As you likely know by now, Larry Romero submitted written responses to the Ross Fisher questionnaire on March 15, 2016. As with all controversies, it comes down to who is telling the truth. After reviewing Romero’s answers I looked to see what information, if any, I could independently verify. Official business should generate supporting documentation but as many have recently seen, El Paso public officials seem to have trouble providing supporting documents to address controversies. Nevertheless, I found something I could verify in Romero’s responses.
In his response to the issue of the Cathedral traffic calming devices, Larry Romero wrote that he had sent an email to Cortney Niland on “Christmas Eve.” Clearly, an email from one government official to another is public information and subject to open records requests. Knowing this, I sent two open records requests to the City asking for a copy of the email that Larry Romero had written that he had sent.
On March 28, 2016, I sent an open records request (W040490-032816) to the City asking for “a copy of any emails received by Cortney Niland from Larry Romero on December 24, 2015.”
On March 31, 2016, the City responded that “there are no responsive documents pertaining to your request.” In other words, Cortney Niland’s office emphatically stated that she did not receive any emails from Larry Romero on Christmas Eve.
On April 4, 2016, I submitted another open records request (W040594-040416) to the City. This time I requested copies of any “emails sent by Larry Romero on December 24, 2015.”
On April 6, 2016, the City responded that “there are no responsive documents pertaining to your request.” In other words, the City states that Larry Romero did not send any emails on Christmas Eve.
Someone is obviously lying.
Although Larry Romero wrote that he had sent the email, it is, unfortunately, not the smoking gun we all wish existed when it comes to controversial political issues. First, Ross Fisher does not have law enforcement authority to force a truthful answer from Larry Romero. Second, in US jurisprudence, once the lawyers get a hold of the case, Romero’s answers will be twisted into word gymnastics that will excuse his answers that cannot be supported by official documents.
On the other side of the coin, the Texas Public Information Act provides mechanisms that holds the City and the custodian of public records accountable for failure to provide public documents. As many of you have witnessed or experienced, the City is notorious for providing erroneous information to public information requests and some of us even believe that documents routinely are lost or hidden from public scrutiny.
Regardless, yesterday I sent a copy of my findings to two television news stations, the offices of the mayor and city representatives, as well as the City’s Ethics Commission. In addition, I also sent a copy to Ross Fisher using the fax number that Larry Romero had used to respond to the questionnaire. Finally, I also send a copy to the city manager’s office.
I have done most of the leg work to find out whether the electorate can trust what Larry Romero, the ethics commission or the city’s officials about the numerous ethics investigations currently being investigated. As they say, the ball is now in their court.