When Poisoned Pawns was finalized and Bob Jones and other public officials went to jail, some of the city’s officials proclaimed that corruption had ended in El Paso. But did corruption really end? Let’s look back at 2015 and see what corruption looks like in a corrupt city.
1. The University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) is assessed Medicare penalties for making its patients sicker while at the hospital receiving medical attention. UMC officials blamed the issue on patients’ poverty levels.
2. The County, through UMC, attempted to negotiate a settlement between the El Paso Children’s Hospital and UMC in secret. In essence, the County wanted to keep children’s as a separate entity but subservient to UMC. Eventually the negotiations end because children’s refuses to pay rent on a building that the taxpayers paid for. In addition, although the children’s hospital is financially in distress, it nonetheless contracts Susie Byrd as its spokesperson. The El Paso Children’s Hospital refuses to release details about Byrd’s employment.
3. City Council refuses to install bathrooms at the San Jacinto Park arguing that the park is not large enough to merit bathrooms.
4. The El Paso Water Utilities raises the storm water fee by 8%, after raising the fee for water by another 8% the previous November. The water utility wants to raise the fees again next year. Additionally, the City levies a franchise fee on water utility consumers in order to disguise a tax increase.
5. The Canutillo School District is ordered by Hunt Communities to remove the flag colors that were painted on the local high school. Eventually, Hunt Communities relents and allows the flag colors to remain.
6. Michiel Noe attempted to appoint criminal Jaime Abeytia to the Hispanic Cultural Center Subcommittee.
7. William “Billy” Abraham kills a man while driving intoxicated in 2012. Abraham is found guilty and sentenced to two years in jail for alcohol related charges. His victim is blamed for the death.
8. Margarita Cabrera’s public art piece, Uplift, is removed by the city. It has been documented that Tommy Gonzalez ordered the removal of the art piece after a resident complained about it. Due process was not followed and the city remains in litigation with the artist.
9. I expose the identity of the Maxpowers blogger to be Ali Enrique Razavi. I documented his work on behalf of the Forma Group.
10. In emails by Veronica Escobar released to the public, it is revealed that Veronica Escobar attempted to use Ali Enrique Razavi’s blog to create a whisper campaign against Oscar Leeser to help Steve Ortega in the race for the mayor’s office. Escobar also acknowledges that she supports the notion of targeting specific individuals to keep them from office.
11. On May 12, 2015, Lily Limon and Cortney Niland get into a verbal altercation during the city council meeting. This is the culmination of ongoing antagonism between Lily Limon, Ann Morgan Lilly and Cortney Niland resulting in musical chairs at the city dais.
12. The El Paso Children’s Hospital files for bankruptcy.
13. Former Ft. Bliss commander Dana Pittard, an El Paso native, receives an admonishment letter from the army for “improperly creating the perception of preferential treatment” in a government contract award.
14. Claudia Ordaz is caught manipulating the MPO debacle to get herself appointed to the MPO and help her boyfriend, Vince Perez with his political agenda. In addition, it is revealed in August that Ordaz was being coached via text messages from Vince Perez’ county employee, Jose Landeros, on how to speak and act at the city council meeting.
15. Released text messages by Claudia Ordaz reveal a conspiracy involving Jaime Abeytia, Jose Landeros, Claudia Ordaz and Vince Perez to influence elections via political subterfuge.
16. Tommy Gonzalez is given an almost $50,000 raise through an effort led by Larry Romero. Lily Limon and Carl Robinson voted against the raise. Critics argued that the process to give Gonzalez the raise did not follow city processes. Claudia Ordaz posted an item on the city council agenda a week later to discuss Gonzalez’ recent pay raise. Ordaz changed her vote from “yes” to “no” for the raise in this second council agenda item. Gonzalez kept his raise by supporting votes from Emma Acosta, Cortney Niland, Michiel Noe, Larry Romero and Peter Svarzbein.
17. It is revealed that Larry Romero bypassed city policy to have streets in his district resurfaced.
18. It is also revealed that John Romero, Larry Romero’s brother, was paid by Tommy Gonzalez to form a company for Gonzalez.
19. Adam Gurrola files a recall attempt against Larry Romero only to rescind it a few days later. Allegations that Larry Romero intimidated Gurrola’s employer are leveled but unsubstantiated.
20. It is revealed that the ballpark bonds cost the taxpayers $22 million because their sale was delayed by Joyce Wilson to help Steve Ortega’s campaign at the behest of as yet to be identified city officials.
21. It is also revealed that Larry Romero led an effort to replace First Southwest as the financial advisors to the city with Estrada Hinojosa. Romero is accused of supporting his former employer, Estrada Hinojosa, in taking over the city’s financial services contract.
22. It is also revealed that Tommy Gonzalez paid Larry Romero for help in filing Gonzalez’ personal tax return, adding to the quid pro quo allegations against both. Larry Romero is asked by city council to relinquish additional duties, Tommy Gonzalez is temporarily relieved of some responsibilities and an investigation is launched to investigate both Gonzalez and Romero.
23. The County designates the new Pre-trial Services Department as a law enforcement agency setting the stage for legal constitutional challenges against the County.
24. Local businessman Miguel Fernandez is arrested on aggravated driving while intoxicated charges and is subsequently appointed to the reconstituted El Paso Children’s Hospital Board by UMC. Fernandez is a Vince Perez appointee to UMC.
25. Larry Romero has refused to vacate his appointments as requested by city council and has missed the last two city council meetings possibly forcing the mayor to remove him in 2016.