As most of you know, late last year, the El Paso city council contracted Ross Fischer to report on the various issues surrounding the aborted attempt to replace the financial advisors for the city. You also likely know that city council discussed Tommy Gonzalez in executive session yesterday. With all of the controversies surrounding Larry Romero, Tommy Gonzalez and the financial services contracts, the common notion that has manifested itself across the community is that Fischer’s investigation is limited to the Larry Romero-Tommy Gonzalez issue. However, that may not be true.
In the last few weeks I have received information that Ross Fischer has been investigating the $22 million additional cost in bonds that the city’ taxpayers have been forced to pay. In addition to that, one person, with personal knowledge, informed me that Ross Fischer has requested documents about the delay of the bonds.
As you know, recent emails released via open records requests, show that the sale of the bonds, to fund the ballpark, were delayed by Joyce Wilson because unnamed city council members requested that they be delayed because of the “upcoming general election.” Steve Ortega was running against Oscar Leeser. The emails clearly showed that “several council members raised concerns about the timing of this activity (the sale of the bonds) in relations to the upcoming general election.”
Joyce Wilson has refused to name the “several council members.”
The problem for Joyce Wilson and the unnamed city council members is that if it is proved that they conspired to delay the sale of the ballpark bonds to accommodate an election then a case can be made that city officials interfered with the general election. As you know, government officials are prohibited from using government resources to manipulate the outcome of an election.
There have been various news reports suggesting that Ross Fischer’s investigation is limited to the actions taken by Larry Romero and Tommy Gonzalez in regards to the financial services contract and the controversial street projects. There has also been public commentary about the scope of Fisher’s contract.
The contract, itself, details that Ross Fischer will “provide legal support to the El Paso Ethics Commission,” review “the actions of all City Officers and personnel regarding the actions which led up to the solicitation of a financial advisor” and to review the city’s compliance with the “Texas Information Act.” It is important to note that the scope of the review of the financial services contract controversy has been limited to those actions commencing “in 2013.”
As you can see, the ethics investigation contract does not limit Ross Fisher to Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero.
The information that I have seems to indicate that Ross Fischer has also been looking into what role Joyce Wilson and unnamed city representatives may have played in the delay of the bond sale. This is, obviously, in addition to what roles Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero payed in the financial services debacle.
I previously wrote that the focus on Larry Romero and Tommy Gonzalez has been a distraction about the actions taken by the former city officials. The El Paso Times, in particular, has ignored the Wilson connection. I believe that certain community members are actively engaged in protecting Joyce Wilson and other city representatives from scrutiny. Gonzalez is the scapegoat they are using to distract you.
Just look at what transpired at yesterday’s special city council meeting and pay close attention to how Courtney Niland tried to scapegoat Tommy Gonzalez when he was being praised by some community members about the west side pool. Niland had to be interrupted by the mayor in order to allow the meeting to continue. In addition, Susie Byrd commented about how a strong mayor form of government is different from a city manager format. Byrd tried to refocus attention the Larry Romero street debacle with her public comments.
As an active participant in the ballpark bonds, Susie Byrd has liability as well as Joyce Wilson.
If in fact, Ross Fisher has been investigating the delay of the bonds then there is a possibility that Joyce Wilson and former, as well as some current, city representatives may be facing criminal and ethical investigations for their roles in the delay of the bonds.
As many of you have noted, many of the white-collar criminals end up in jail, not for the actual crime, but for the subsequent cover up of the crime.