Yesterday I went to the City of El Paso’s Financial Oversight Audit Committee’s meeting at City Hall.
It was great. The City’s Chief Auditor Edmundo Calderon is a hero. The members of the FOAC are champions.
I was hoping to post the video of the meeting here, but the City has deigned to not make it available, at least so far. The last FOAC meeting available on the internet is from October 2022. If the May 4 meeting shows up on the intertube I’ll try to post it.
Mr. Calderon’s audit covered two subjects: P Cards, which are used for purchases and travel, and the gas cards that are issued to some departments (Fire and Police, for instance) and City Council members.
(You may have read about City Council and the gasgate scandal here.)
Ostensibly the Representatives’ gas cards are to be used for their personally owned vehicles when the representatives are traveling on City business.
Mr. Calderon’s audit turned up some irregularities.
Like former District 6 City Representative Claudia Lizette Rodriguez used her gas card in Van Horn. Twice. (Heads up. Van Horn isn’t in District 6).
And District 3 Representative Cassandra Hernandez’s gas card was used at 5:12 pm on January 3, when Representative Hernandez was in Executive Session of the marathon January 3 City Council meeting.
And there were other irregularities, like filling up their tanks on consecutive days on multiple occasions, and using two different grades of fuel. Those events seem to indicate that maybe Representatives Rodriguez and Hernandez were gassing up more than just their own cars. Not to mention the sheer magnitude of their purchases in 2022, $5,294 for Ms. Rodriguez and $6,691 for Rep. Hernandez.
You’d think that maybe they’d get in trouble for abusing their gas card privileges, no?
No! Because there were never any written policies in place governing the use of gas cards!
That looks like a management failure.
Maybe the City Manager messed up by not stipulating conditions for the use of the gas cards?
Rep. Hernandez could have used her gas card to fill up the cars of all of her constituents. Maybe she did.
Also, there were intimations of an investigation coverup engineered by the Police Department. We’ll see what shakes out.
Another interesting item that came out at the meeting was former District 1 Representative Peter Svarzbein’s taxpayer funded trip to Israel last year two months before he termed out. The FOAC will present a recommendation to City Council concerning expenses made by lame duck representatives, as well as rules for the use of gas cards.
All in all it was a swell meeting. I wish you’d been there.