Many of you are aware of the ongoing corruption sagas over at The City of Socorro, Texas, not to be confused with the New Mexico version. As I have written previously that the El Paso region is led by a culture of corruption so engrained into the community’s psyche that the obvious public corruption that would not be tolerated in other communities continues to be unimpeded in El Paso and surrounding areas. Socorro is another example of how corruption is the norm in the region.
Because the public corruption is so rampant it is impossible to keep up with all of it, especially the illegality in the surrounding communities. Many of you kindly send me updates about the other political shenanigans and I file them away in my database. It is clear that the El Paso border region needs a dedicated investigative reporter focused on public corruption just to keep you updated. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.
Of the many leads that readers send my way, only a few make their way into this blog because I am limited by time and resources. By necessity I focus on El Paso and border politics, including the immigration question. However, once in a while, an egregious example of public corruption comes across my email that it is impossible for me to ignore it.
Some of you may be aware that the City of Socorro Texas is holding a special election on September 10 to fill the vacant District 1 city council seat. Among the candidates running for the seat is Maria Reyes, who formerly held that seat.
The thing about Maria Reyes is that she is asking for the voters to vote her into office even though the Socorro City Council had previously officially censored her for “illegal financial dealings.”
On February 25, 2013, the City of Socorro adopted Resolution 451. It read:
“Resolution in The City Council of the City of Socorro regarding councilperson Maria Reyes, making certain findings regarding illegal contracts and illegal financial dealings with the City of Socorro and assessing amounts due and owing to the City of Socorro in connection with said illegal contracts and authorizing an investigation regarding other allegations of wrong doing.”
The ordinance goes on to detail the misuse of discretionary funds that were brought to the attention of the city council. The ordinance states that the El Paso County Sheriff was asked to investigate the allegations against Reyes and that the sheriff’s department “ignored” the request.
The Socorro ordinance states that Maria Reyes “engaged in illegal practices involving gifts of property of the City of Socorro”. It alleges that Reyes misused $2,900.91 of Socorro money for gifts. The City of Socorro assessed a $2,900.91 fine on Reyes. It also asked that “an investigation is authorized…related to further allegations of illegal contracts and illegal acts by Reyes during her term” as the District 1 representative.
It all looks pretty clear; Reyes was found, by the City of Socorro, to be corrupt as a result of El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles unwilling to investigate the allegations. In essence, the allegations were levied but a court has not found Reyes guilty of anything.
Sometime later, the City of Socorro passed another ordinance, this one was resolution number 458. This resolution, adopted on 3-2 vote in the consent agenda, “abolished resolution 451”. Yes, you read that right, the resolution calling Maria Reyes (451) as corrupt was now cancelled and voided by the new resolution, 458.
However, there are two problems that must be pointed out. In the original resolution, calling Reyes corrupt, Maria Reyes was on city council when it was adopted by the council. When resolution 458, the one voiding the resolution calling her corrupt, was adopted, it was in the consent agenda, along with other routine matters. As if that wasn’t bad enough by itself, the resolution voiding the corruption charges was seconded by Maria Reyes. She was one of the three that voted to absolve herself. Yes, that’s right, without taking the important matter out of the consent agenda for public review, Reyes, in essence voted to absolve herself of wrong doing.
The truth is that I do not have enough information about the political shenanigans going on in Socorro. Like you, I am hearing the same rumors of a political power play be at least two factions along with the ongoing rumors that Veronica Escobar and Vince Perez are consolidating power bases for county-wide races. As some of you know, the State of Texas had to step in 2012 to rebuke the attempt by the Socorro City Council to “illegally” extend their terms of office.
Whatever the truth about Maria Reyes and the allegations of public corruption are do not matter when there is obvious corruption in a city official, Maria Reyes, by voting to absolve herself of public corruption charges on an agenda item that was adopted in the consent agenda.
Although this happened a few years ago, the reason I am pointing it out to you today is because Maria Reyes is hoping to be elected back into the District 1 position in a few weeks.
Her actions in voting to absolve herself are corrupt. There is no doubt about that. Those actions bring some clarity to the public corruptions charges that were swept under the rug by her self-serving vote on resolution number 458, absolving her of wrong doing.
Do the voters of Socorro really want to vote Maria Reyes into office?