Those of you that have been following the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues at the City of El Paso knows that the city has been embroiled in ongoing issues between ADA advocates and the city. Several months ago, the city’s ADA advocates had documented several city ADA failures at the weekly public city representatives meetings. Most of them centered on the city’s failure to keep an adequate ADA office functioning. City manager Tommy Gonzalez and Oscar Leeser promised the advocates to bolster the city’s ADA office. One of the requests by the ADA advocates was to put in a strong leader in the city’s ADA office. For the last few months, ADA advocates had been quiet at the city hall meetings.
Last Thursday, the city’s ADA Coordinator, Olaf Brunjes abruptly left the city. Brunjes sent an electronic message to the “ADA advocacy members” informing them that “due to circumstances that are beyond” his control, he would no longer be an employee of the city. His last day was July 30, 2015.
Brunjes had been on the job for about six months.
Late on July 30, 2015, Julio Perez, SunMetro’s LIFT/City of El Paso liaison, also sent an email informing the recipients that starting today, August 3, 2015, he was taking on the responsibility of the city’s ADA coordinator “in addition” to the liaison position he currently holds.
Neither Brunjes nor Perez provided any reason for Brunjes’ sudden departure.
On July 9, 2015, the City’s Accessibility Advisory Committee Meeting was scheduled to meet. The first item under the “discussion” portion of the agenda was a discussion about the “Accessibility and ADA Coordinator’s position within the City.” George Zavala posted the item on the agenda. Zavala was appointed to the committee by Oscar Leeser. As of August 2, 2015, the city has not posted the minutes of the July 9, 2015 meeting. The last minutes posted are for May 15, 2015.
Brunjes had three items on the agenda; two citizen’s requests, one for “improvements on City facilities” and another for “improvements on private property.” The other item called for discussing “monetary compensation for parking enforcement volunteers.”
A source, that has asked to remain anonymous, has stated to me that the city’s ADA compliance office is being restructured by Tommy Gonzalez. According to the source, the ADA compliance office will be moved away from the city’s engineering department and brought in directly under the city manager’s office.
I’ll be looking further into the sudden departure of Olaf Brunjes and the rumored structuring of the office. The immediate question is whether Julio Perez’ appointment as the ADA coordinator is a temporary one while a new coordinator is recruited or whether it is a permanent appointment.
If it is a permanent appointment, what steps, if any did the city take to make the appointment and whether Perez has the required qualifications for the position? Texas requires those who review or inspect plans for ADA standards to be licensed by the state.
I’ll be posting the results of my investigation as soon as I complete them.