There has been some recent commentary on the blogosphere in regards to the financial services contract debacle at the city. The commentary centers on the fact that Tommy Gonzalez stopped the process before the contract with First Southwest was cancelled. The notion is that no crime was committed because Gonzalez canceled the process before anyone benefited from the alleged conspiracy.
As the prosecution and subsequent incarceration of Luther Jones and Gilbert Sanchez for attempting to make money off of a county digitizing contract has demonstrated, the unlawful enrichment does not need to happen in order to be prosecuted for the crime. As you know, Luther Jones and Gilbert Sanchez were jailed, in part, for conspiring to corruptly manipulate the bid for a multimillion dollar digitizing contract from the County. The contract was never awarded and yet they both were prosecuted for the conspiracy.
Likewise, the attempt to remove First Southwest as the financial services provider for the City and replace them with Estrada Hinojosa never happened. Yet, the City is in the midst of an investigation into what actions, Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero may have taken with the attempt to remove First Southwest.
Although the discussion centers on the fact that First Southwest was never fired by city council and thus a crime or an ethical violation was not committed, the fact remains that a conspiracy has already been prosecuted successfully, even though the contract was never issued. The prosecutions of Luther Jones and Gilbert Sanchez proves this.
Although many are arguing that no wrongdoing was possible because the contract was never awarded, history has proven that the award of the contract is immaterial.
However, as I have written before, it is my belief that Tommy Gonzalez has been scapegoated to cover up the more egregious issue – the $22 million it cost the city’s taxpayers to delay the sale of the bonds. Tommy Gonzalez is being “Luther Jonesed” by some individuals to distract from the real issue, the $22 million.
Yesterday, I shared with you the information I have received that seems to indicate that Ross Fischer, the outside investigator, has also been looking into the $22 million. At the same there has been an ongoing attempt to distract by going after Tommy Gonzalez. During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Courtney Niland was visibly upset that west side residents publicly celebrated Tommy Gonzalez for helping them with the west side pool. Niland demanded that Tommy Gonzalez place blame upon himself over the delays of the pool. Niland argued that it was Gonzalez who caused the delays and must admit it publicly. (Video of the exchange)
Susie Byrd, herself, made a plea for city council to embrace the city manager process for street maintenance. On the surface it seemed like Byrd was advocating for adhering to the process of the city manager form of government. But if you listen closely, Byrd was redirecting attention towards the controversies revolving around Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero. Separately both actions can be argued as Byrd politicking the city manager form of government while Niland was posturing for future election. However, when you add a recent letter from Ann Morgan Lilly to the local paper demanding that current city representatives stop looking into past city actions and focus on current needs it starts to make sense. Especially, when you look at this picture.
Notice, Niland, Byrd and Morgan-Lilly in the picture? As you can see, Steve Ortega is also in there. Now think about the $22 million cost to the city’s taxpayers. So far we know that Joyce Wilson delayed the sale of the bonds because of unnamed city officials. That, in itself, is corrupt, smacks of political favoritism and violates basic ethical principals and possibly may be criminal in nature.
Accepting this premise, then it makes sense why Niland, Byrd and Morgan-Lilly are desperately hoping that the investigator limits his investigation to Tommy Gonzalez and Larry Romero. At most, both would face ethical violations for their actions as the current district attorney, Jaime Esparza is very unlikely to prosecute them.
However, interfering with an election is a state and federal level issue. The State of Texas already has an open investigation into voter violations. Opening another only helps the prosecution and politically distracts from the problems the state’s GOP is undergoing as well. State scrutiny would lead to federal attention and Joyce Wilson, Courtney Niland, Ann Morgan Lilly, Michiel Noe and Steve Ortega do not want that. Poisoned Pawns started as an investigation into fraud by Bob Jones. From there it snowballed into numerous investigations and prosecutions for public corruption. $22 million is public corruption, because of how it was handled by officials.
Whether the ongoing investigation results in more details being released and subsequent prosecutions or investigations is yet to be seen. There are powerful interests intent on keeping the city’s taxpayers in the dark about the delay of the bonds to help Steve Ortega become the mayor of the city.
The $22 million is the underlining corruption that has led to the rest of the controversies. It is the delay of the bonds that truly deserve to be investigated.
I also want you to notice an important thing. The recurring names that keep popping up every time there is a city controversy that costs you more money. Veronica Escobar and the children’s hospital. Susie Byrd and the delay of the ballpark bonds. Both have been pushing forth a public policy agenda mired in problems that seem corrupt in the best possible light. They have been doing this for about sixteen years now.
I’ll let that sink in for a while…