Ortega’s Gambit

You’ve read that Steve Ortega has moved to quash his deposition, and the attempt to sift his emails relating to city business. El Diario reported it Saturday, and the Times got around to it on the following Wednesday. He says he understands that these days, he’d have to give them up. But back then the law did not specifically include communications made from a city officials’ private email accounts.

I think I’ve got the gist of his argument there, more or less.

I’m not sure what it means, but I can tell you what it doesn’t look like.

It doesn’t look like an innocent man.

I could be wrong. Maybe he is a late-blooming constitutionalist. Or maybe he’s just trying to show his lawyer chops. He went into politics pretty much as soon as he passed the bar, so he doesn’t have a lot of courtroom experience.

Or maybe he’s just a lawyer, in the worst sense of the word, arguing for arguing’s sake.

Unfortunately for El Paso, all this does is prolong the drama. This will likely still be playing out next April, after the Sun Dogs have taken the field at the new ballpark.

For Mr. Ortega, there is no upside. If he wins his case, and, in the end, doesn’t surrender his emails, he retains the taint of shady dealings. If he loses, and the emails reveal no malfeasance, he’s perceived as inept at his chosen field. And if he loses and the emails show some shenanigans, well, then, he’ll be judged by that.

The Texas Supreme Court will likely decide a similar case before Mr. Ortega’s petition reaches it. But even if he does, the City will still be under the cloud of suspicion. There’s no upside for El Paso. With all the well-publicized corruption in local government, fighting to keep secrets doesn’t improve the
city’s reputation.


  1. Hey Rich — Maybe Ortega feels that after eight years on City Council — making much less than he could have made as a lawyer — he doesn’t owe every attention-seeking nudnik open access to his personal life just because they’re bitter that they had no say in policy. Or maybe he takes pleasure watching them run up their legal bills. The only way he loses is if he’s forced to surrender emails that reveal wrongdoing. If he wins the case and doesn’t have to turn over his emails, he doesn’t necessarily look guilty, as you suggest. I think it makes him look like a man who feels like he doesn’t have to take shit from assholes.

  2. Based on a 2011 open-records request by KVIA that I recently obtained, it’s pretty hard to believe Steve Ortega’s claim that the rules changed between 2012 and 2013. In fact, the rules have been the same for a while. The City knew that back in 2011. Unless he was asleep that whole year, so did Ortega.

    See the documents I’ve posted at:


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