Cortney Niland Recall Effort

 

Michael Patino, a Union Plaza resident has filed paperwork to recall City Representative Cortney Niland.  According to El Paso Proud, the paperwork cites 7 reasons:

  • Failure to listen to the concerns of her constituents
  • Lack of respect for residents
  • Failure to keep the highest ethical standards
  • Failure to respond t constituents of District 8
  • Failure to protect her constituents in Union Plaza from displacement and demolition
  • Failure to protect her constituents in Union Plaza from the threat of eminent domain

Now Cortney Niland is walking back from the arena.  According to KVIA: “So when they are saying to me they are upset and maybe there are some unintended consequences that maybe staff did not factor into the equation, we maybe need to take stop and listen,” Niland said.  She is also saying that there are some alternatives:  “I think we might have something pretty exciting to talk about on Tuesday. Where we can still do it in that fiscally responsible way, save the taxpayers money, not displace anyone and make everybody happy,” Niland said. If these alternatives were available, why weren’t they considered in the first place?

News reports are saying that it is possible that other City Reps could also face recall.  It is incredibly difficult to recall someone in El Paso, largely because nobody votes!  Here are the steps required for a recall:

  1.  File notice of the recall effort with the City Clerk
  2. You have 60 days from filing to collect signatures of 20% (more than 700) of registered voters who voted in the last election for that position (in this case, the last election for District 8 representative).  If you are a registered voter, upset at Cortney Niland BUT didn’t vote in that election, it doesn’t matter how many petitions you sign, your signature doesn’t count.
  3. Signing the petition has some pretty strict rules:  signatures must be in ink, signer must enter their address, voter id number and date petition was signed.
  4. One signer on each paper must make an oath that each signature is that of the person who it purports to be.
  5. Within 10 days of filing the signed petition, the City Clerk and determine if it was signed by enough qualified voters.  If the petition is insufficient, then an extra ten days to get additional signatures.
  6. IF the petition is adequate, then it goes to the City Council.  If the person doesn’t resign, then a recall election is scheduled.

cn-recall

For the recall?  Against the recall?  Let us know!

 

PIP PIP Tommy Gonzalez

“A performance improvement plan (PIP), also known as a performance action plan, is a great way to give struggling employees the opportunity to succeed while still holding them accountable for past performance. It is not always clear why an employee has poor performance.”  – The Society for Human Resource Management

So, after reviewing the Ross Fischer report, the City Council has elected to place City Manager Tommy Gonzalez on a performance improvement plan (PIP).  The plan was reviewed with Mr. Gonzalez during a closed session on Tuesday.  No details are being released about the plan or about what was discussed in Tuesday’s meeting:  “It being a personnel matter, there is no discussion on personal matters,” Leeser said. (You can read the KFOX story here).

Have you or a colleague ever been placed on a PIP?  How often does that person actually stick around?  It has been our experience that the person either does not fulfill the requirements of the improvement plan and is subsequently fired OR they see the writing on the wall and leave.  We wonder how much longer Tommy Gonzalez is going to  be around.

The Ross Fischer Report & The El Paso Times

This weekend the El Paso Times did a three part editorial on the Ross Fischer report.  Here are our summaries of those articles:

  1.  Wilson Must Answer Ballpark Bond Questions:  The El Paso Times is trying to simultaneously take Wilson to task while defending her and saying that the additional money doesn’t really matter because “The bonds are being repaid by hotel-motel tax money, not property taxes.” and because El Paso will have the opportunity to refinance the bonds.  Doesn’t that make you feel better?
  2. El Pasoans, Speak Up On City Government: In this editorial, the El Paso Times has decided that the solution to getting Wilson to talk is to ignore it completely and encourage you to contact City Council Members (obviously).They even give you email and phone numbers so that you can contact the Mayor and City Council members.
  3. City Actions Require Law Enforcement Review: District Attorney Jaime Esparza, who is up for re-election tomorrow, announced that he had asked the Texas Rangers to review the Ross Fischer report. They then provide a list of items outlined by the report that might be criminal violations.  Know what wasn’t in that list?  The recommendation that a subpoena be issued for Joyce Wilson.  Also, we agree with elpasospeak.com – this move by Jaime Esparza looks more like a desperate move to help his election campaign.  Where was he during the El Paso Children’s Hospital Bankruptcy and the IGT for rent discussions?

So there you have it, the El Paso Times’ take on the Ross Fischer report.  They clearly like Joyce Wilson and are having a difficult time finding the right tone with her refusals to cooperate.

Romero, Gonzalez & Wilson, Oh My!

So, while we were covering the different campaigns and early elections, things continued to move (and change) at the city level this week.  Rather than write several articles about it, we thought we would combine it all into one, HUGE post.  Ready?

  •  Although City Rep. Larry Romero has resigned for health reasons, he continues to be paid until his replacement is elected.  While we speculated that his resignation would end the ethics review against him, the Ethics Commission has decided to continue with the review.  “When I made the statement that Rep. Romero’s resignation would end the investigation of him, I assumed, incorrectly, that his resignation would be immediate,” Ethics Review Commission Chairman Stuart Schwartz said. “I have come to learn that he will continue to ‘serve’ until his replacement is sworn into office.” Romero still has not answered the 60 questions submitted to him by the ethics commission stating “I held a news conference. I was on ABC-7 Xtra for a half hour. I already answered all the questions. I left it all on the table, it’s all out there so why do I have to do it again?”  Here are links to articles:
  • The review of Tommy Gonzalez continues!  The independent investigator concluded that he did not violate state laws in the controversial attempt to replace the city’s financial advisers.  However, new questions arose on whether he withheld information on his required financial disclosure statements.  “If it were ultimately proven that Mr. Gonzalez failed to properly disclose sources of occupational income on his personal financial statement, or that he accepted an impermissible honorarium, it may constitute a violation of state law,” Fischer said in his findings. City Council will have another meeting on Monday to decide their next steps. At this point, does it feel like they are just looking for a reason to get rid of Gonzalez?  Links to articles:
  • Joyce Wilson doesn’t want to talk about it.  In his preliminary report to the City Council on Wednesday, Austin lawyer Ross Fischer said the City Council could use its subpoena powers to compel Wilson’s testimony, or ask the Texas attorney general to investigate the matter.  What do they want to know?  They want her to name the City Council members she has said asked her to delay issuing the bonds until after the heated election that focused heavily on the controversial construction of the Triple-A baseball stadium.  Under the advice of council, she has refused to cooperate.  However, Joyce’s lawyer is disputing this ‘misrepresentation’ of her advice stating that she and her client didn’t have enough time to review the facts in order to “intelligently respond to (Fischer’s) inquiry” in time. “I never said that I was advising her not to cooperate with your investigation… I very clearly stated that our obstacle was a lack of time, given the few days to respond to a complex issue that occurred three years earlier,” Stillinger stated in the letter.  However, Fischer is refusing to amend his report stating that Wilson was uncooperative and refused to provide the requested information. How long does it take to say (or write down) the names?  Is she carving them in wood?  This looks to be another stall tactic while Joyce decides if she is going to fall on her sword or if she is going to actually name names.  Links to articles:
  • And now District Attorney Jaime Esparza, who is in a three-way race to keep his job, has asked the Texas Rangers to assist his office in reviewing a report released Wednesday by a third-party investigator regarding possible misconduct by several city officials.  Why is this the case that Esparza has decided to investigate?  Is it because election day is next Tuesday? Links to articles:

This Time For Reals!

According to the El Paso Times, Romero has submitted his official resignation letter: “Romero,who earlier this month announced he was resigning as councilman for health reasons, submitted a formal resignation letter to the city on Thursday. In the letter he said his resignation is effective Feb. 23.”

resignation letter

But, it would appear that his resignation doesn’t get him out of answering the questions asked by Austin Attorney Ross Fischer.  Instead, both Romero and Gonzales were given until February 16th to submit their answers and then the city will release the investigation’s findings after a Feb. 24 meeting.

Just to be clear, this investigation is separate from the ethics complaint that was filed against both Romero and Gonzales:  “The Ethics Commission met Wednesday and consulted with Fischer. The commission requested he conduct more interviews and develop a witness list with individuals that may be able to provide evidence for the investigation. A hearing will be held at a future date once all of the evidence has been compiled.”

Anyone care to hazard a guess as to what will happen with Gonzales?

You can read the KFOX report here or the KVIA Report here.

Why Is The El Paso Times Endorsing Anyone?

We all know that the El Paso Times is not unbiased in its reporting.  To prove that, we guess, they endorse candidates.  Why?  Why can’t they just report on all of the candidates and leave it that?

At least they have this disclaimer at the bottom:  “Endorsements decisions are made by the El Paso Times editorial board. Members of the paper’s community advisory board – Enrique Moreno, Stephanie Caviness and Richard Behrenhausen – participated in candidate questioning but were not involved in the endorsement decision.”  So, although the community advisory board participated in the questioning, the El Paso Times want you to know that the decision was all them.

But Did He Really Resign?

Despite telling the Mayor last week that he would be resigning, Larry Romero still hasn’t submitted his official resignation letter.  That means that he is still technically in office and STILL GETTING PAID.  The lack of a resignation letter creates an interesting situation:

  1.  Until he officially resigns, the City Council cannot decide what to about his spot.  “We can’t start planning until we have that letter of his resignation,” said Acosta.
  2. As he is still officially a City Council member, the investigation into Romero’s misconduct continues.  That means he still has to answer those questions posed to him by Austin Attorney Ross Fischer regarding his involvement in the controversial solicitation for a new financial adviser and other controversies last year.

According to KVIA, El Paso City Council’s Ethics Commission is meeting tonight to investigate a complaint against Rep. Larry Romero and City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. “If the commission finds Gonzalez and Romero were somehow involved in wrongdoing, they could face sanctions and Gonzalez could lose his job.”

Larry Romero Resigns

Rep. Larry Romero who suffered a stroke in December and has been absent from recent meetings resigned on Thursday, citing health reasons.

The resignation came three days after the Ethics Commission sent Romero and Gonzalez a list of more than 60 questions regarding the investigation.  Presumably, now that he has resigned, he will no longer need to answer those questions, but that remains to be seen.

Shout ’em out – who do you think is going to replace him?

We will provide more information as it becomes available.

You can read the El Paso Times Article here.

Which Streets Are Getting Fixed?

In June 2012, a $218,400,000 street infrastructure plan was put together.  As of April of 2014, here is how much had been spent:

streets

Source:  http://legacy.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/meetings/sccm0512140930/051214%20Street%20CIP%20Only%20May%2012%202014.pdf

Here we are, January 0f 2016 and City Council is upset that more hasn’t been completed.  According to the KFOX report, nearly 100 street projects have stalled, and nothing has been done on more than 70 projects approved four years ago.  Additionally, the plan called for 90 streets to be reconstructed and only ONE street can be considered complete.  Despite the poor management so far, “Council members asked for an additional $51 million in projects to be added to the list.”  It only makes sense, when someone has proven that they can’t get the job done, give them more money and more projects… that will fix the problem.

City Council Makes Some Decisions

It would appear that El Paso City Council made several decisions this week:

  • The City Council has approved “an 8-year roll out for the next phase of the 2012 bond issue projects totaling $416 million included $204 million for the three Downtown signature projects (arena, children’s museum and cultural center), $155 million in parks and parks improvements, $46 million for the zoo, $10 million for libraries and $1 million for museum and cultural arts.”  (You can read the El Paso Times article here).
  • The West side pool that had its groundbreaking in May of 2015 and then was delayed is back on!  “After lengthy discussion, the council voted unanimously for the 8-year bond issue roll-out and the use of cost-savings from 2015 for the swim pool funding gap and to pay for up to three new spray parks.” (You can read the El Paso Times Article here).
  • The road project that had been approved is… approved.  “After long hours of debate between City Council and city manager Tommy Gonzalez, the city finally decided to continue the already approved street resurfacing project.” (You can read the KVIA story here).  It is going to cost $5.9 million for resurfacing.  However, it is unclear when the project will begin:  “City Council is asking for a full layout of the project in six weeks. Once the plan is presented, council will then vote to do a pavement condition index study.”  The pavement study is going to cost $1 million.
  • The Abraham Chavez Theatre has been selected for the Mexican American Cultural Center.  “The design concepts presented to council include an addition to the existing theater that would create a separate entrance as well as space for center specific activities. As the center progresses, the city will also be able to complete much needed updates to the Chavez Theatre that will help it function better as a performance space and cultural center.”  (You can read the El Paso Herald Post story here).
  • The Pope is Coming!  “City of El Paso is preparing to impose traffic control and operational changes in the interest of public safety, health and welfare as a result of Pope Francis landmark visit to the border.”  (You can read the entire El Paso Herald Post story here). There are some meetings that you can attend to find out about closures at the Armijo Recreation Center gymnasium at 700 E. Seventh Avenue. Meeting time and dates:
    • 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 27, 2016
    • 10:30 a.m. Thursday, January 28, 206
    • 6 p.m. Monday, February 1, 2016
  • They may have lost you $22 million by delaying issuing the bonds, but now they are trying to save you money!  “The council voted unanimously to allow city staff to work with First Southwest to determine if there are any cost savings possible by restructuring the debt on the ballpark given the current low-interest rate conditions.”  (You can read the El Paso Times Story here). So, fingers crossed?