For those of you that still do not believe that El Paso is a scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours kind of town I’m going to offer you another example as proof. As most of you remember, Leila Melendez was Joyce Wilson’s Chief of Staff at the city when Wilson was the city manager. Melendez was the facilitator for many of the things that many of us complain that has led El Paso to the financial crisis it is heading towards at lightning speed.
Melendez was appointed Wilson’s Chief of Staff on August 8, 2008. This was almost four years after Wilson become the city’s city manager. In September of 2013, Leila Melendez was appointed the city’s Interim Deputy Director of Engineering & Construction Management Department. Joyce Wilson submitted her resignation letter as city manager about a month later. Melendez’s new position put her in charge of the city’s engineering department that is central to many current controversies at the city.
Before we take a look at some of the most controversial items, let me bring up the public scapegoat for the whole fiasco, you know person who has been blamed for the problems.
Irene D. Ramirez, who had served as the assistant city engineer was appointed interim city engineer in 2013. On March, of this year, Ramirez was appointed the city engineer. Ramirez abruptly retired in July.
It is not known to what extent Ramirez was involved in the fiasco as it is unlikely that she will speak out because as the city normally does to keep secrets, Ramirez is being allowed to “retire” at your expense.
As you know, the Engineering Department was singled out as responsible for the MPO money issues, the debacles of San Jacinto and Barron Park among other instances of dissatisfactions with the department.
On September 2014, Melendez left the city. However, before she left the city, she was overseeing the city’s department when three of the most recent controversies were executed by the city.
In November 2013, the Barron Park project was awarded to Spartan Construction. In January 2014, Basic IDIQ was awarded the San Jacinto project. I do not need to remind you of the problems with those two projects.
A few weeks ago there was some controversy, initiated by Claudia Ordaz’ quest to be put on the MPO, which revealed some more problems associated to the city’s engineering department. It is still unclear how much money, if any was lost at the MPO by the city, but it has been established that the city’s incompetence led to the controversy.
Some of the “lost” monies include projects that were “deprogrammed” in August of 2014. These include the Paso Del Norte Roundabout, the Five Point’s Quiet Zone and other projects because the city improperly submitted applications for funding. In May 2014, the city was unable to secure $24 million for the Zaragoza project because the city was unable to start the project.
On August 10, 2015, the El Paso, Inc. quoted Tommy Gonzalez as follows:
“When I first got here there were five projects right before I got here that didn’t make it in the MPO process. There were another four projects that were submitted right when I got here that didn’t make here and I asked, why were these projects submitted if they weren’t ready? The environmentals weren’t done, the CMAQ analysis wasn’t done, just basic things. The right of way wasn’t acquired. Why would you submit it for review if those things weren’t done? That’s pretty simple stuff.” Tommy Gonzalez was appointed the city manager in June 2014.
The same El Paso, Inc. article quotes Cortney Niland as follows:
“There’s a tremendous amount of restructuring that’s happening in that area, so much that Mr. Gonzalez felt it was necessary to recommend outsourcing the department.” She was referring to the city’s engineering department.
As of this month, the city’s engineering department has been essentially, gutted. Tommy Gonzalez has started to outsource many of its functions.
All of these instances of controversial projects happened at the time that Leila Melendez was overseeing the engineering department as the Interim Deputy Director of Engineering & Construction Management Department. Was Leila Melendez one of those “restructurings” that Niland alluded to?
The same month that Melendez left the city, she started working at Workforce Solutions Borderplex. Joyce Wilson is the CEO. As the Finance and Administrative Services Manager, Melendez is responsible for the finances, the contracts and the information technology of the Workforce.
As you can clearly see, first Joyce Wilson ensures that Melendez is employed by putting her in charge of the city’s engineering department shortly before Wilson announces her retirement. Once it became apparent that the department Melendez was overseeing was becoming embroiled in controversy, and possibly, after Wilson could create a position for her, Wilson reemployed Melendez at the Workforce Solutions Borderplex.
Clearly, the dots connect between the two, all at your expense. Workforce Solutions Borderplex is a non-profit that is supported by federal and state funds. In other words, your tax dollars are paying both Joyce Wilson and Leila Melendez’ salaries.
This is just one more example of how politics operates in El Paso, where your tax dollars are used to pay for employees that help each other along building fiefdoms of power for their employment futures, at your expense.