The Jane Shang affair is clear proof of the corruption permeating the ranks of the City of El Paso. Like any corrupt enterprise the city government relies on keeping secrets in order keep the corruption ongoing. Although there are many who read my blog that like to believe that corruption is nonexistent in El Paso city government the fact is that the evidence as I lay out here today about Jane Shang’s “golden parachute” should be sufficient for even them to pause a moment and ask themselves, is this really not corrupt?
Let us analyze the Jane Shang fiasco.
The facts that we know about Jane Shang’s paid administrative leave comes from a letter that was originally published in the Diario de El Paso on June 25, 2014. Let us look at what the facts are.
On June 1, 2014, Jane Shang was placed on paid administrative leave. Her annual salary is $174,598.70. Her paid administrative leave ends on December 31, 2014. On January 1, 2015, the city will place Shang on vacation leave through April 14, 2015. Her last day of employment with the city will be on April 14, 2015. Shang will continue to draw a paycheck and benefits from the city through April 14, 2015.
Jane Shang’s paycheck is funded by the taxpayers of the city.
These are the only facts we know because everything else is shrouded in bureaucratic secrecy impeding the community’s ability to ascertain the facts surrounding her leave.
Everything else is speculation, including what the bloggers and the news media are publishing.
There are two scenarios that have developed around this issue.
The first is that Jane Shang was put on paid administrative leave for political reasons, either to insulate her from a new administration or to keep her quiet about certain things she knows that could be detrimental to the city. The other scenario is that she was put on administrative leave was as a result of certain official actions she took as a city employee.
Let us discuss the latter option first. Placing Jane Shang on paid administrative leave for seven months and then converting her paid administrative leave to three and a half months of paid vacation cannot be described as a punitive action. In fact, it can only be described as an action highly beneficial to Jane Shang at the expense of the taxpayers of the city. Because of this, we can assume, at this point, that Jane Shang’s 10 and a half months of paid leave are the result of political necessity.
Unfortunately because of the secrecy surrounding her paid leave we can only speculate as to why. In a July 6, 2014 article by David Crowder in the El Paso Inc., Crowder quotes Ann Morgan Lilly as stating that city council “was unhappy with” Shang. Crowder goes on two quote Larry Romero as stating that Shang was “pretty much be asked to leave”. The rest of the city council membership has been quoted as not being aware of the details of Shang’s paid leave.
These quotes gives credence to the speculation that Jane Shang was placed on administrative leave as a result of conflict with city council and, or Joyce Wilson. There is, however, other speculation that Shang was given a “golden parachute” as a result of Joyce Wilson’s departure as city manager.
The Des Moines Register, in an article by Joel Aschbrenner and Timothy Meinch posted on July 4, 2014, quotes Joyce Wilson as stating that Shang “was not being removed for cause or anything that would be detrimental to her future opportunities”. Wilson added, “she helped Shang exercise a favorable exit agreement with the city in light of a new city manager who was hired and ‘relationship issues’ with some council members”. The Register also quoted Wilson as stating, “Politics are politics, and sometimes this happens…it was a simple transaction that some council members for some reason are discussing in a way that is not appropriate”.
These are not comments of a former employer trying to avoid a lawsuit. These are comments from a former employer trying to help a former employee get a job.
On one hand, the speculation revolves around Jane Shang being put on leave because of a conflict with the elected body of the city. On the other hand, the speculation centers on the notion that she is being protected by Joyce Wilson.
Either scenario is unacceptable in a political system that is supposed to embrace the notion of representation through elected officials and the rule of law. Consider that for a moment; regardless of the scenario that you might believe is the reason for Jane Shang’s paid leave, the fact remains that it should be unacceptable to any community.
Yet, by all indications, Jane Shang continues to be paid for staying home.
How are those facts not representative of corruption within the city?
Incoming city manager Tommy Gonzalez has been quoted as stating that the agreement was made prior to him assuming office and that to reopen it could result in legal jeopardy for the city. In other words, the taxpayers of the city are better off paying Jane Shang approximately $152,774 for doing nothing, according to Gonzalez’ statements.
However, what about the apparent corruption? Is ignoring the questions of apparent corruption good for the community? Keep in mind that many recent city politicians pleaded guilty to public corruption for many years of corrupt practices at the city. Many millions of taxpayer funds have been lost to public corruptions that has been adjudicated so far. How many of those public corruption incidents were talked about publicly and yet the politicians and their administrators argued that it was better let it go?