The Ethics and Hypocrisy of Jim Tolbert

Jim Tolbert filed an ethics complaint against Larry Romero complaining about Romero’s lack of ethics at city council. Those of you who are longtime readers of my blog know that the single most annoying thing for me is hypocrisy. I don’t have a problem with any politician taking a position adverse to mine. That is their right. What bothers me the most is the hypocrisy of attacking a position or another and then turning around and doing the exact same thing. That is Jim Tolbert – hypocrisy embodied.

I have already shared with you Tolbert’s demand for a free steak [link] from a local restaurant in return for Tolbert supporting the restaurant chain. A classic quid pro quo if ever one existed. I also shared with you Tolbert’s verbal attack upon a local resident of the city because the citizen dared to challenge the notion that some community members did not have a voice about where they want to live. [link] Tolbert later apologized to the resident and insisted during the last city council meeting that he was not asking for a free steak.

You likely know that Tolbert is the target, along with other city council members, of an ethics complaint alleging that Tolbert and others violated the open meetings laws. It has been reported that the Texas Rangers are investigating. As of yet, we are not able to conclusively state that Tolbert violated the open meetings laws. However, we have ample evidence to suggest that he did.

We know of the two instances of ethical failures on his part that I shared with you above. We also know that Tolbert was put into office by Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar. Some of you may agree with me that their ethics are questionable and others may not. It doesn’t matter because in addition to the above examples, today I am going to add another to Tolbert’s questionable character.

Transparent government requires that elected official act and behave in a manner that demonstrates a willingness to be open and transparent. Many of you understand the dilemma faced when politicians purposely conduct public business behind closed doors or on personal devices. Although politicians are required to disclose documents via the public information laws, there have been instances where politicians purposely avoid public scrutiny by using personal devices and holding secret meetings.

While reviewing a set of open records that the City released to me late last week, I came across an email by Tolbert where he clearly demonstrates an intent to have a private conversation to avoid public scrutiny.

On August 15, 2016, Jim Tolbert sent an email from what appears to be his official City email account to Richard Teschner. This is the same day that Tolbert sent his infamous demand for a free steak email. In the email to Teschner, Tolbert asked that Teschner call him “as soon as you can” and demanded that Teschner use Tolbert’s “personal cell phone.” Tolbert provides his personal telephone number to Teschner.

Richard Teschner is a UTEP professor who has been a strong advocate of open spaces in El Paso for years. Teschner regularly advocates for public policy supporting open spaces. We do not know the topic of the conversation and we are unlikely to know. What the email demonstrates is a propensity for Tolbert to work on public policy issues away from the scrutiny of the electorate. Even if the conversation between Teschner and Tolbert was nothing more than dinner arrangements, the demand that Teschner use a private telephone number to call Tolbert and Tolbert’s other recent questionable ethical issues indicates that Tolbert does not want to be held accountable.

That is clear hypocrisy.

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