As you likely know, an intent to recall Larry Romero was filed on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at city hall. It really should not come as a surprise to anyone because of the questionable actions taken by Romero in recent days. Recalls are the final action that voters have to make their representatives pay attention to them. Recalls in El Paso are difficult because the political elite purposely create impediments that make them extremely difficult to be successful.
On May 6, 2002, a recall initiative was launched against another Larry, it was Larry Medina. In 2002, the required signatures were only 5% of registered voters who voted in the last election. The 5% was the result of an amendment in the January 20, 2001 charter revisions. Medina’s recall attempt was the first recall of a city representative under the new 5% of registered voters provision. Incredulously, it was Larry Medina that argued that the threshold to recall city representatives be lowered at the May 3, 2000 Charter Revision Ad Hoc Committee.
The nexus to the Larry Medina recall was the attempt by Ray Caballero and cohorts to impose a Border Health Institute (BHI) through TIF districts that gave the city enhanced powers to take property away through eminent domain. As an aside, the Children’s Hospital is an offshoot of the BHI initiative.
The strategy to save Larry Medina from the recall was to first argue that Medina “had done nothing wrong.” Politicians that wanted to help Larry Medina then started to argue that the recall organizers were going to cost the taxpayers money. John Cook argued that the cost would be “$80,000 to $110,000.” When the scare tactics failed to scare off signers, Larry Medina’s supporters then unleashed the threat of criminal prosecutions under the “corporate donations” doctrine. They were helped by Bob Moore, through the El Paso Times.
That is the genesis for my blogging.
Medina’s recall required 1,239 valid signatures of any registered voter. With thousands of signatures collected, Caballero’s cohorts, which included Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar, (remember they worked for Caballero at the time) were working overtime to shut down the recall attempt. Both the El Paso Police Department and the Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division launched criminal investigations against the organizers of the recall.
On July 2, 2002, about 3,000 signatures were submitted to the city clerk’s office. On July 4, 2002, the city clerk’s office determined that the recall petition was “insufficient” because it lacked the required signature of a notary public attesting to verifying each signature on each of the 300 pages that was submitted.
On July 13, 2002, an amended recall petition was submitted with 1,295 signatures with the notary seal. The recall required 1,239 signatures to be valid. On July 17, 2002, Larry Medina sued the organizers and me alleging violations of the Texas Election code.
On July 23, 2002, the City rejected the petition arguing that only 90, of the more than 3,000 signatures were valid.
On February 23, 2003, the El Paso Police Public Integrity Unit initiated a criminal investigation of the Medina recall organizers.
Through all of this there was ample evidence to suggest that Larry Medina was corrupt. Not only did he crash in a Mexican desert on the way back from a fishing trip with individuals doing city business there were numerous other examples of questionable practices that Larry Medina was involved in. Some of you will recall that Larry Medina was detained at a 7-Eleven for trying to buy liquor after hours. Larry Medina always argued that he was a man of “integrity” and was not corrupt.
See for yourself in this 1:20 video: (notice Emma Acosta’s cameo)
On October 29, 2009, Larry Medina announced that he was running for County Judge. He soon dropped out of the race because on August 31, 2010 he was indicted for public corruption. On August 1, 2012, Larry Medina, through crocodile tears, pleaded guilty to corruption charges going back to 1998. Medina was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison plus three years of supervised release on February 19, 2013.
It took eight years to finally prove that Larry Medina was corrupt even though he used all of the resources at his disposal to silence all those who called him corrupt. It all started with a recall.
Last Tuesday, another recall was launched against another Larry, this time it is Larry Romero.
You might remember that the Larry Romero spearheaded a substantial raise for the city manager that at best can be described as bypassing public scrutiny. Not soon after that it was revealed that streets that were not on the city’s master repaving list were mysteriously repaved in Romero’s district, including in his own neighborhood and with those that heavily contributed to his campaign.
As if that wasn’t enough, it turns out that Romero’s brother was hired by the city manager to create a company. The amount paid by Tommy Gonzalez to Larry Romero’s brother has yet to be disclosed.
Individually, each of these controversial items could be dismissed as inconsequential coincidences but taken in the aggregate they sure do not look like ethical practices at all. That is how the different examples of Larry Medina’s “ethics” played out for the community for almost ten years.
In the case of the recall of Larry Romero’s recall, the signature threshold is now 20% of voters, or about 1,000. The recall is being led by Adam Gurrola, a former opponent of Romero.
It is still early in the recall process but we are already seeing how the recall will playout.
Larry Romero is arguing that he has done nothing wrong. If he follows Larry Medina’s recall modus operandi, Romero will soon begin to argue that it will be too expensive for the taxpayers. Romero will enlist the city to create obstacles and invalidate on technicalities the petition. Romero, will of course, unleash anyone he can to destroy any credibility of the recall organizers and marginalize them.
Bob Moore, like in the case of Larry Medina, might to come to Romero’s rescue but that remains to be seen. Remember, Susie Byrd, who Bob Moore clearly supports is not exactly a friend of Romero and his politics. As a matter of fact, Larry Romero has already insinuated that Susie Byrd is behind the recall. [Schoenemann, Cortney; “Ex-District 2 candidate petitions to remove city rep. Larry Romero; KFOX14; October 20, 2015]
That leads us to the obvious question, will Larry Romero turn out to be another Larry Medina in about eight years?
Or, is any resemblance a sheer coincidence?