Maybe you didn’t see this story in the El Paso Times. The story was posted on ElPasoTimes.com on Friday, June 16th, but it didn’t make it to the dead tree version of our English language daily till Sunday, because now Friday’s edition is all USA Today national content, and the our daily rag doesn’t have a Saturday edition. Curiously, the piece didn’t appear on the ElPasoTimes.com landing page. You have to go look for it.
The article was written by Adam Powell, the paper’s “City Watchdog Reporter”. The headline above the story is ‘We’re the watchdogs’: Oversight and audit committee looks to hold City Hall accountable.
The [Financial Oversight and Audit Committee], a largely unknown City Hall committee until recently, was cast into the public spotlight last month after an internal auditor’s report showed “excessive” fuel purchases on city taxpayer-funded gas cards.
Aside from [Brian] Kennedy, the oversight committee includes Reps. Alexsandra Annello, Art Fierro and Joe Molinar. The panel kicked off its work by investigating how fellow representatives and the mayor are spending taxpayer money on fuel.
The fuel card audit showed that East-Central city Rep. Cassandra Hernandez and former East-Valley city Rep. Claudia Rodriguez accounted for 63% of the fuel purchased by the mayor and eight-member City Council last year.
The report flagged questionable purchases, including multiple purchases on consecutive days, purchases made in other cities and purchases potentially made by someone other than the cardholder.
The ongoing investigation into fuel card usage is only the beginning of the review of city spending, Kennedy said. The committee and Internal Auditor Edmundo Calderon are reviewing procurement card (p-card) expenditures, travel expenses and city 380 tax abatement agreements.
The report highlights the efforts of Rep. Kennedy to direct and protect Internal Auditor Edmundo [Mundo!] Calderon as he does his job.
If the story is available on the El Paso Times website, you should read it. If the story is only available to subscribers, you can glean most of the information on the investigation from KVIA.com, CBS4Local.com, or ElPasoMatters.com.
A related story deals with an ethics complaint filed against District 3 Representative Cassandra Hernandez over her (alleged) abuse of her gas card.
The story, also under Adam Powell’s byline, is headlined Complaint over city Rep. Hernandez’s gas card usage heads to city Ethics Review Commission.
While [outside counsel Frank] Garza agreed that [District 3 resident George] Zavala’s complaints about gas card usage warrant a closer look, he tossed out Zavala’s complaints regarding [District 3 Representative Cassandra] Hernandez’s opposition to Proposition J, which placed the city auditor directly under the supervision of the El Paso City Council and the chair of the city Financial Oversight and Audit Committee, currently West Side representative [Brian] Kennedy.
. . .
The complaint over Proposition J was dismissed because it falls under the state’s jurisdiction. Zavala said he plans to file a complaint soon with the Texas Ethics Commission.
The City Auditor previously reported to the City Manager.
Curious, innit, that Rep. Hernandez opposed the transfer of oversight from the City Manager to City Council? Any honest, arm’s length review of financial oversight should have revealed the same shortcomings.
Do you suppose that there was some kind of an understanding between the City Representative and the City Manager?
Also curious, innit, that the city’s newspaper of record doesn’t blast these two news stories from the front page of its website? Surely they’re no longer worried about losing the City’s lucrative ad dollars, now that the winds of change have altered the City’s direction. And isn’t the fourth estate supposed to keep the government in check?
Not that the El Paso Times has been doing anything like that for the last twenty years. But I can dream, can’t I?
Maybe it’s not just the City calling the shots at our local newspaper.