That is right, there is no two ways about it, Jim Valenti has lied to the taxpayers of the community as well as to the elected officials that represent them and as such he has to be fired from the taxpayers’ dole. The issue of Jim Valenti’s email to Carlos Leon that Leon recently released not only demonstrates Valenti’s attempt to deceive the taxpayers but also demonstrates how those who abuse the taxpayers hide the truth through manipulating, omission of facts or hiding behind technical jargon.
In this case, Jim Valenti, when confronted with an email he sent the county commissioners on August 15, 2014, he relies on technical jargon to obfuscate the truth. Valenti uses “fiscal year” as a red herring to hide his duplicity knowing that technical jargon loses most people.
Fiscal years are nothing more than starting and ending the year on different months for accounting purposes. Instead of a year starting on January and ending on December, like a calendar year, a fiscal year may start in October and end in September.
That is precisely how the University Medical Center’s fiscal years are reported; they start in October and end in September. In other words fiscal year 2013 ended on September 30, 2013.  Fiscal year 2014 started on October 1, 2013 and ended on September 30, 2014.
Understandably the taxpayers of the community are angry that Jim Valenti accepted a $120,000 bonus after the county hospital asked for and received permission to borrow money from future tax revenues to remain solvent and laid off employees recently.
The initial reaction from the hospital board of directors was that the bonuses were a contractual obligation. They then masked the issue on a comparison between the private sector and the public sector with the need to keep qualified people in positions of authority. However, when Carlos Leon released the email by Jim Valenti where Valenti writes that “there were no bonuses paid in 2014 and expect no bonuses through this year,” his own words came back to haunt him and he, and his board needed to distract with technicalities to diffuse the outrage.
Let’s take a close look at the words written by Jim Valenti.
We know that a bonus was issued to him by the board of the hospital last week and we also know that Jim Valenti authorized bonuses to his top lieutenants.
Yet he wrote that as of August 15, 2014, “no bonuses” were paid and none were expected to be paid “in 2014.”
Valenti told the El Paso Times that it was all a “misunderstanding.”
Valenti argued that his email was referring to the “fiscal year and not the calendar year.” Valenti told the local paper that the bonuses were issued in November, meaning that they were paid with monies from fiscal year 2015. What Jim Valenti chose to conveniently ignore is that the bonuses are paid based on performance and because of this it is impossible that the bonuses he and his lieutenants accepted were for fiscal year 2015 as it was only a month old meaning that either they gave themselves bonuses in violation of their contracts or their bonuses were for fiscal year 2014.
This is where the “expect no bonuses through this year” clearly demonstrates that Jim Valenti tried to deceive the county commissioners and as a result the taxpayers. Because no matter how Valenti tries to distract with technical jargon about calendar vs. fiscal years the fact is that he lied. Employees that lie to their superiors are normally terminated from their employment.
Keep in mind that not only did Jim Valenti terminate employees but he also asked to borrow money from future taxes in order to keep the hospital solvent so no matter how you look at it, the ability to earn bonuses by top executives is nonexistent in any private or public sector setting for that matter.
The fact that Jim Valenti materially lied to the taxpayers, who foot the bill from where he draws his bonus from, is more than ample reason for his immediate termination.
This is clear and for the politicians pontificating about the bonuses it is an opportunity to prove me wrong and actually do something concrete for the taxpayers by calling for the immediate termination of Jim Valenti. The commissioners control the budget and thus they are ultimately responsible to the taxpayers.
However, don’t hold your breath because there is some political gamesmanship going on behind the scenes and this controversy is only one of the chess pieces. Don’t forget that one of Veronica Escobar’s closest confidants is working closely with the Children’s Hospital, Susie Byrd and Escobar needs the viability of the children’s hospital resolved for her political future. Valenti is just one piece of an elaborate chess game being played with the taxpayers’ monies.
1. El Paso County Hospital District d/b/a University Medical Center of El Paso A Component Unit of El Paso County, Texas Auditor’s Report and Financial Statements September 30, 2013 and 2012.
I don’t always agree with Martin, although I do like to read this site for additional perspective on what is going on in my community. But on this issue, I am in agreement. You know there is a consensus when Martin Paredes – at one end of the spectrum – is agreeing with El Paso Inc. – at the other end of the spectrum – on a community subject. David Crowder’s interview with Pat Ablen, the appointed-replacement County Commissioner whose term expires this month shocked me with his candor on the subject of Mr. Valenti’s $120K bonus and the communications by Valenti to Commissioners’ Court that preceded it. David Crowder, “Q&A with Pat Ablen, County Commissioner, El Paso Inc., November 30, 2014 edition
In the El Paso Inc. article Ablen confirms the facts underlying Martin’s articles on this subject. Ablen states that “We believed that the hospital was in very dire financial straits. We approved a $20-million line of credit for tax anticipation notes that had a cost to it. We were told that there would be no merit increases. We were told it was necessary to lay off 56 people. We were told those reductions were not efficiency reductions because the jobs weren’t needed, but that those cuts were because of the burden of the Children’s Hospital debt we were bearing.” Commissioner Ablen added “Then, to find that you’ve given your senior staff bonuses while you have laid off 56 people, frozen the salary of the working staff, I think that bothers a lot of El Pasoans. It bothers me.” Add me to that list.
Valenti has, at best, played it very fast and loose with the facts. This time, it has caught up with him and he need to be let go for cause.
Take the Children’s Hospital debacle, for instance. We can give Valenti the benefit of the doubt for his incredibly poor judgment and foresight for the design and sale of the Children’s Hospital to the people of El Paso. He probably had good intentions and believed he was acting in a prudent manner when he served as the chief architect and principal proponent of the Children’s Hospital. Yet when it became apparent this year to the members of the public that the Children’s Hospital was tilting towards financial failure – Valenti publicly and adeptly laid the blame on the inhabitants of the Children’s Hospital (its current management and board) and not the design-build team (himself, County Judge Escobar, etc.). The analogy would be an architect and builder designing and building a totally defective home and then blaming the home-owner when the design flaws became apparent. The issue with the Children’s Hospital is not necessarily the fault of the current UMC Board, but it is difficult for me to understand how the UMC Board members (and Commissioners Court, the press and public) are not outraged that the principal architect and proponent of a colossal failure is not only not held accountable, but given a huge bonus for alleged “good performance.”
If I were to yield a colossal financial failure in my biggest project at work, and then blame all of the failure on someone else for it, I would definitely not receive a bonus. More likely, if I had a competent manager, I would get put on a performance plan, or fired. At least I should share in the blame. And if I were caught lying to my company’s board of directors about an important matter that same year, I would expect my manager to fire me immediately.
Yet the spin is still coming from UMC. On Sunday, William Hanson, UMC chair, wrote a guest article in the El Paso. Hanson’s article was couched as a mea culpa and apologizes for mistakes in the way the bonus was ‘handled”, but then goes on the defensive as to “the facts” and justifications for the bonuses and the board’s actions. As with any organization, there is surely a lot of things being done very well by UMC. It is a huge, complex, and important public hospital. Hanson and his fellow board members should be proud of the things being done well. Yet, when Hanson fades quickly into a passive and subtle defense for the bonus payments in his article, I get the strongest vision that Hanson’s eyes have glazed over and his mind went blank as he wrote, and then Valenti-as-puppetmaster comes into view pulling the strings, typing the words for his board chair. Valenti may not have actually ghost written or edited that story, but those are his words and spin, inserted by inception into Hanson’s mind, coming out through Hanson’s pen (or laptop).
The UMC Board is now set to meet to “examine” the situation. There is a strong consensus across the board locally that more than a mere examination and plan of action is necessary here. As the Board completes its so-called “examination,” please just try as a Board to be fully awake, alert, of your own mind, and remember your common sense. I understand it may be easier for volunteer board members of government organizations like UMC to swallow a story of revisionist history about what went wrong and “sweep the problem under the rug” than to deal with it. I also understand that change in executive leadership can be a difficult path for a volunteer board – the search and selection process for a new executive may seem daunting. But please bear in mind that our community just witnessed the same sort of “swallow the CEO’s spin” at EPISD. The board there fell into a stupor under the spell of the CEO, left their common sense outside the boardroom and ceased being guardians of good judgment. The UMC board, by being so dependent and under Valenti’s spell, is failing to see that its CEO has blatantly misled Commissioners Court, lost confidence of certain Commissioners, and exercised extremely poor big picture judgment, not only with respect to the Children’s Hospital debacle and urging he be paid his full bonus, but as to other matters of which the UMC board is certainly aware. The UMC Board needs to fire Valenti for cause. Then let him join the group suing the hospital for being wrongfully selected for layoff earlier this year. UMC’s lawyers are going to be very busy anyhow, and I am sure they can sort it out.
Comments are closed.