a lack of confidence in Shang’s department. [4 at 3:11:55]

The item passed with Eddie Holguin voting against the item.

Immediately after the city council meeting, Joyce Wilson met with Human Resources Deputy Director Irene Morales to discuss “an exit strategy” for Jane Shang. [5]

On April 23, 2014, Morales gave Wilson an offer letter that stated that Jane Shang was entitled to six months’ severance pay. Joyce Wilson instructed Morales to contact Assistant City Attorney Elizabeth Ruhmann “to discuss the option of switching the severance pay to administrative leave”. [5] Linda Ball Thomas and Joyce Wilson met with Jane Shang at the offices of Human Resources. A letter dated April 28, 2014 that Shang signed outlined the terms and conditions of her exit strategy. After visiting with the pension office, Shang asked that her letter be “modified to show that she would be using her vacation balances and remaining on the payroll rather than being paid out”. [5]

On May 13, 2014, the modified terms of the exit strategy memorialized in a letter dated May 12, 2014 was mailed to Shang’s home address. [5]

On May 19, 2014 an email from Ruhmann to Linda Thomas states that the amendments to Shang’s separation agreement “exceeds what she (Shang) is entitled to” under her original employment contract. The email points out that Shang was entitled to six months of severance pay while the terms of separation gave her seven months.

Ruhmann then writes, “this is a decision within the City Manager’s discretion”. On the same day, Jane Shang signed the May 12, 2014 letter effectively accepting the terms of her separation from the city. [5] The May 19, 2014 letter assigns Shang “to a special project as determined and directed by the City Manager, effective immediately and continuing through May 31, 2014”. The letter then states that Shang would be on paid administrative leave from June 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014. Shang would then transition to vacation leave from January 1, 2015 through April 14, 2015. [6]

On June 21, 2014, The El Paso Times reported, “Deputy City Manager Jane Shang was put on paid administrative leave and is working from home on some assignments, according to a city document obtained” by the local daily. [3]

On July 9, 2014, The Des Moines Register quotes Shang as stating the reason she took a 10-month paid administrative leave option was because “There are some political issues…I will always be honest and be truthful. I’ll tell people what I think whether you want to hear it or not. And sometimes people don’t want to hear it and people take some action.” [2]

I am hopeful that as you read this chronology of events you can to draw your own conclusions as to the reasons Jane Shang is on paid administrative leave. Obviously, the question to consider is whether the current payments in payroll and the future payments through the pension fund to Jane Shang are an appropriate expense for the taxpayers of the community to support.

Sources:
1. City of El Paso website accessed on July 17, 2014
2. “How the Des Moines city manager candidates compare”, Aschbrenner, Joel and Meinch, Timothy, The Des Moines Register, July 9, 2014
3. “Incoming City Manager Tommy Gonzalez starts work Monday”, Ramirez, Cindy, The El Paso Times, June 21, 2014
4. City council taped meeting for the April 22, 2014 meeting for agenda items 14.3 and 14.4 starting at about 1:38.
5. July 10, 2014 Memorandum from Linda Ball Thomas thru Tommy Gonzalez to Mayor and Council released through an open records request on July 16, 2014.
6. A packet of letters and correspondence released via an open records request on July 16, 2014.

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