ordaz_swearinYesterday morning, at the beginning of the city council meeting, Claudia Ordaz was sworn into represent District 6. As I tweeted on the weekend, a complaint was filed, challenging Ordaz’ eligibility to hold office, on Monday morning. The complaint was filed by community activist Salvador Gomez with the municipal clerk’s office. I received a copy of the filing via an open records request I had filed on Monday. You can read the complaint here.

Gomez alleges “published documents show” that Claudia Ordaz “did not meet the eligibility window” for the required six months of residency as per the election code. Gomez references the blog post posted by Deep in El Paso as the basis for the residency allegation.

Salvador Gomez adds, in his complaint, that Ordaz did “knowingly accept a campaign contribution from a corporation” in violation of the Texas law prohibition against corporate campaign contributions.

As you might be aware, I wrote a blog on July 18, 2014 letting you know that I believed that Claudia Ordaz had violated the election code by accepting what appeared to be a corporate donation from Casa de Yoga. You can read more about this in “Did Claudia Ordaz Violate Election Law?”

Yesterday I reviewed Ordaz’ campaign finance reports and noticed that on August 4, 2014 she filed an amended report refunding the campaign donation. According to her amended report filed at the city clerk’s office at 10:52 in the morning, Ordaz reports that she “returned donation that [was] inadvertently accepted during the reporting period”.

In the report she shows that on August 4, 2014, the $50 contribution from Casa de Yoga East was, “returned”.

During the call to the public, Sal Gomez stated that he believed that his complaint “was thrown in the trash” by the city and ignored. Oscar Leeser responded that he had discussed the complaint with the city attorney and asked Sylvia Borunda Firth to explain what had transpired.

According to Firth, the law requires a “high burden of proof” before an elected official could be declared ineligible. According to Firth, “uncontroverted” evidence needed to be provided. She added that Gomez’ filing did not meet the required threshold and therefore there was no “legal reason” to keep Ordaz from taking the oath of office.

I was notified that an unnamed attorney was contemplating filing an injunction yesterday however I was not able to confirm this.

Finally, as the city council camera panned the audience attending Ordaz’ swearing in I noticed that along with her boyfriend, Vince Perez, Susie Byrd and Veronica Escobar were also in attendance.

The question that remains unanswered is whether a violation of the corporate contributions law can be cured by a candidate if they return the money after having accepted it. I’ll follow up with a later blog on this issue once I’ve had an opportunity to research the matter further.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

7 replies on “Claudia Ordaz Sworn In Despite Complaint Filed”

  1. Honestly, this Ordaz thing seems like a smear campaign with a whole lot of insinuation on the part of the ankle biters. Looking at their “evidence”, nothing seems to actually show that Ordaz lived outside of District 6. Why hasn’t a neighbor, co-worker, or random person popped up to say that “no really she lived on Bob Stone Dr” or anywhere else not in district 6? I can’t believe that every single person who knew her would be ok with her committing this sort of fraud if that’s what she was doing.

    Heck, even Gomez (in one of his more offensive call to the publics) made an issue about where she spent her nights a few weeks ago. If she’s shacking up with Perez and he lives in district 6, then it would seem that Gomez himself couldn’t be sure that she’s not living in district 6. She doesn’t seem to have owned property outside of district 6 so there’s no smoking gun there, and the complete lack of proof (incontrovertible or otherwise) that she was living outside of the district seems telling. Yes, it is possible that she was living outside of the district, but it’s also very possible that she was living within the district. Alleging that she wasn’t living in the district for the minimum number of days required is a far cry from actually providing evidence or even testimony that she wasn’t. What has been provided doesn’t actually tell us where she spent her nights and actually lived (which is what the residency requirement is actually concerned with). It tells us what addresses she’s used on various documents and that’s nowhere near the same thing.

    Furthermore, I think Firth’s comments about not undoing the will of the people (another thing that I’m surprised Gomez was so comfortable putting aside now that it suits him) is an important part of the narrative. Honestly, I’ve heard Gomez go on and on and on for months about how his constitutional rights were violated because he didn’t get to vote up or down on the ballpark. Yet now that he doesn’t like one candidate, he wants to undo the will of the people who voted for her to represent them in district 6. People who overwhelmingly chose her from a field of candidates and elected her without the need for a runoff. That seems to say something when Leeser with all of his name recognition and the anti-ballpark crowd’s support couldn’t quite pull that off against Ortega last year.

    So now all that’s left is the $50 that were apparently returned after being brought to the attention of the candidate. Is that really what the ankle-biters want to hang their hats on? After all the allegations of wrong-doing and corruption about the ballpark and all those millions of dollars, we’re down to $50? I’m not saying that she should have kept it or condoning her if she had, but we all know that $50 wouldn’t have made a difference in her campaign and now that it’s been returned, where is the crime or the corruption? Presumably the intent behind the law is to make sure that a corporation can’t buy a candidate by throwing loads of money at someone. $50 isn’t buying a video game let alone a candidate and it doesn’t really point to anything other than someone making a simple mistake that was remedied. If she was insisting that she would keep the $50, there might be something to talk about, but is that really enough to justify “denying the people their constitutional right to vote” just as Mr. Gomez has railed about for months now?

    Face it Martin, this feels like a witch hunt where people like Gomez are abandoning their “principles” because it suits them to try and tear someone down on the off chance that she’s not going to be their kind of candidate (even though she’s not their representative). I say we give her the 10 months she’s going to get and see how she does with that and see what happens when she’s up against the next batch of candidates. It seems pointless to spend so much energy attacking her with such flimsy “evidence” when it’s for such a short term of office.

    1. The point is not the $50 that she took illegally. It is the fact that she took it at all and that she or her campaign manager were either ignorant of the law or didn’t think anyone would notice because it was $50, not $5000. Maybe it was just a mistake, but it doesn’t foster confidence in her knowledge of campaign law or attention to detail.

      1. Fortunately, as David K points out, the TEC feels that since a candidate can’t necessarily police each and every donation made, it is acceptable for them to return the money once they are made aware of the problem. So, you may have never once gone 5 miles over the speed limit (which could cost you more than the $50 in question here), or missed a payment on a credit card (which would cost you a little less than the $50), but I think most people are ok with the TEC’s solution and they can understand that mistakes happen and that returning the money is a reasonable way to address the issue without bogging down our political system in accusations and recriminations over something as trivial as one single $50 donation.

  2. I have not read all of posts but I think its all just a reflection of how Transient society has become. Some residence laws state “if one intends to return” and that brings up another issue of how Divorce happy society is, today is it 1 in 2 rate thus Nuclear family is minority.

    Gomez has every right to speak-protest but the larger question is influence seeking over Gov’t Actors eg the question is not when is one going to join the a Tea Party or something but rather when are they going to exercise their right not to vote?

    It is only when one reaches that question and point can one see how entrenched in a system they really are or pawns in game and after that point if one were to stop voting, all that would remain is a purer pursuit of Liberty personally.

  3. Martin,
    you can continue with your smear campaign all you want. She was elected, she’s sworn in, and you get your garbage dumped for less than me. Somehow though you feel slighted despite the fact that you do not live here and you cannot vote DESPITE where you live in this country.

  4. Martin,

    Just and FYI – the Texas Ethics Commission receives literally thousands of complaints about illegal donations each election cycle. The TEC has put into place a process where candidates are notified of the infraction and can “right the problem” by returning the money. When and if a candidate does not rectify a valid complaint, the TEC will then begin to go after them. Even then, the TEC’s decisions can’t stop someone from holding office or even running for office (Remember Norma Chavez had all kinds of TEC trouble a few years back along with Lyda Ness who may still have outstanding issues).

    Overall, the TEC is using the honor system when it comes to small, incorrect donations. I would say 99 percent of the time the money is returned willingly and that’s the end of the matter.

    As for Gomez’s claims… aliens are more likely working amongst us than what he’s claiming. It’s sour apples.

  5. Did Ortega actually live in his district? At least Ordaz adds some pizzazz to the CC bench compared to the other cows on it. It is hard to characterize a victory based on 1,000 total votes cast as a landslide. Peppers agrees with Drak to let her serve out the 10 months.

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