The problem with holding government accountable is the games government plays to delay or impede accountability. Constituents can ask questions or demand accountability but the politicians game the system in order to keep the shenanigans in play. The understanding is that government is accountable and transparent while the reality is another thing altogether. This is true for all governments. The retort from government is that elections are held and laws are in place to force government transparency. However, it is only a façade.
Let us look at the two most recent examples from my personal experience.
The first example I want to remind you of is my attempt to hold a politician accountable for campaign funding violations. Back in July, I filed a campaign violation complaint against Steve Ortega and Bain Enterprises. In my complaint, I alleged, through documentation, that Steve Ortega violated the prohibition against accepting corporate donations. For a complete update on the complaint I filed you can read my post “Lavandose Las Manos: Why You Can’t Hold Politicians Accountable.”
As you might remember, I attempted to file a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission but was prohibited from doing so because I was not a Texas resident or Texas taxpayer. I was alleging a criminal code violation but I was not allowed to complain about it to the authority that supposedly enforces that particular law.
In my research, I learned that the Texas Secretary of State also investigates these types of allegations so I took the time to gather the necessary documentation and articulate what I believe to be a coherent explanation of why I felt the law had been violated. Although I should not have been surprised, the response I got back from the Texas Secretary of State referred me back to the agency that wouldn’t take my complaint in the first place, the Texas Ethics Commission. Neither investigative agency wanted to do its job. I basically wasted my time in attempting to hold government officials accountable. No one has investigated this allegation of wrongdoing and therefore it remains in limbo.
Shortly before the Holidays, I came to believe, and still do that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is subject to the Texas Public Records Act because it uses taxpayer monies. In my post “El Paso Children’s Hospital Needs to Disclose Finances,” I explained why I believe that their finances are of a public importance to the taxpayers of the community.
Those that are still on the fence about this should consider that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is in secret negotiations today with a publicly funded entity, the University Medical Center (UMC), to pay off a debt it owes it. As if that was not enough, the El Paso Children’s Hospital used taxpayer-backed bonds to build its building. Of course, some you would still argue that just because I believe they are subject to open records does not make it so.
In the United States, disagreements about the law are handled through a process that involves several layers of official entities that frequently end up in the court systems. In this particular case, I’m alleging that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is subject to the Texas Public Records Act and therefore I asked an elected official to look into my allegation.
As you probably remember, on December 12, 2014 I sent a letter to County Attorney Jo Ann Bernal formally requesting that her office compel the El Paso Children’s Hospital to release information to me under the open records laws.
Almost a month later I have yet to receive any indication that Jo Ann Bernal’s office even received my request, much less any indication that they have taken it seriously. In other words, I am waiting on the government to at least let me know that they disagree with me. Instead, I do not know whether to move on to the next phase of my plan or continue waiting.
Officials routinely argue that if people only followed the processes in place there would be less discord in the community and less misunderstandings. People are expected to follow the laws in place and the government has the power to enforce them. When a citizen has had enough and lashes out the government and the news media focus on the citizen’s anger and completely ignores the basis for that anger. No, I am not advocating rebellion or violations of any law but the issue of accountability is a two way street.
I believe that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is a publicly funded operation and as such, it should be accountable to the people. I understand that thinking so does not make it a reality however; I am trying to work within the framework, as I understand to be to see if I am right. Unfortunately, the system does not seem to be willing to work with me in the same playing field.
My instinct makes me believe that Jo Ann Bernal would rather ignore my request then to go on the record one way or the other. I am sure her office would argue that her job is to enforce certain laws in her jurisdiction and to protect the interests of the county and not to act on my behalf. If not her office, then which one can go to, to determine if I’m right or wrong? The question remains on how it is that a constituent, an activist or a citizen can ascertain the answer to the simple question of whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital is accountable or not.
It is for these reason that now I understand why the electorate doesn’t vote. The electorate is smarter than I am because they understand that whether they vote or not makes no difference. Am I advocating voter apathy? Am I advocating giving up the fight to hold government accountable? No, I am not, far from it, as I plan to continue the fight to expose corruption and hypocrisy by writing. I could have giving you many examples at the national and state levels but looking at my experiences at the El Paso level clearly shows that holding politicians accountable is near impossible. Not impossible but sometimes I wonder at what point does the endless poking at the windmills becomes a fool’s folly.