As some of you might remember, late last year I submitted an open records request to the County asking for information about how the County arrived at selecting the board members they nominated for the reconstituted Children’s Hospital. In my article, “The Nominating Process for El Paso Children’s Board Appointments” I shared with you the process by which Ronald Acton, Miguel Fernandez, Patrick Gordon and Ted Houghton were appointed to the board.
In my article I discussed the results of the 138 pages I received from the county pursuant to my open records request. In addition to the documents that the county released to me, they also wrote to me that they were withholding some of the documents as attorney-client work product. The County asked the Texas Attorney General if they could withhold the documents from me. I have no idea what the documents that they withheld contain.
A few days ago I received a copy of a letter from the Texas Attorney General’s office. The attorney general agreed with the County that the documents they are withholding from me are attorney-client privileged. Not knowing what the documents contain it is difficult to opine on the ruling.
However, there are a few items that are important to remember.
The El Paso Children’s Hospital is a burden on the taxpayers of the community. As such, it is important to understand who is appointed to the board because it is they who make the decisions that result in the burden to the taxpayers. Those who have followed my blog know that I have concerns over three of the four County appointees.
Obviously, the most concerning appointee is Miguel Fernandez. As you might remember, he is currently under indictment for a serious driving while intoxicated charge. In addition, there are some questions about his business activities in Mexico and with the City of El Paso. You can read about them at this link.
Anyone that has ever endured a background check for a security clearance knows full well that one of things the security investigators look for is vulnerabilities that would allow someone to influence the decision process of the person being investigated. Fernandez’ various controversies makes him vulnerable to politically connected politicians looking to control an outcome. The obvious one is Veronica Escobar who has an obvious interest over the children’s hospital.
In addition, my review of the open records requests shows that Miguel Fernandez had a significant control over the appointment of Patrick Gordon. For all intents and purposes, Miguel Fernandez shepherded Gordon’s appointment through the process. The question is why.
The obvious answer is that Gordon would vote in step with Fernandez. That brings us to Ted Houghton.
Houghton was shepherded through the process by Veronica Escobar.
As you can clearly see, Veronica Escobar has some measure of control over at least three out of the four appointees to the reconstituted children’s hospital.
Unfortunately, it gets worse for the taxpayers of the community.
Ron Acton, the fourth County appointee, has been controversially involved with both the children’s hospital and the University Medical Center (UMC). Acton has consistently pushed for the notion that taxpayer funds need to be spent for the community’s success. Ron Acton very vocally defended Jim Valenti’s bonuses even after Valenti laid off 56 employees because of financial problems at UMC.
When the El Paso Children’s Hospital was first proposed to the community, the taxpayers were promised that it would not be a burden to them. The evidence clearly shows that this was a lie. Again, the taxpayers are being promised a successful children’s hospital, although the underlining problem of revenues from IGTs have yet to be resolved. As a matter of fact, no one has addressed the revenue problems for the children’s hospital.
Look at who is going to be making the financial decisions and who has some measure of control over them and you can clearly see the children’s debacle is only going in one direction, your pocket book.
Although the Texas Attorney General has ruled that the County can withhold certain documents I will continue to dig through other avenues. Whether I am successful or not is irrelevant because there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll be writing about the financial failures of the children’s hospital in short order.