As the year comes to a close I thought I would take a moment to update you on a few pending issues. As much as we wish that things have improved in El Paso the unfortunate fact is that the taxpayers are being bombarded yet again. There is no relief in sight for the beleaguered taxpayers of the community. As a matter of fact, the El Paso Children’s Hospital will likely end up costing the taxpayers to keep it viable. As if that wasn’t bad enough, your water bills are going up as the storm water fees and water usage fees are increasing. We are also finding out that there are issues with the 2012 Quality of Life Bonds and the promised deliveries.
Additionally, proof that there are two judicial systems in place in El Paso; one for very important people (VIPs) and another for the taxpayers is proven yet again. Ann Morgan Lilly was accused of threatening a city employee on October 21, 2013. Jose Fierro, a city employee, called 911 and reported a threat by Morgan Lilly against him while he was trying to trim a tree in furtherance of city job. This was the second time that Ann Morgan Lilly was accused of threatening someone.
The El Paso Police Department keeps a unit named the “Special Investigations Group” to investigate certain individuals in the community. I have previously written that this unit is nothing more than a police unit designed to protect certain individuals from being held accountable for alleged crimes. Case in point is that there is no record of Ann Morgan Lilly’s investigation. We know she was accused of a crime and one year and two months later we know nothing else.
Under the same circumstances any other taxpayer in the community, not connected to the elite of the city, would have a public determination of the outcome of a similar criminal investigation. We do not have one on Ann Morgan Lilly because she is being protected by someone.
“Sunshine laws” have been touted as a means for a community to hold its government accountable. The current political cabal publicly argues government transparency but continually works in the darkness. I have used open records laws to gather information and I continually run into the same problem, technicalities and incompetence designed to stymie my gathering of information.
On October 20, 2014, I filed an open records request with the city asking for information on who submitted bids for a proposed water park for the Northeast. On November 5, 2014, the City informed that it was asking the Texas Attorney General to rule that my request was “excerpted from disclosure.”
As of December 28, 2014 I am still waiting for a ruling from the Texas Attorney General’s office. In the meantime the city continues to negotiate behind closed doors with an unknown company to spend taxpayer funds on a water park in the Northeast. While the city delays releasing the information I requested they continue to negotiate behind closed doors on how to spend your money.
There is no doubt that the El Paso Children’s Hospital is public funded with taxpayer monies. We also know that it is in serious financial trouble. Yet, we are not allowed to look at its finances because it argues that it is a nonprofit instead of government entity and as such it is not subject to public disclosure laws.
For me it is clear, as a taxpayer funded entity the El Paso Children’s Hospital should be subject to the Texas Public Information Act. Because of that belief I asked the County Attorney’s Office to intervene on my behalf to compel the children’s hospital to release information under the Texas open records laws.
On December 12, 2014 I faxed a formal letter to County Attorney Jo Ann Bernal asking her to compel the disclosure of the information I requested or to ask the Texas Attorney General to intervene. As of December 28, 2014 I have not received any response to my request. In the meantime negotiations about how to spend your money are ongoing behind closed doors.
I am sure you are starting to realize the trend here. There may be laws to ensure government transparency but government entities intent on keeping secrets know how to game the system to delay the release of information to the taxpayers. As they delay they keep spending your money through secret negotiations.
All we can do is to continue to shine the light as best as we can in order to keep some semblance of control over those that continue to feed at the public’s trough.
In closing I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you for your comments, encouragement and most importantly for taking the time to read my blog. Each of you gives me a reason to write each post. Without you there would be no blog.
Additionally, I want to wish each and every one of you a wonderful and successful 2015! May you and your families achieve all of your dreams and hopes in the coming year.
I’ll be back with a new installment on January 6, 2015.
Happy New Year!