By now you have probably had an opportunity to view the open records documents I posted yesterday about the firing of Steve Norwood. As you likely know, Steve Norwood is the county’s first County Manager. He was fired last month for absences and tardiness. I am frequently critical of Veronica Escobar’s expenditure of your tax dollars and public policy agenda, but in the case of Steve Norwood, Escobar took the action that was needed to be taken, she fired him. Yes, I realize that officially it was the county commissioners that fired him, but in reality, she took the led the charge.
There are two things that I want to focus on today in my commentary. The first is that government transparency works. The second is how the county handled the Norwood case.
As I wrote yesterday, this open records experience is the best one I have had with an El Paso governmental entity. It shows that government transparency is something that is good for the community and when it works, as it should, it shows that government is doing what it should.
I received the information that I needed to explain the reason for the action taken by the county government while at the same time keeping certain information confidential and protecting the privacy of those involved. In essence it put to rest the rumormongering and gave us the facts that the community needs in order to understand what transpired.
I can honestly state that in this case, the County dealt with me fairly and transparently.
The second issue that I want to comment on is how the county commissioners handled the firing, especially Veronica Escobar. It should be noted that Escobar spent considerable political capital creating the county manager position. I disagree with the need for a centralized position spending tax dollars that is not accountable directly to the taxpayers. However, Veronica Escobar was put in a bad political position by Steve Norwood. This is especially true because not only is he the first County Manager but the controversy of the children’s hospital was raging while Escobar was dealing with being forced to fire her first county manager.
The easy thing for Escobar would have been to attempt to cover up the whole mess and pretend “all is good” in El Paso. She could have ignored the problem for as long as she could, at least waiting until the children’s controversy had subsided before taking action.
The open records documents clearly showed that Escobar realized she had a problem on her hands and took the steps necessary to rectify them. She tried to get Steve Norwood to focus on work and when that failed she took steps to remove him.
As a business owner, I know how hard it is to terminate an employee. The legal system seems to be about fairness but in reality it is about how much money can be wasted to get a desired result. It has been my experience that it is seldom about what is fair but rather who has the stamina and money to get a desired result.
It is easy to criticize Veronica Escobar for paying the one-month severance pay to Steve Norwood. We all know that the tax dollars were not earned. However, the alternative of prolonging the fight through lawyers would have cost the taxpayers much more.
We know this because we have the facts.