As you may know, there have been various rumors about Cortney Niland firing Jeremy Jordan and Claudia Ordaz firing Taylor Cortinas. Cortinas worked for Ordaz and Jordan worked for Niland. Both were fired last year within months of each other. During this time, David Karlsruher posted various blogs insinuating that there was a Watergate-type investigation into someone breaking into Cortney Niland’s email account at the city. Jaime Abeytia, for his part, posted a blog about a former intern alleging that a Niland staffer was trying to dig up dirt about Claudia Ordaz and was sending it to bloggers and news media outlets. In other words, dirty politicking between Niland and Ordaz.
When all of this was going on, I heard rumors that a city representative had been detained by El Paso police officers. As a result of that rumor, I decided to try and locate public records documenting the incident. In response to one of my most recent open records requests, I received a trove of documents detailing the dirty politicking between the offices of Claudia Ordaz and Cortney Niland. I wasn’t looking for it, but I received the details nonetheless. As promised, on Wednesday, I am going to reveal which city representative had a recent run in with El Paso police department officers. However, today, I am going to share with you the sordid details involving Taylor Cortinas’ firing from the City.
On July 1, 2015, Jennifer Gonzalez, the legislative aide for Claudia Ordaz, wrote an email to Ordaz detailing two concerns. The first item involved Jeremy Jordan and the second involved an Ordaz staffer, Taylor Cortinas. I’ll get into Jordan tomorrow. In the email, Gonzalez details a list of problems with Taylor Cortinas. The problems listed by Gonzalez are:
1. “Taylor frequently dresses in clothing that would be appropriate for a work out or for a late dinner.”
2. “Taylor has made an accusation that Rep Ordaz may be unethical in a knee jerk reaction without understanding the terms of Rep Ordaz’s [sic] position, and has done so in open space, audible by general public in the vicinity. These words may be hurtful as they are untrue.” [emphasis mine]
3. “Taylor has on several occasions pushed the agenda of outside interests which may not be in the best interest of Rep Ordaz [sic]”
4. “Taylor has (around November or December) tried to force illegal meeting with a contractor who was in litigation or pending litigation with the City of El Paso at the request of an outside interest.”
5. “Taylor accepted gifts in an amount exceeding the threshold set out by the city charter, and attempted to split the amount with another employee claiming loophole. When the other employee discovered the origin of the tickets, the tickets were returned to Taylor and it was advised that though she used the first half, she should return the second half with thanks and explain that we are not able to use them. She responded in frustration, and kept them.”
6. “Taylor has on several occasions falsified her time cards. They [sic] was done by padding, not clocking out for lunch or for personal appointments, or just clocking in for hours not present. The most recent dates include, but are not limited to the week of 2/16, 2/24, 6/22, 6/16 and several other occasions which can be noted by email logs.”
7. “Taylor was made aware of the need to remain under 20 hours, and was asked to refrain from clocking in and out at home. She has recently began pushing her hours over the 20 hour limit while indicating verbally to Rep Ordaz and her other staff member that she was at the 20 hour mark. She has also began utilizing her at home clock in and out.”
8. “Taylor has brought her baby in to the office on several occasions, distracting her and making her unable to perform her work. It began as once or twice a month and grew from there. At one point, she was bringing her baby in every day of the week for the duration of about a one month. She claimed this was ok’s by Rep Ordaz. She would answer phones while the baby was in need of attention, and request the help of other staff and interns with her baby, distracting them and making them unable to continue their own work.”
9. “Taylor has indicated to the other staff member that Rep Ordaz has made a request, utilizing company time not necessary. On these occasions, this was false.”
10. “After being made aware that the TV was on a channel not in keeping with the goals of the office, Taylor was asked to remain busy but continues to spend hours sitting in Rep Ordaz’s [sic] office chatting with the interns giving off the look of an office with nothing to do despite her claims of email and constituency back logs.”
Clearly, this type of documentation is a prelude to an employee sanction of some type.
On October, 5, 2015, Caludia Ordaz sent an email to Taylor Cortinas referencing a meeting the two had regarding addressing issues with time cards as well as “staffers painting their nails in the office.” The email printout that I received has a handwritten notation that reads “Re. Taylor’s personnel matters.” Ordaz asks Cortinas to address the issues they discussed during the meeting.
On November 10, 2015, the City’s Human Resources Department issued a memorandum to Taylor Cortinas titled “Employment Termination Notice”. It is ten-day termination notice as required by Cortina’s employment contract.
On November 16, 2015, Jeremy Jordan sent an email to Sylvia Firth, Tommy Gonzalez, Oscar Leeser and others. The subject line of the email stated, “Security Matter”. The email read:
“On behalf of Rep. Niland, we respectfully request an emergency meeting be conducted tomorrow with HR, City Attorney, Mayor, City Manager, Linda Ball Thomas, Nancy Bartlett, head of internal Audit, the head of IT, and Police. We are requesting all findings or the recent breech to the District 8 office. The reasoning behind termination of Ms. Cortinas. The reasons why the victim was the last to know and what steps are in place to take corrective action and protect the innocent victims. I expect this meeting to be conducted after City Council meeting tomorrow. If I don’t get the answers requested today and tonight, I’ll be forced to share this with the media.” [emphasis mine]
The next day, David Karlsruher posts “Watergatish situation at city hall?” where he wrote about rumors of a staffer being fired and accessing a city representative’s email account without authority. Karlsruher follows that post with at least two more a few days later insinuating a secretive police investigation into someone accessing a city representative’s email account without permission.
On November 30, 2015, Claudia Ordaz sent an email to Detective Mathew Cristan. In it, Ordaz wrote,
“I wanted to share 2 things with you. Over the past few days there have been several blogs written eluding to the investigation. This blogger who is close to Rep. Niland and as you can tell from the content, information about the ongoing investigation is being shared with him. I believe that the fact that this type of information is being leaked before your investigation is complete further demonstrates the intent behind the complaint not only lacks merit but is also being actively pushed forth to the media for political gain. Also, on Wednesday the 25th, a reporter from KVIA, Maria Garcia, contacted me telling me that the station is getting a lot of pressure from City Rep. Noe and others (but she didn’t mention who those individuals were) to do a story about your ongoing investigation into this matter.” [emphasis mine]
Ordaz included copies of various David Karlsruher blog posts from his blog.
On December 2, 2015, the passwords for Cortney Niland, Jeremy Jordan and other Niland interns were “reset” by the City’s IT department.
According to the documents that I have, El Paso police investigators were trying to meet with Cortney Niland to discuss an “Email Audit Review” between December 16, 2015 and January 5, 2016. According to an email dated January 5, 2016, that an internal affairs officer sent to Nancy Bartlett, Cortney Niland had not responded to the requests to meet with the police investigators to discuss an “email audit”. The email states that the police investigators are ready to meet with Bartlett and the City Attorney, even though Niland has not met with them. An email seems to indicate that the meeting was held two days later.
There you have it, the Taylor Cortinas saga and the part David Karlsruher played in it.
Tomorrow, I am going to share with you the Jeremy Jordan saga that the responsive open records I recently received reveal.